Piracy on iOS: 60% of Monument Valley installs on iPhone and iPad not paid for

Monument Valley Forgotten Shores

Even though this particular data point is a few days old now, I think it’s highly relevant in light of Apple’s glowing App Store stats revealed yesterday.

According to developer Ustwo Games, its award-winning and incredibly successful Monument Valley, an atmospheric puzzle game in which you manipulate impossible architecture inspired by the works of M.C. Escher, has seen a significant chunk of its potential revenue lost to piracy because only 40 percent of the $3.99 game installs on the iPhone and iPad were paid for.

The vast chunk of the remaining sixty percent iOS installs were illegitimate, or to put it bluntly — pirated. On Android, the paid install base is a paltry five percent (you read that right), as a huge hunk of the remaining 95 percent of users opted to steal Monument Vally on Android rather than pay four bucks to enjoy it.

Is the 60 percent piracy rate on iOS a worrying number for Monument Valley developers and a bad sign for Apple’s mobile platform? Read on for the full reveal.

The numbers came via a tweet Ustwo posted Monday.

An important caveat: installs ≠ purchases.

“The only thing we can do is, two bits of data: one, how many purchases we have and, two, how many installs we’ve got,” said Ustwo.

In other words, 60 percent of unpaid iOS installs is comprised of a large portion of pirated installs and a smaller portion of people who have both an iPhone and an iPad, and have installed the game to both devices.

Having debuted in April of last year, Monument Valley has yet to go free in the App Store. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that a huge portion of the 60 percent installs on iOS are in fact illegitimate.

Back to Android.

It’s been established before that Android suffers from a massive piracy problem, owed to Google’s decision not to police its Play Store and the fact that Android users are allowed to install apps from unofficial third-party sources or manually.

“Android statistics don’t include Amazon Store data by the way. So 95 percent piracy rate isn’t affected by the free day we did,” Ustwo wrote in another tweet.

Monument Valley 2.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

Some 315,000 Android users obtained the game during the free day, which “rounds out to 5.3 percent taking out those users,” reads another tweet.

Despite rampant piracy, Ustwo have made a conscious decision not to implement any piracy protection on Android, explaining to Re/code that they’re not unique in this situation.

“The best way I like to think about it is, the majority of those users probably wouldn’t have bought the game anyway. So it’s not like we’re losing revenue,” said Monument Valley producer Dan Gray.

“And, of course, I’m sure some of those users have recommended the game to friends who maybe aren’t as tech-savvy as they are. It’s essentially free marketing,” he said trying to play down the issue.

Developers suspect that such a big difference between Android and iOS comes down to how tech-savvy the user and the region actually is.

“When you compare the most affluent regions, obviously that kind of slants it toward developing markets and Android devices, where people are less inclined to spend $4 on a game,” he contended, alluding to markets such as China where Android devices don’t ship preloaded with Google’s Play store so people are accustomed to obtaining software from third-party stores, many of which pirate apps.

If you indeed take U.S. only, those paid rates for Android and iOS are “actually considerably closer,” as in “closer than five and 40 percent.”

Monument Valley 2.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)

Be that as it may, no one should gloat too much about Android’s piracy problem.

Matter of fact, the 60 percent piracy rate on iOS for one of the best mobile games of 2014 is simply too high a figure — even more so knowing piracy requires users to jailbreak their devices, an undertaking the vast majority of mainstream iPhone and iPad owners avoid doing.

The piracy gap between iOS and Android is one of the many reasons why the App Store has remained the mobile platform of choice for most app makers, despite Google’s platform having more than twice as large footprint as iOS.

Apple yesterday said the App Store made a record $500 million on New Year’s Day, marking the single biggest day ever in its nearly seven-year history.

Apps and games generated over $10 billion in revenue for developers throughout 2014 as billings on the App Store rose 50 percent in 2014. Furthermore, developers have earned a cumulative $25 billion from App Store sales.

Ustwo was highlighted in Apple’s press release alongside a few other independent games developers as success stories from the year 2014.

The backlash that ensued after a paid $1.99 ‘Forgotten Shores’ update, which has introduced eight new levels to Monument Valley on top of the original ten levels, shows how easy it is to make excuse for piracy.

Just because a premium game you want isn’t available at a price you wish to pay doesn’t mean you should become a freeloader. And stealing, as Steve Jobs quipped while announcing a legitimate way to buy music on iTunes, is bad for your karma.

As Megan McArdle keenly observed in her DailyBeast piece, people are not forced into piracy, they’re choosing it.

“You are not entitled to shoplift Birkin bags on the grounds that they are ludicrously overpriced, and you cannot say you had no alternative but to break into a local ice cream parlor at 2 am because you are really craving some Rocky Road and the insensitive bastards refused to stay open 24/7 so that you could have your favorite sweet treat whenever you want,” she put brilliantly.

iDownloadBlog does not, nor ever will, condone piracy.

And on a more personal note, even though folks who pirate iOS games are aware they’re in the wrong, they still choose to do it not thinking their actions will damage developers, and developers are essential to the App Store and Apple’s mobile platform.

What’s your position on this sensitive matter? What should Apple and its developers do in order to fight piracy on iOS more efficiently and vigilantly than before, do you think?

And what can honest users who value the incredible software the App Store offers collectively do in order to help surmount the app theft challenge?

Sound off in the comments below.

Source: Ustwo Games