90% of Android copies of Football Manager Handheld are pirated

Jacobson: "Something like Steam on Android could revolutionise the market"

Sports Interactive studio head Miles Jacobson has revealed the piracy figures for the Football Manager Handheld on Android, writing that an astonishing 90 per cent of the copies installed on the platform are illegal downloads.

Writing in a piece for Wired, Jacobson talks about the need to combat Android piracy, calling for a system similar to Steam to be put in place to incentivise legitimate users.

"Last week I found myself in one of those 'good news, bad news' situations," he writes.

"The good was that more than 100,000 people were enjoying the new Android version of our game. The bad news was that only about 10 percent of them paid for it."

Sports Interactive's Android port reviewed well and sold in numbers which were at least around those expected, however, a quirk of platform fragmentation resulting from varying handset resolutions means that each install must download a specific skin from the SI servers before the game is playable.

This enabled the studio to compare sales figures and install base.

"The publicly-available sales figures on Google Play are broken up into bands; 500-1,000, 5,000-10,000... you get the idea. Football Manager Handheld crossed into the 10,000-50,000 band a week after release. This isn't spectacular - the iOS version reached that milestone on its first day - but it was where we expected to be, based on the stats we'd seen from other developers.

"As our sales passed the 10,000 mark, I asked to see the figure for skin downloads; it was up to 113,000. Because every installed copy of the game - legitimately bought or not - needs a skin, we were able to make a pretty direct comparison between our sales figures and our actual user base.

"I like to believe the best in people, so I imagined to myself that everyone who bought our game downloaded it twice; once for their phone and once for their tablet. Even if this were true that still means a piracy rate of 83 percent. But it's not true - the majority of people who bought it downloaded it once, the rest download illegally."

The figures are hugely frustrating, and Jacobson took to twitter, calling pirates "dicks" in a typically frank posting. That assessment is something he stands by, but his suggested method of combating the problem is more level-headed.

"What we really need for Android is an online shop front that doesn't just make it easy for people to buy and access their games, but also offers services such as leaderboards and community features, alongside some customer-friendly DRM," he continues.

"A system that doubles up as a way to 'matchmake' network gamers, so you can play against your friends. An online store that essentially acts like an app-only iTunes, Game Centre and a social network for Android users all in one.

"On PC and Mac there was a great innovation a few years back built by Gabe Newell and his team at Valve which does all of those things. It's called Steam. Something like Steam on Android could revolutionise the market for all - we're at a time where developers and publishers are turning their back on Android due to all the problems the market has, rather than embracing it."

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Latest comments (2)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 9 years ago
Ya know, companies seem to think digital download is the way to go, when its easier to pirate software when its not bound to fisical media like a disk or cartridge. I prefer fisical media. Its very easy to pirate digital only software. Much easier than if it was fisical media.
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Dave Knudson Sr. Technology Manager, Electronic Arts9 years ago
The ability to side-load applications does make it pretty easy to pirate compared to iOS, as no rooting is required. While rooting isn't difficult for most devices, it's enough of a hurdle to stop the average user.

There could be other factors too. On iTunes/iOS there's the additional option of using gift cards which is a good option for those who are under 18 or don't want to use a credit card. Additionally as a new iOS user you get prompted to enter a credit card when you first download, even free ones, from the Appstore. On Android you don't have to enter one until you select a paid app if I recall correctly.
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