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Monument Valley developer sheds light on recent Android "piracy" controversy

Monument Valley developers Ustwo have caused a little bit of commotion around the Internet over the past few days. Ustwo's Dan Gray has now taken to an interview to clear the air on a few statistics he sent out.

Published onJanuary 7, 2015

Monumental Valley

Monument Valley has been all over the place lately. It recently made our list as one of the best designed Android games of 2014, as well as Google’s list of 102 best games of the year. It has especially been talked about thanks to the developer’s decision to charge a (relatively) high price for the game, at a time when premium titles are especially popular. Whether you think the game is too expensive or not, I think we can all agree that this game is beautifully done. On Monday, developer Ustwo took to Twitter and has caused quite a commotion ever since. The tweet reads:

At first time hearing this statistic, you’re likely thinking, “There’s no way that can be right!” If you are, you’re not alone. Not only did it get the Twitterverse riled up because of this tweet, it also irked a ton of people over on Reddit. In response to the backlash of the Internet, Monument Valley producer Dan Gray sat down for an interview with Re/code to clear the air on a few things.

monument valley

Gray explained that a few things have been misconstrued with his statistic. First, a portion of the 95% of unpaid Android apps go to installs on multiple devices. So, if a user buys the game on their phone and installs it on their tablet, their statistic would fall in the 95% range.

Some Redditors pointed out that Monument Valley has been briefly made free for download on Amazon’s Appstore. By Ustwo’s Dan Gray says the 400,000 free downloads from Amazon were not included in the 95 percent statistic.

Gray explained that Ustwo has no deep insight in the installation statistics, so it can’t tell what proportions of the non-paid installations are piracy or simply people running the legitimately bought game on multiple devices.

To further muddy up the data, when asked why there’s such a big difference in numbers between Android and iOS, Gray explains:

It probably comes down to how tech-savvy the user actually is, and probably region, as well. 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. Let’s say you take U.S. only: Those paid rates for Android and iOS are actually considerably closer. They’re closer than five and 40 percent.

So, could the developer have been a tad more clear on the statistics? Sure. But the tweet is completely factual, and nobody should blame them for that. Since these statistics aren’t region specific and because we don’t have exact numbers, it’s tough to tell how many Android or iOS users are actually pirating the game.

Ustwo says it’s not particularly bothered by piracy, regardless of how high it is. Said Gray:

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. 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. When I say we’re not complaining about that ratio, that kind of ratio was expected before we made the game and it’s not that surprising now that we’ve released the game. You just roll with the punches.

There’s much more to Dan Gray’s interview over at Re/code, and I definitely recommend you take a look for some more insight. Also, if you have yet to download Monument Valley, you should definitely do that, too.

Of course, there are successful paid and successful free games out there, but do you think, as a developer, all of this is worth the hassle of not knowing real numbers? What are your thoughts on free vs. paid apps? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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