App developer says Android is “designed for piracy,” open-source not good for business

by: Chris SmithJuly 26, 2012

A few days ago we learned that Madfinger Games’ zombie-killing first-person shooter game Dead Trigger has been made available as a free download from Google Play. Then the developer explained the decision to go free on Android instead of pricing the game at $0.99: “unbelievably high” piracy was apparently the main reason for doing so.

At the time we reminded you that we don’t condone app piracy here at Android Authority and that developers also need to make money in order to continue creating amazing app and games for our mobile devices

The Dead Trigger Facebook-told tale made one other app developer jot down his thoughts on the matter on his personal blog, and in doing so he basically reached at an unsurprising conclusion, at least for some developers, that “closed is better for business” instead of open-source.

Matt Gemmell said Android, as an ecosystem is designed for piracy, as users are able to bypass the Google Play store easily – without rooting/unlocking their devices – and get pirated copies of paid apps rather than actually buying them:

[How to download pirated apps?] Pretty easy. You search the internet for pirate copies of apps, then copy them onto your (regular, unrooted, non-“jailbroken”) device, and launch them. The system is designed for piracy from the ground up. The existence of piracy isn’t a surprise, but rather an inevitability.

According to Gemmell, while open-source is good in theory, it’s not good for the developers from the business perspective:

People have to get paid. There has to be a revenue stream. You can’t reliably have that revenue stream if the platform itself and the damaged philosophy behind it actively sabotages commerce. If you want a platform to be commercially viable for third-party software developers, you have to lock it down. Just like in real life, closing the door and locking it helps make sure that your money remains yours.

The developer acknowledges that the open-source business model may be lucrative for Google, which is making money from advertising on the Android-based handsets sold by carriers, but that developers will not enjoy the same perks, as they worry for survival: “keeping food on the tablet, and making sure the lights stay on.”

At the end of the day, even though open-source works, in theory, Gemmell argues that “nothing is free,” and that it takes a lot of effort and time to make products whether mobile devices or the apps that make them smart – even though some of these products will be sold for subsidized devices or priced at around a dollar in digital content stores.

Is Gemmell off the mark or is he right?

The closed vs open argument is an “old” one in the post-iPhone smartphone business, and while Google is controlling the most important slice of the smartphone business, when it comes to revenue it’s Apple that makes the most money off its mobile devices. And it’s also Apple that generates more money for developers – to date, $5.5 billion have been paid to iOS app developers by the company.

In late 2011, Eric Schmidt made one of his famous comments that we won’t easily forget. Speaking at LeWeb 2011 in Paris, France he said that in six months from then, therefore in mid-2012, developers will choose Android over iOS as the main developing platform, and port their apps from Android to iOS than the other way, which is how it usually happens.

According to the same Schmidt, Ice Cream Sandwich should have played a major role in reducing fragmentation in the Android ecosystem and help with convincing developers to go Android first. Unfortunately for Google, ICS is still only on over 10% of devices, and various device makers are still preparing to roll out Android 4.0.x updates even though the next-gen OS is already here.

With that in mind, we’re looking forward to hear more from app developers in general. What is the most lucrative ecosystem for you, iOS or Android? Are you creating apps first for iOS and porting them to Android later or the other way around? Do you agree or disagree with what Gemmell said in his lengthy “Closed for Business” piece?

  • I don’t agree withn him.

    1-) Piracy is not ideological or philosophical. People who pirates software will pirate it on USA or North Korea.

    2-) Blaming opensource is a lame argument. Show your software is good, people will pay. If opensource was that bad, why companies like Redhat, IBM, Canonical, Google, even Apple make juicy bucks on it?

    • android

      1) If it is easy to get and install pirated copies, people will tend to use it.
      2) If the software is good and people can easily get a free copy, they will install the free one instead of pay for it. It does not matter if it is opensource or not.

