iPhone Game Dev Credits Piracy for Doubling His Sales

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iPhone Game Dev Credits Piracy for Doubling His Sales

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Daniel Amitay, the creator of the iPhone app Punch 'Em!, says piracy is to thank for more than doubling his sales.

Game makers don't like piracy because, simply put, it costs them money. When somebody steals a game, developers don't get paid and despite what you may think about artistic expression for its own sake, that doesn't put food on the table. It's a valid point, generally speaking, and it's also well-rehearsed party line, which is what makes it especially unusual when a dev - an indie, no less - admits that piracy is actually doing him some good.

Punch 'Em! is a fairly simple 99 cent game that lets people virtually fight each other through their iPhone cameras. It was Amitay's first paid app and the recently-passed holiday season was his first as an app developer. He'd intended to write up a blog post about how the season gave his sales a substantial push, but as he examined the trends he came to a surprising realization: the holidays weren't responsible for his sales jump. Piracy was.

Amitay looked at two 17-day stretches, December 4 to 20 and December 30 to January 15, putting together a sales and piracy graph plotting the data. Over the first period, sales and piracy run flat, with sales appearing to marginally outpace piracy. But just before Christmas there was a "huge pirating push against Punch 'Em!" reflected in a piracy rate in the second time period almost 39 times higher than the first. But something else happened, too. Amitay's sales during that same stretch of time more than doubled.

He said he's still against piracy for the simple reason that it's stealing but added that at the end of the day, business is business. "Throughout Punch 'Em!'s paid lifetime, I couldn't raise its sales count in the long term," he explained on his blog. "So if thousands of users end up pirating my app, but hundreds buy it as a result of hearing about it from their pirate buddies, why should I cry?"

He also noted that an earlier version of the game included a code which checked to see if it had been cracked and if so, displayed a message asking the user to purchase the app and then exited. But that ultimately did more harm than good, as the game was pirated very little but his conversion rate was zero. "After all," he asked, "my app quit almost immediately, so why share it at all?"

And how does he know the holiday season isn't actually responsible for the bump? Sales tend to jump immediately following Christmas but the effect only lasts for a few days and app rankings don't change because everyone takes advantage of the same push. In his case, however, the situation is different. "My sales increase extended well past Christmas, and is still stable," he said. "My sales increase during Christmas was well beyond the standard 2x [caused by the holidays]. My app increased in rank over the period of time that my app was pirated."

It's an unusual perspective but under the circumstances, not an altogether surprising one. I don't imagine that Amitay wants to be seen as advocating for piracy but since most developers are critical of piracy because it costs them money, it's not unreasonable for him to be a little more upbeat about it when it's actually bringing some in. "Bottom line: people stealing my app has increased my sales," he said. "The alternative for me is no pirates, but fewer sales." And that's not really much of an alternative at all.

via: Twitter

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Gezz people, stop sending me conflicted messages here is piracy the devil or not. Please tell me what to think!

but it costs 99 cents. seriously, is 99 cents really worth the hassle of pirating something?

Wait.

Is a mod going to suspend Andy Chalk for advocating piracy?

I wonder...

Where do ppl get these number for pirated copies anyway?

Im serious. I honesty have no clue how that magic works.

Hmm... If he can make it stop the game if its pirated, why not just turn it into a demo or something? Let them play it a bit, and then have it butt-in and say "Okay, you've played it for free enough. If you want to keep going, please buy this app." and then have it close.

What do you say to that extra credits?

Proves my point, Piracy can do good, not saying the act itself is good, but it does result in good things.

.99$ just goes to show people pirate no matter the price. "i can't afford it" not even close to an excuse for this game.

You know how when anyone pulls out a games cause violence study and we all remind them that correlation does not mean causation? Yeah, same thing here. If the game experienced a surge of awareness both sales and piracy would rise.

The inquest says shortly after Amitary was last seen, several agents believed to be working for the big publishers such as EA, Sony & Ubisoft were seen entering his house.

Oh god, I hope pirates don't manage to twist this into just another justification ("I pirate games because it actually helps the developer! Go me!"). Piracy doesn't help game sales, awareness of the game does. If he found another way to get his app known, like, oh, I don't know, advertising, then I see no reason why his sales wouldn't double anyway. "Stealing equals increased sales" is the wrong message to send.

CitySquirrel:
You know how when anyone pulls out a games cause violence study and we all remind them that correlation does not mean causation? Yeah, same thing here. If the game experienced a surge of awareness both sales and piracy would rise.

