Is the iPhone game bubble about to burst?

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Could the huge bubble of iPhone game success be about to burst? We have seen many times in the history of the video game industry that customers are very keen to steal the games we have worked on rather than pay for what they have had. This has already destroyed the viability of many gaming platforms. The iPhone could be next.

Basically the App Store mechanism gives no protection to what it hosts, so anyone else can host whatever they want elsewhere and allow free downloads. And this is what is happening, you can get any App you want for the iPhone for free. Up until now most iPhone users were unaware of this so continued paying for their Apps, but the word is getting round very quickly. So now TAG Games are saying that two thirds of users of their game Car Jack Streets have been thieves who have not paid for the game.

Once this particular genie is out of the bottle it is just about impossible to put him back in. So pretty soon, as the word spreads, iPhone App piracy will be in the 90+% that it is for boxed PC games. Which will destroy the business model, just as it has for so many gaming platforms before, and so people will stop developing for the iPhone. Which will damage the iPhone as a gaming platform.

The reason this has happened is almost certainly purely down to Apple’s innocent naivety and inexperience in the gaming industry. They haven’t grasped the fact that the only gaming platforms to experience long term success are those where it is extremely difficult or impossible to steal the games. The three main home consoles, the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360, have many layers of anti piracy protection built into them for this very reason. In fact one of the reasons the gaming industry is doing so much better than the music and film industry is that with our platforms it is quite difficult to steal our work, whilst their work is simple to steal.

Meanwhile if you are developing for the iPhone or thinking about it you need to take a very serious look at how much your work is going to get stolen. Selling very cheap, and so not worth stealing, is probably the best route to take just now.

8 comments ↓

#1 oldest gamer on 05.04.09 at 12:46 pm

Get your facts straight, Jail broken iPhones allow pirating of software along with human nature. And your use of a link to the xbox 2 (360) being secure is a joke. Many layers of security has NEVER applied to a Microsoft product, software or hardware.

#2 Know your role on 05.04.09 at 4:46 pm

I take my Ps3, my Wii and my 360 and crush that little iphone, crush it I say. Not that I’d ever buy one let alone buy a game for it. C’moooon.

#3 Nester-san on 05.04.09 at 6:10 pm

Where do these guys get the facts they present to readers ?

The PS3 is the ONLY unpirated Console of this generation.(that I know of)

Bruce, your sweater vest is distorting your views of the facts, go do some reasearch next time.

#4 mastershredder on 05.04.09 at 6:55 pm

Funny I saw another entry from this “games industry marketer” in the past that missed the mark. You are about as good at marketing predictions as GM was with cars. As a developer (including this platform), let me say, do a little more homework before shooting from the hip.

#5 Robin on 05.04.09 at 7:29 pm

iTunes seems to be doing okay and you don’t even need to jailbreak an iPod to play pirated music on it.

I’d imagine piracy is far less of a concern for developers than the fact that the iPhone platform is being flooded with amateurish rubbish, making it difficult and tedious to find the good stuff and souring new users’ views of the capabilities of the platform as a whole.

#6 armaan on 05.04.09 at 8:46 pm

I’d have to disagree on your point that the most successful platforms are difficult to pirate on. The original Playstation and the Playstation 2 both experience a phenomenal amount of piracy, and both are among the most successful gaming systems of all time. It’s incredibly easy to pirate DS software, and the DS is phenomenally successful.

Successful gaming systems are made successful by consistent support from the platform creator. That’s what’s happening with the 360, Wii, DS, and PS3, and what happened with the PS2 and PS1. Piracy really has no bearing on that.

#7 Russell Coker on 10.15.09 at 10:24 am

The revenues of the music and film industries have been steadily increasing WHILE the organisations that supposedly represent them claim that they are being destroyed by piracy. From observing the music and film industries it seems clear that either piracy has no real impact (due to people pirating things that they could never afford to buy) or acts as a free promotion.

If products are reasonably cheap and there are some benefits of convenience or quality for buying then people will still buy. It’s not technically difficult to pirate cable TV, but it’s inconvenient enough that most of the people with the skill to do it would rather spend their time earning money and pay for it.

Another example is the increasing array of services that my 3G phone keeps offering me. For a small monthly fee I can subscribe to news, weather, celebrity gossip, dating, and many other offerings. I personally use none of them as a PC with net access does it all a lot better and with no added charges. But I get the impression that many people are paying $3 or $5 per month to subscribe to such services such that the phone company is making money on them – enough money that they keep adding more channels. Then there’s ring tones, people pay $1 or $2 for a ring tone, it’s not THAT difficult to download an mp3 file and put it on a phone, but apparently many people would rather pay a dollar or two.

#8 No problem! There is an easy solution... on 10.15.09 at 5:40 pm

Anticrack http://www.drobnik.com/touch/anticrack makes pirating much harder and every time a hacker finds a new way around the prevention mechanisms, AntiCrack can defeat this with an updated version.
And it gives me options whereby I can allow pirated copies with reduced features (e.g. to reduce my server resources) and make money out of AdMob advertising!
I can also pop up an iTunes purchase button which converts some of the pirates into sales!

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