iPhone developer Smells Like Donkey has revealed that as many as 90 per cent of players submitting scores for its latest game, Tap-Fu, are playing with a pirated copy.
Research conducted by the developer, using information it gathered from users submitting scores to the game's high score table, has shown that during the game's second week on sale between 55 - 90 per cent of users submitting scores did so using a pirated app.
The developer also discovered that its game was available on illegitimate download sites within 40 minutes of it going live on the App Store, using a method it said is "surprisingly much easier than actually buying it on iTunes."
Using the device IDs of users submitting scores, Smells Like Donkey has also tracked the numbers of players who downloaded an illegitimate version of its game then went on to buy a legal version. This, it says, would indicate whether the argument that people like to try a game before they buy, and will pay for the game if they enjoy it, is a genuine one. It discovered a zero per cent conversion, despite the game reaching the top 100 iPhone apps chart in Japan.
Apple has been "fairly slow" to respond to the issue, said the developer on its website, and as a result predicts developers will take the issue into their own hands.
Detecting pirated apps is quite simple, it added, and disallowing users with pirated versions from accessing multiplayer features is one example of how the practice could be discouraged.
Smells Like Donkey itself says it firstly plans to display a message to players reminding them that they should buy the game if they like it with links provided for them to do so.
"The pirates have essentially removed themselves from the iTunes economy and that hurts everyone," it commented. "How much does it hurt? Probably not a whole lot. There's probably a few of these people that would have bought our game in the first place so it's not really a big deal.
"But as a developer, looking at that high scores chart, it is kind of depressing."