Yep, too true. It's interesting that they both rose so much over the same 11 day period - what happened over that Christmas week that changed the graph so much? Who told that apparently large chunk of people to pirate it? I mean, it's hard to feel how many purchases there were cos the graph isn't labelled (Andy, you lose a cookie), but that's a pretty huge shift to happen spontaneously :/

For that matter, why is the scale so fucked up there? It's at 2 day intervals up until that week, then boom with an 11 day interval exaggerating the sales spike. The most transparent example of statistical misleading I've seen for a while!

Eri:
.99$ just goes to show people pirate no matter the price. "i can't afford it" not even close to an excuse for this game.

How about the fact that most people don't like dealing with the AppStore and most people don't like the fact that apple is pretty bitchy about what you can do with YOUR cellphone and what you can't.

Maybe in this case, it's not just about the dev, but about Apple's bad business practices.

Correlation does not imply causation. What I think I'm seeing here is an increase in awareness of the game, which caused an increase in both pirating and sales of the game, which is to say, an increase in aquistions.

I don't know what might have caused it, but it seems more likely that pirates suddenly start simultaneously pirating it and then telling about it to their non-pirating buddies.

It seems far more likely that over the 10-day gap, Word-of-mouth made his app more popular and thus increased sales. Along with that comes a massive increase in piracy, as many people who are only semi-interested now have knowledge of it.

EDIT: Blasted connection... leave me hanging for 10 minutes...

What the guy above me said.

I like how people are already saying things against piracy here like how it's just 99cents. Well some people don't like apple or their way of dealing with things and they jail broke their device. And Apple being the big nazi company they are will do anything to screw your device over once jail broken so some people just go fuck it and pirate it. It's kind of a lose lose situation, are they not in the right but it's not because of the just price sheesh.

There's many reasons people pirate games, I pirate games to see if they'll run on my PC, you know because so many developers release demos to test it on your hardware. I'm looking at you Activision and Cliffy B. Once I find if it runs on my system I go out and buy it...

I'm sorry, let me repeat that for you people who don't think piracy makes me buy my games.

I'm JUST saying guys.

Correlation is not Causation. The more likely reason is the fact that, during his "stretch" of missing data time was Christmas, where people get gifts, like iPhones. The most likely reason for this increase is due to the fact that more people got iphones for Christmas, thus a new market of people who are more likely to download apps to their brand new iPhone reached the market, found this app, and downloaded it.

The other explanation is that someone wrote an article between those 10 days that brought attention to the game, leading more people to pirate and download it.

However, to say that the increased piracy actually CAUSED the increase in sales is just flat out stupid, and is more than likely just an attempt to grab some attention using the hot piracy issue because I can't reasonably believe that someone who could program an iPhone app would be that dumb.

I love all these "we pirate .99 cent games because we don't like apple!"

Yeah, that doesn't fly, since you're not hurting apple, since you already bought their ipods and iphones. Pirating the game hurts the game MAKER.

I love pirates and their twisted sense of morales. And for the thread? I think it's just the holiday season that was the reason for the large sells. I mean come on, it was near Christmas! It doesn't take a genius to realize this.

So what caused the initial spike?

How did all these people find out about Punch 'Em! to begin with on the 20th of December?

Nice to get some good publicity for once.

If the people who own the game want to let it be pirated, then it shouldn't be illegal to pirate their game.

Otherwise, it should be illegal until the owners say so.

Ewyx:

Eri:
.99$ just goes to show people pirate no matter the price. "i can't afford it" not even close to an excuse for this game.

How about the fact that most people don't like dealing with the AppStore and most people don't like the fact that apple is pretty bitchy about what you can do with YOUR cellphone and what you can't.

Maybe in this case, it's not just about the dev, but about Apple's bad business practices.

Then jailbreak the phone and don't pirate the indie software?

Piracy was not the cause of the "sales spike", word of mouth was. He just needed a better promo/marketing strategy. To credit pirates is just stupidity.

Snotnarok:
I like how people are already saying things against piracy here like how it's just 99cents. Well some people don't like apple or their way of dealing with things and they jail broke their device. And Apple being the big nazi company they are will do anything to screw your device over once jail broken so some people just go fuck it and pirate it. It's kind of a lose lose situation, are they not in the right but it's not because of the just price sheesh.

There's many reasons people pirate games, I pirate games to see if they'll run on my PC, you know because so many developers release demos to test it on your hardware. I'm looking at you Activision and Cliffy B. Once I find if it runs on my system I go out and buy it...

I'm sorry, let me repeat that for you people who don't think piracy makes me buy my games.

I'm JUST saying guys.

Out of interest, if every game came with a demo, would you stop pirating?

You know how pirates always claim that "how do we know these numbers (piracy = lost sales) are actually true?"

