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Piracy Data Update

In the pro versus contra copy protection debate there are some arguments against the other side’s viewpoint. Arguments that can be proven or disproven if you have some real life data available. Is there a need for piracy detection? Is this a cat and mouse game that single developers can never win?

Pirated versus PurchasedSpeaking for LuckyWheel installation base I have the following statistics available:

2052  (55%) purchased regular LuckyWheel

1661 (45%) pirated the game

3713 total (100%) LuckyWheel installations

66646 downloaded the Lite version

LuckyWheel Lite, limited to ten questions per language, is a great way to try out LuckyWheel for free. One argument I’ve heard a lot is that people will use a cracked copy to evaluate your app and if they like it very much will spend the dollar or two that it usually costs. But is this really the case?

Not according to my data. The conversion rates are dramatically different between Lite-to-Full versus Cracked-to-Full. Actually it’s a tenth.

  • 1.3% (862 ) upgraded from Lite to Full
  • 0.1% (69) degraded from Lite to Pirated
  • 0.18% (3) upgraded from Pirated to Full

Most likely iPhone users who go through the motions of downloading and installing a cracked IPA are not a fair sampling of the general iPhone user base. Or do we really believe that 45% of iPhones are jailbroken? Jailbreaking and patching the mobile installer app are the prerequisites to install decrypted pirated apps on iPhones.

Another thing also tells us that the pirating users cannot be representative of the whole. They are either 10 times as cheap or 10 times as hard to please are are regular people.

To look on the bright side, of the more than 70359 total pairs of eyes that have tried out LuckyWheel in one form or another only 2.4% thought to be so smart to get the full version for free. Because really you have to see pirated copies as Lite versions. 2.4% pirates amongst iPhone users sounds like a realistic number.

The numbers prove that purveyors of piracy are even less inclined of eventually purchase the app than Lite tryers (factor 10). Some developers claim to have a loss in sales while I still have not seen any convincing evidence of that. Piracy is just a little bit of additional advertisement. Actually I’ve never seen sales drop after LuckyWheel became available in “decrypted form”. But that may be just me and my $1-Game.

Maybe the story is totally different for higher priced apps with coveted content. I invite any colleagues to share their numbers to that effect with me. Generally I consider real losses to be more present if the pricing level is above a certain threshold. I’ll quickly spend a couple of dollars on an app here and there, but if the app costs more than $10 I might pause and think if it really is worth as much to me.

Now you might say that this is a good case against products like my AntiCrack and I have to agree. But if there are additional resources you have to pay for to provide the app’s features then it might really hurt financially having to treat crackers the same as customers. Say you have set up a dedicated server to provide online multiplayer gaming you probably have to limit it’s usage to only legitimate customers. Or a different scenario might be one where you have to give person-to-person support and for ethical or technical reasons you have to refrain from cloning yourself.

AntiCrack does not prevent cracking per se which is the removal of Apple’s encryption wrapper around a distributed app. But what it can do for my fellow developers is to give a toolset to make an educated decision if you want or need to treat pirates different than paying customers. Without AntiCrack you don’t even know who is legitimate and who is not.

Actually it has been a trend even in PC games to mess with the user’s feelings if a crack is detected. Most modern PC games have only a simple medium based protection like SecuRom on the surface which can easily be removed by any second grade cracker. But then there lots of “bugs” throughout the app that might prevent using of the “Reload” button or make the app crash when displaying a star chart after the first long level. Also these pseudo-bugs would not behave the same, sometimes they would be present, the next time the game is run it suddenly works again. This way  the crackers can never be certain that the crackers have patched out all those kinks.

So, does AntiCrack have a place in developers hearts? Definitely yes. It gives you information to act on if you need to conserve your resources and gives you some vindication over freeloaders. Best of all, it’s cheap and easy to implement, so you can conserve the contents of your wallet and save lots of implementation time.

This enables you to concentrate on putting more quality into your apps and app updates which will increase your profits down the road the most.

Categories: Copy Protection


  1. Good article. I never thought of pirates to be addition advertising. However, if you think about it, it really isn’t that great of advertising because as your number show, a VERY slim number of crackers actually upgrade to the full version.

    Either way, I plan on putting AntiCrack into all my paid applications.