How To Avoid Video Game Piracy and Make Lots of Money

How To Avoid Video Game Piracy and Make Lots of Money

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It sucks.. but games do get pirated every day. In fact one game developer(poor guy) had a 95% piracy rate with his PC title… yes 95%!!! Another developer found that more then 40 piracy blogs picked up his game with just 24 hours after releasing his game.

And now for the big kicker… and interview was made with Mad Finger Games whee they said they saw a 60% piracy rate across iOS and Android.

As for developers, this is a low blow. But let me share a few tips on how to avoid/prevent piracy so you can bring in more capital to grow your game studio. Right now, since we been in developing our games here at our studio, I will comment on what I believe is the most powerful method to avoid video game piracy and make lots of money for your studio. That is… switching to a Freemium Model.


Many developers are scared to go this route, but in all my businesses I have started, bought and seen come to profits. What made them more profitable was getting “quality” customers in the door with little risk to the buyer. Keeping the barrier to enter very low. Nicholas Lovell @ GamesBrief does a great job explaining the concept, definitely much better then I could.

Basically Freemium Model is this… releasing your software for free and allowing gamers to purchase items in the game to make your studio money. You can also sell advertising in the game and many other ways to monetize the game.

What I will say is this… your purpose is to build a huge following with a low barrier of entry… Having the most people download your apps is the goal. This way you can leverage these wonderful folks for the rest of your game developer career. What’s even cooler is, YOU MAKE MORE MONEY from the folks who buy tons of stuff on your games. Yes… you will have most of the people who buy absolutely nothing. But the real “whales” as Nicholas Lovell calls them are where you can make $1,000+ on a 1 downloader of your app. This is the true power, focusing on the big spenders.

This is also political presidents mindset… get funding from the ultra affluent!

But IAP (In app purchases is not the end all be all to piracy). It still exists in Freemium model.

Piracy is more prevalent with the Android phones using programs like “IAP Free” and “IAP Cracker”. Piraters spoof transactions locally to fool your game and send fraudulent transactions.

But iPhones which are jail broken are seeing the effects as well. Hackers have even figured out how to unlock the “free” IAPs on Apples own App Store.

The other 2 methods I will share with you from Gamasutra who explains it really well.

Remote Communication:

This is to have your app communicate with your game server and give the folks who downloaded your game, a player ID.

The baseline for any anti-piracy efforts on mobile is to have the app communicate to your game server remotely. Even if it’s a single player game, recording player IDs and actions to your server is the only way to fight piracy. You need to be able to understand if piracy is occurring and hopefully take action. This can mean shutting down account creations from a particular country if the majority of purchases from that country are fraudulent, by removing the ill-gotten purchases from users accounts, or shutting the offending game account down entirely. This is especially effective when used in conjunction with our next tip: online registration.

More @ GamaSutra

Online Registration:

I love this because most people don’t know this yet, but giving email addresses on mobile apps is not like giving an email address on the web. On the web, this is a big fear you will be spammed. On mobile apps, if a developer can do it in a clever non-marketing way. You can grab thousands of emails and user information this way to bring what your gamers want to them. It’s very powerful and great way to grow your game studio.

Hero Academy does this as well as many mobile games. And you should too!

The most commonly cited elegant solution for preventing piracy was online registration with an email address. Whenever the user goes to play, they need to authenticate with their email address (automatic sign-in is fine after the first visit). Doing so creates a gate that you can use to prevent pirates from accessing your game. Then, when you catch a user pirating IAP your game, you can shut out that email address and the pirate will lose everything they gained illicitly with the loss of the account.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can ask for email verification from players as well. You should choose the right place to do this within your game, but it should always be before in-app purchases can be bought. This ensures that pirates can’t use a fake email, and makes the piracy process more difficult because you’re adding more work to each piracy cycle. Each time a pirate gets caught, they now have to create a new email address in addition to creating a new account in your game.

Lastly, is Encryption…

There is a tool/service like Molebox to make your app more difficult to crack. But if you move towards a freemium model as we do in our games. You will less likely need this, although it is a great service if you are getting pirated.

What are your thoughts?

Having issues with your games… are you seeing piracy? Any solutions you have, feel free to share them below.

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