Fighting Piracy…

A few weeks back I noticed a sharp decline in sales for Zombie Room AR. I’ll have zero sales days for a couple days in a row now and again, but typically they pick back up as another university or country finds it.

After I hit 6 days in a row without a sale, I decided to check around and see if I could find out why. I looked through the visitor stats and saw that target image was still being downloaded around 10-50 times per day.  I looked at the free version downloads, and they had pretty much dropped down as well, so it wasn’t making much sense.

I dug through the referrers and found a Russian blog that was sending people to the target image. Upon visiting the blog, and much to my chagrin, I found a direct download to the full version of the game.  Interestingly enough, they had revved the version number too!  (Real Full Version is 1.1.1, Pirated is 1.1.2)

I downloaded the game and installed it on my phone… yep – this was the full version of the game.  I’ve never been confronted with piracy before, and I’m not going to lie – I’ve pirated movies and music before… so I was hit with a bit of an internal conflict.

I decided to do nothing, at least for the time being, and figure out what the best course of action was. I ended up hanging out with my buddy Brad (he’s kind of my game design Yoda in a lot of ways) and we talked about different instances of piracy that we knew about from small / indie developers. After some time and lengthy discussion here’s how I feel about it:


  • Reaches a wider audience
  • Is its own form of word-of-mouth advertising
  • Might convert to a purchase if the pirate is benevolent and really likes your game
  • LOTS more search results as different pirate sites copy each other and propagate the piracy… (Just Google Zombie Room AR… it’s an ocean of results!)
  • Flattery. Think about it – someone wanted my game so much they stole it!
  • Feelings of victimization (that goes away after a beer or two, but it’s not a great feeling for the first 30 minutes of finding out people are stealing your software… Flattery settles in much later.)
  • Decreased revenue
After another two days I had zero sales and was beginning to think that I should start throwing out DCMA’s to some of these sites when I started seeing sales again. I actually got a nice burst of sales from South Korea (I suspect they were mostly university students).  The sales dropped down to normal after a couple of days, so I decided I would still do nothing about the piracy since it could have been possible that they were the ones to introduce the game to South Korea… who knows.
Anyhow, I left all of the sites hosting the pirated game up for about 10 weeks. After that I decided to send all of the blogs, file shares, and other sites polite requests to take down the link to the game. Most of them got back to me right away saying that they had taken the link down, which is more than fair.
I’ll never stop piracy, and in fact I think it can be pretty useful and should be taken into consideration as a ‘Marketing Cost’. Even if all of the sites I requested don’t take it down, it’s ok… It’s pretty awesome people are playing my game!

2 Responses to “Fighting Piracy…”

  1. 1 dangakun March 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    So, how are now (22-03-2013) the sales for the game?

  2. 2 Timothy Johnson March 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    This game’s been out for quite some time and only get between 5 and 10 sales a month at this point. The demo version still gets about 50 to 100 downloads a day though, but at this point I think Zombie Room AR has had it’s day. Zombie Room AR 2 however… 😉

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