Well, suck it, because it works the same way the other way.

lacktheknack:

Snotnarok:
I like how people are already saying things against piracy here like how it's just 99cents. Well some people don't like apple or their way of dealing with things and they jail broke their device. And Apple being the big nazi company they are will do anything to screw your device over once jail broken so some people just go fuck it and pirate it. It's kind of a lose lose situation, are they not in the right but it's not because of the just price sheesh.

There's many reasons people pirate games, I pirate games to see if they'll run on my PC, you know because so many developers release demos to test it on your hardware. I'm looking at you Activision and Cliffy B. Once I find if it runs on my system I go out and buy it...

I'm sorry, let me repeat that for you people who don't think piracy makes me buy my games.

I'm JUST saying guys.

Out of interest, if every game came with a demo, would you stop pirating?

Yes I would, I very VERY much would. Basically all I do is play the first level, sometimes the second level/area whatever if the first wasn't very hard on my system. I just want to know if my system is able to handle it, and if they're not going to provide a test...then I will. It's not like I can return the game, or rent it for PC now is it? And system requirements ...yeah they've never been accurate. Is it even pirating when I get the game anyway? I call it...making my own demo!

Snotnarok:

Yes I would, I very VERY much would. Basically all I do is play the first level, sometimes the second level/area whatever if the first wasn't very hard on my system. I just want to know if my system is able to handle it, and if they're not going to provide a test...then I will. It's not like I can return the game, or rent it for PC now is it? And system requirements ...yeah they've never been accurate. Is it even pirating when I get the game anyway? I call it...making my own demo!

What about the game that you don't get, if you download those copyright protected programs on to your computer and don't buy those then you are thief. Plain and Simple. Especially a torrent, even worse because your then also distributing parts of the program to other users without permission.

Snotnarok:

lacktheknack:

Snotnarok:
I like how people are already saying things against piracy here like how it's just 99cents. Well some people don't like apple or their way of dealing with things and they jail broke their device. And Apple being the big nazi company they are will do anything to screw your device over once jail broken so some people just go fuck it and pirate it. It's kind of a lose lose situation, are they not in the right but it's not because of the just price sheesh.

There's many reasons people pirate games, I pirate games to see if they'll run on my PC, you know because so many developers release demos to test it on your hardware. I'm looking at you Activision and Cliffy B. Once I find if it runs on my system I go out and buy it...

I'm sorry, let me repeat that for you people who don't think piracy makes me buy my games.

I'm JUST saying guys.

Out of interest, if every game came with a demo, would you stop pirating?

Yes I would, I very VERY much would. Basically all I do is play the first level, sometimes the second level/area whatever if the first wasn't very hard on my system. I just want to know if my system is able to handle it, and if they're not going to provide a test...then I will. It's not like I can return the game, or rent it for PC now is it? And system requirements ...yeah they've never been accurate. Is it even pirating when I get the game anyway? I call it...making my own demo!

Well, if you're not lying through your teeth, then I don't see the problem. Time to get writing those letters to the developers...

Huh... funny, this story sounds sort of familiar... ah yes - that would be because it's echoing what I always say about piracy. Namely, don't pirate things, but don't pointlessly spend time and effort trying to stop it either - you can't, so you might as well take whatever word of mouth exposure you can get, regardless of how that word of mouth is generated.

There's a reason a lot of musicians come out in favor of file-sharing - they'd much rather have a million people downloading their material without paying than be stuck with just one hundred legitimate customers, because now a million people know who they are; presumably some of those people will tell other people about them, and maybe those people will actually buy stuff from them, or the freeloaders may go on to attend concerts or pick up band merchandise, etc.

With video games the software is largely the entirety of the service though, so encouraging people to spread it about without paying is somewhat counterproductive, as the word of mouth exposure you'd gain would be significantly offset by the bit where that game is how you're making any money (not just a part of it) - you're better off just ignoring piracy and focusing on quality assurance testing and marketing really - but piracy is still a form of advertising and, as we see from this example, it can indirectly benefit developers.

Baldr:

Snotnarok:

Yes I would, I very VERY much would. Basically all I do is play the first level, sometimes the second level/area whatever if the first wasn't very hard on my system. I just want to know if my system is able to handle it, and if they're not going to provide a test...then I will. It's not like I can return the game, or rent it for PC now is it? And system requirements ...yeah they've never been accurate. Is it even pirating when I get the game anyway? I call it...making my own demo!

What about the game that you don't get, if you download those copyright protected programs on to your computer and don't buy those then you are thief. Plain and Simple. Especially a torrent, even worse because your then also distributing parts of the program to other users without permission.

And how is disturbing a part of a file any different from the WHOLE file?