  • tBs_Battousai

    in that case WindowsLinux must be designed for piracy as well then…

  • Martin

    If the developers from dead trigger are good, they would know, that there are lots of functions from google to prevent piracy. It’s quite simple to check if this person (google gmail account) has actually purchased an app. Its kind of frustrating, when developers don’t really know how to implement this things and make negative headlines about android. So get your stuff together and stop complaining!

    • android

      Did you see it said how easy is to INSTALL the PIRATED copy on Android? It did not said how easy is to illegal distribute the original copies. I am sure the pirated copy won’t check if you bought it or not.

  • Somedude

    Or could it simply be the games they producer are unoriginal and not that good hence why people don’t pay for them

  • Nic Gillespie

    The Dead Trigger developers remind me of the idiots who complain about the bug in iOS for in app purchases, even though Apple and Google have provided API’s to check for licensing (available for Android 1.5 and above) they are to dumb to actually use them. Don’t blame open source for your lack of knowledge, and who ever is the project manager of Dead Trigger should invest in programmers that actually know the platform.

    • android

      Do you have an idea how easily to remove the licensing checking (aka pirating) and how easily to get the piracy copy? It would be lucky the Dead Trigger project manager did not hire any programmers to implement this so-nice feature since it is damn useless.

  • lau

    …like Apptrackr for iOS doesn’t exist

  • Kirill Love

    I don’t agree with him aswell. I do sometimes pirate apps just to test them to see if they worth my money. I can say that I’ve tested Dead Trigger and I am glad I didn’t waste my money on this game. Didn’t buy it and deleted it after few minutes.

  • lotrgsnAA

    I have a very good example:
    SPB shell 3d(Launcher) is one of the most expensive android apps and it cannot be run if it has not been purchased. When you download the apk it checks if it has been purchased. if not it displays relevant message and you would not be able to use the app.

    • Paradise

      Cracked application also won’t launch?

      • lotrgsnAA

        i’m not quite sure.. i dwnldd it frm some file sharing site last year… so cant say..

  • Hikari0307

    By that guy’s logic, windows ,which is not open source, is designed for piracy as well since installing a pirated software is as simple as searching the internet for it, download it and installing it without needing any modifications to the system.

  • Ricardo Herrera

    i wish they let your try the game for a day and if you dont like it return it for fee…25cents or something…some of these games just blow

  • iShithead

  • Anti-distortion Field

    Android 4.1 Jelly Bean uses device specific encryption. They should not have been trigger-happy and waited for that instead.

  • jaysann22

    This is dangerous talk here…. Getting rid of opensource and download capabilities is one of the greatest things that separates android from iOS. Its no different than the gun control issue in the US. Just because a few nutbags take advantage of their freedom to own firearms, doesnt mean everyone should lose their freedom. Its failed logic and very sophomoric to even consider such reactionary thinking….

  • Seriously?!

    I take issue with this developers and any other with this attitude. In commerce there is ALWAYS theft. Instead of having such a defeatist attitude, why not find a workaround for the issue at hand. They could require log-in credentials to use their software or some sort of DRM. I don’t see supermarkets giving stuff away because it might be stolen. I think that when you put your work online for FREE, (no matter what your motivation) you have no bitching rights about any would-be “lost revenue”. The expression “you can’t win if you don’t play” comes to mind. If they would have put the game up for $1 they would have had more revenue than none. Open source is the present and the future. If you can’t find a way to cope, sell out and find a different line of work. I have zero sympathy for the developer in question because it seem they are labeling all android users thieves. If you make quality, I know I (and many android users I know) are willing to buy it. So are many others. I frequently buy $1-$4 games and apps up to $10. A large amount of us understand that developer support is the only way to get newer and better apps and games. My conclusion? Re-evaluate your perspective on the issue and stop trying to make Android look like a bad thing. There is always the ultra non-open source systems. iOS for example, which can also be “jail-broken” and used with stolen software, but I see no mention of that. Android is under attack and I am here for the defense. Damaged Philosophy indeed… Idiot.

  • Brian

    If it was a buck, practically no one would pirate it. And even if it would happen, let’s say 100,000 bought it an 100 pirated. That’s a lot of money lost by just making if free