Featured: Yep, Android has a huge piracy problem

May 5, 2012 - Written By Randy Arrowood

Have you ever wanted a popular paid app to make its way over from iOS to Android and been frustrated that it never seems to happen? Well, if you’ve ever run into the issue there is a simple one word explanation: piracy.

For all that end users love about Android, developers that are in the business to feed their families hate it because Google makes it so damn easy to pirate paid apps. A rooted device can pull any paid app from storage and after little effort, “share” that app with anyone that has enabled side loading on their device.

The stories of developers that have gotten the screw job with their Android titles are out there, but there is a recent guest post on Wired’s UK site by Miles Jacobsen, studio director at game developer Sports Interactive. In it, he recounts his studio’s verified Android piracy problem involving their Football Manager 2012 game, which is kind of like Madden 2012 for soccer.

Long story short, SI got around the different Android screen sizes and resolutions by publishing the game and requiring a skin download for each device so that the game would scale properly. The results are startling to say the least.

Sports Interactive sold a little over 10,000 copies of their game on the Google Play Store, but the SI servers saw over 113,000 unique skin downloads in the same time frame. I’m not sure how SI was able to determine that the majority of those downloads were from different users, but it is pretty safe to assume that not many of the 10,000 or so people that bought their game was holding on to 10 Android devices each.

It isn’t just the simple fact that piracy exists on the Android platform, it’s the attitude that goes along with it. Take this comment on the post from “Wes”:

why buy your game when you get it for free? sorry. that’s just life.
May 2nd 2012

That’s one of the more tame comments as there were a number of highly offensive, vulgar comments that Wired UK has removed in the time since I first read that story. Some of the game thieves going so far as to call Mr Jacobsen greedy and a lazy f*%#er because of the price of his studio’s game, and expressing the belief that SI deserved to have their work pirated because the price is so high.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; who the hell cares about a soccer game, right? Well, it isn’t just about this one game, it’s about all of the other games and apps that aren’t being developed for Android because of this very real issue.

There is this one particular game on iOS that is so insanely popular that some Android owners crave it for their devices. It’s called Infinity Blade and it’s been so popular on iOS that version 1 of the game earned the developers more than $20 million in revenue.
I’m much happier playing Sonic 4 than I am slicing up monsters, but I can see the appeal for those that like that type of game. Guess what? It isn’t coming to Android and you can thank all of the thieves for that fact.

In a Mashable article from November 2011, owners of Chair Entertainment the Mustard brothers (yes, that is actually the brother’s last name) stated that Infinity Blade isn’t coming to Android because they fear too much in sales would be lost to thieves. For those that care about this game genre, Infinity Blade ll looks even better than the first version, but it won’t be hardware limitations or fragmentation that keep you from enjoying it. Nope. It’s the thieves.

The Android piracy problem rests fully on the shoulders of Google. Though Google provides their License Validation Library for developers to incorporate into their Play Store apps, it is apparently so easy to circumvent that a novice can work around it in mere minutes.

Unless or until Google gets serious about its Android piracy problem premium titles like Infinity Blade will never see the light of day on the Android platform.