That’s what I asked Yann Seznec of Lucky Frame earlier today, and here’s the answer that probably won’t be all too surprising:
“In terms of players, great! At the moment, we have about 3000 players or so. In terms of paying customers, we have 20.”
Stories of high piracy rates for a game on any platform aren’t rare, but the Android market is probably has the most ridiculous ratios. It wins the piracy wars. Gentlemen! is Lucky Frame’s first foray onto Android, with their previous releases being exclusive to iOS devices. The reason for that was merely technical: having dropped the use of their own game engine in favor of Unity, Gentlemen!’s port was a hundred times simpler to manage. Lucky Frame were grateful of this new freedom and thought it great that they were able to make their games more widely available.
…to pirates, it seems.
For comparison, the iOS version of Gentlemen! has sold 154 copies in three days, and Yann reckons, due to the positive reviews they’ve been getting, they expect that rate to hold for a little while longer, at least if they don’t get any support from Apple. But the most important thing for Lucky Frame is that people love their games, not only because good gameplay is the best marketing, but also because their primary goal is to make games they’re proud of. If players are enjoying them and telling them they made a good game (just as we did), then they’ve done a good job.
However, that’s not to say that they don’t need to make some money. Yann tells me that the rates of piracy on Android are annoying, but won’t keep them from releasing their games on the platform in the future. And if it wasn’t for piracy, then all of those people wouldn’t be playing their games at all. How he sees it, even if they sell 50 legitimate copies of a game on Android, that’s still some income they wouldn’t have otherwise; luckily, Unity’s easy porting processes makes that attitude easy to adopt.
But why did so many people pirate Gentlemen! on Android? What’s the issue here? And is there something that Lucky Frame could have done to reduce those piracy rates? Well, it’s a multifaceted problem, as Yann reasoned when I asked him:
“I think there are a number of reasons. It’s certainly a lot technically easier to install software yourself on an Android device, but I feel like that’s a simplistic argument. One thing a lot of people have told us on Twitter is that Gentlemen! is not available on enough devices, so people are pirating it because they can’t access it on Google Play. This makes some sense, though it puts us in a funny position. The reason we didn’t make it available on many devices is because we only released it to devices that we knew would support the game, i.e. devices we were able to test on. Our attitude was that we didn’t want anybody to buy our game, and then learn that it didn’t run well on their tablet. Maybe we were worrying about that too much; it’s hard to know.
The sad fact, though, is that our piracy stats point more towards widespread piracy in unsurprising places. The vast majority of our piracy is in Russia and China, which, unfortunately, have reputations as places with rampant media piracy. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy to say that this would have happened anyway, just because of existing piracy rates, but it’s more than a coincidence.”
As usual, all we can conclude is that piracy will happen, and there are benefits and negatives that result from it. All Lucky Frame can do from this point forward is focus on the positives and pay attention to any measures they could take that may help turns those figures around a little.