Anyway, great to hear that the Dev as able to make the system work for him. I won't tell everyone here what to think, (considering from what I've seen, too many people just don't get it...) but keep doing what you have to do, and pay your respect where it's due.

Snot, Awesome collection you got there, I hope to get mine as big soon, but it's a bit more padded with Import music CDs then games right now. ;) Still, once I can unbox my SNES and N64 games, I'll be extra happy.

Snotnarok, have you looked into sites like System Requirements Lab?

Huh...actual data on this sort of thing. Nice.

Unfortunately this instance is that of an indie dev - I had suspected that the indie market has a bigger potential to profit from piracy marketing and lo and behold...turns out that it does look this way.

However, it'd be really worthwhile to check these sorts of graph trends for bigger titles. The statistics tend to agree that the biggest titles of all also get pirated the most, as per the Escapists' own article...but the time and cost of creating those games is also higher and company politics most certainly complicate things even more.

Sadly I doubt we'll ever get reliable numbers on that. Any that'd come would always have to be approved by the company in question and what bigger company *doesn't* want a chance at squeezing an extra buck or two via the legal system, so what incentive do they have to be actually honest about it? But still...this is another tiny piece of the piracy puzzle that does help so - kudos to this person for actually being willing to reveal his findings in spite of his preferrence and kudos to the Escapist for covering it.

Baldr:

Snotnarok:

Yes I would, I very VERY much would. Basically all I do is play the first level, sometimes the second level/area whatever if the first wasn't very hard on my system. I just want to know if my system is able to handle it, and if they're not going to provide a test...then I will. It's not like I can return the game, or rent it for PC now is it? And system requirements ...yeah they've never been accurate. Is it even pirating when I get the game anyway? I call it...making my own demo!

What about the game that you don't get, if you download those copyright protected programs on to your computer and don't buy those then you are thief. Plain and Simple. Especially a torrent, even worse because your then also distributing parts of the program to other users without permission.

So I should just by the game on blind faith then? I should spend 60 dollars to find out if the game will run? The system requirements are often very wrong so how would you go about seeing if it works on your system? I can't rent the game and I cannot return it, there's no floor model to try either so how then? Also I don't seed so you're quite wrong on both fronts then. :)

See the trouble is here the developer or publisher is at fault because I WANT to buy their game but I want to know if it's compatible with what I have, but they don't provide it so I'm meerly trying out someone else copy. And if it doesn't work I erase it why the hell would I keep something that doesn't work? I'm not a thief, I'm also not so gullible to see that piracy isn't black and white. There's a middle ground and the fact that I have 96 steam games shows that I'm more likely to buy a game that I find that works so I'm glad that's settled. :)

lacktheknack:

Well, if you're not lying through your teeth, then I don't see the problem. Time to get writing those letters to the developers...

I think the pics show that I buy the games that I try.

The increased sales are still dwarfed by the sheer number of pirates stealing the game. Sorry, but this still doesn't fly as a justification.

There are legitimate ways to find out if a game is good or not, even without a demo. Reviews, for instance, like at this site you're looking at right now? Just saying.

Also,

Snotnarok:

I'm JUST saying guys.

Again, that's great that you buy the game if you like it, but you're still helping other pirates torrent those games, so for that reason I can't accept your premise.

RDubayoo:
The increased sales are still dwarfed by the sheer number of pirates stealing the game. Sorry, but this still doesn't fly as a justification.

There are legitimate ways to find out if a game is good or not, even without a demo. Reviews, for instance, like at this site you're looking at right now? Just saying.

Also,

Snotnarok:

I'm JUST saying guys.

Again, that's great that you buy the game if you like it, but you're still helping other pirates torrent those games, so for that reason I can't accept your premise.

Again, you want me to spend 60 dollars on a gamble that my system can run it while a multimillion dollar company can't be asked to put out a simple demo so I can see if my machine will play it?

In a world where system requirements are basically optional I really don't feel the need to risk my money when I don't have the luxury of throwing it out there. This could ALL be avoided if you know they put out their own demos so we could test the God damn game. And yes system requirements are REALLY that off, Black Ops for instance didn't support Dual Core processors till about a few weeks ago, while it clearly says on the box (you know that I bough on blind faith) that it supports dual core processors.

Well guess what, the requirements were wrong and I couldn't play the game I spent 60 dollars on. I guess you could say the developer swindled me so you can just say when I "test" games I'm just trying not to be swindled.

It's not my responsibility what the other people do with their pirated games, I'm simply stating what I'VE done with my games. If you feel I'm wrong then think about this, I wouldn't buy the game if I didn't test it first so they've lost a sale right there. And to show you that you know little about torrenting you can actually not seed so just saying :)

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