Featured Editorial: Android’s Struggle to Keep Open but the Pirate’s at Bay

| September 6, 2012 | Reply

There’s no denying the fact that Smartphones are growing rapidly in fact, there fast becoming the default computing platform. That might be a way off but, a large chunk of consumers rely on their smartphones and tablets more than they do a laptop. I, myself, do everything I did on my laptop on my tablet. Piracy is everywhere and so, it stands to reason that as the popularity of mobile devices rises so, too does the piracy on these platforms. Whether it be Android or iOS it’s no secret that App and Game piracy has not only been on the rise but now a major problem for developers.

Piracy is on every platform imaginable and anybody who tells you otherwise is lying. You don’t think students and budding film producers don’t pirate copies of Final Cut Pro, do you? Of course they do, because it’s pricey stuff. Apps and games on the other hand aren’t all that pricey, of course, some would think that $5 for a game is a lot of money and that’s down to preference but I’m sure most out there can afford $5 for a game. Distribution methods on the PC have become a lot better with the advent of iTunes and Steam, gettig hold of legitimate copies of music, movies and games has for the first time ever, been easier than pirating them. App stores such as the Play Store are supposed to serve the same and for the most part they perform the same however, on Android (and iOS to an extent) it’s almost as easy to avoid the distributor as it is on the PC.

Now, I’ve been a Linux user since I was 15, the idea of having a full Operating System for free not only sounded good but was good. I’ve always found Linux based systems to be just better but, I can’t say that I have to pay for much software as I heavily rely on Open Source tech. Call me a hippy if you like but I get by just fine. This isn’t to say that I don’t feel that commercial software doesn’t deserve to be paid for, I buy a good number of Android apps and I’ve always paid for games on the Xbox, because I respect and understand the work that goes into both.

The problem with Android it’s very easy to circumvent the Play Store altogether, all you have to search for, say “Sonic CD .apk” or something to that affect and you’ve got yourself a link to free Sonic. Of course, we’ve seen AT&T try and block the infamous “Unknown Sources” selection box in Android’s settings but, I don’t believe that’s the answer and I never will do. It’s very difficult to strike the right balance here then. Whilst a great many people out there aren’t going to face the hassle of cracking the latest PC game, it’s so much easier to get hold of an apk package. Making the portion of people likely to pirate a whole lot bigger and with smartphones pretty much everywhere now that’s a lot of potential pirates. How do you stop piracy on a platform that let’s you install whatever you want, from anywhere?

That’s a difficult question right there and one I’m fairly certain Google have been scratching their heads over for a long time now. After all, the more Google becomes a content company the more they’re going to have to please their partners.

Should this be Google’s Responsibility or the Developers’?

Ultimately, I’d have to say it’s Google’s responsibility – not to fix the problem but to help Developers do something about it. For instance, some sort of tool that developers can embed into apks – sure it’ll get cracked somehow – that links back to the Play Store to ask for a corresponding code to prove that I paid for this game. Of course, this poses another problem – how do you do it without ruining the experience for the end user? Obviosuly, it’d have to be behind the scenes or of little obstruction to the user.

There’s no denying that a solution like this has probably already been circumvented or will be but, if Google keeps at it then attitudes will soon change and the pirates will either give up or just become a little less active. You’re going to do something if you know you can get away with it – introduce some sort of discipline or difficulty into the mix and the numbers will dwindle. I don’t have the answer but I know that something has to be done because not all game developers are willing to put a lot of effort into the Free-to-play awesomeness that is Dead Trigger (which should never have been a paid app) and indeed, the format doesn’t fit all games. So, should developers that don’t do free-to-play games terrorise us with ads to get money or endure piracy?

Neither. Because Google needs to step in and introduce something to curb this trend that is only going to get worse unless the big Search Giant doesn’t do something to put a road block in front of them. No matter how many road blocks it takes – they’ll run out of gas at some point.

Category: Android App News, Android Game News, Android News

About Tom Dawson ()

For years now I've had a heavy interest in technology, I grew up with 8-bit computers and gaming consoles and have been using Linux for years now. Android saved me from the boredom of iOS years ago and I've loved every minute of it. As a big reader and writer nothing pleases me more than to write about the exciting world of Android and technology as a whole.