This Game Sold 144 Copies And Was Pirated 50,000 Times

Gentlemen! is, in the words of its creator "a 2-player head-to-head Victorian dueling game for tablets." There is no singleplayer mode and its multiplayer is local only. This wouldn't figure to be an attractive piracy target, but the game's features don't seem to matter. In its first three weeks Gentlemen! was downloaded more than 50,000 times, only 144 of which were legitimate purchases.

"We knew very well that we were making a pretty esoteric game, in the sense that it is limited to iPads and tablets bigger than 7 inches and requires two players, so we didn't exactly have high expectations," said Yann Seznec, of the studio Lucky Frame. (That's the game's trailer, above) "We also set the price relatively high — starting at $US5, and currently on sale for $US3."

Yet after a couple of days, they were seeing an explosion in their numbers of unique users — despite selling only eight copies on Google Play. "The numbers surprised us so much that we actually contacted the analytics company to confirm that we were interpreting them correctly," Seznec wrote.

The only correct interpretation was rampant piracy, much of it coming from China and Russia, Seznec wrote. Compounding matters was the fact Korean singer Psy has a hit single by the same name as the game, making it harder to stand out in app stores. "You wouldn't think a pop song would cause problems for an app, but we quickly learned about the seedy world of games and apps piggybacking on other entertainment media," Seznec wrote.

Seznec pointed out his team worked on the game for five months and indicates it what they've made on it is nowhere near enough to cover the time put into it. His debrief on the release of Gentlemen! and its aftermath reads like a cautionary tale: Some people will pirate anything just because it's available, and check the Top 40 songs before finalising your game's name.

Gentlemen! Or, how our most successful game is also our least profitable. [Gamasutra via Joystiq]


Comments

    "Piggybacking on other media": it sounds like that's the main reason it's been downloaded so much in the first place if you ask me...

      Yes because his intentions was to have his game pirated! Do you even think mate? He really wants that to happen?

        I didn't say he did it intentionally, did I? Settle down 'mate'.
        What I'm saying is that I think the game is mainly being pirated because of that affiliation and the associated confusion. The result being that the song is making the game a target for piracy. In the same way, I think without the song the game would not have proven to be as popular and that hypothetically the developers may not have actually seen that missing profit anyway. Not that I'm defending piracy.

          It's funny how 'mate' can be such an aggressive word. It means 'friend', but the way it's said at the end of a sentence makes it sound really mean sometimes... unless you're playing chess I guess.

          Ouch, only 144 copies sold off 5 months development, that's gotta hurt.

            Welcome to Australia, where you call C#$^s Mate and Mates C#$^

            Edit: I am not calling anyone C#$^... just wanna get that out there...

            Last edited 26/08/13 4:01 pm

            Playing chess is the last situation I want to hear someone else say mate, haha.

        it's quite silly what you wrote. Whoever said that getting pirated was an intention!? He said that it was the reason the program got so many downloads. Though there was no intention for the game at all. No intention in even getting many downloads. "Do you even think mate?"

    Ouch. Looks like a fun game though, especially for people with friends often close by

      The first half of your post made me really excited! And the second half made me depressed.

    As I understand it, it's nearly impossible to stop piracy from China because of the way their copyright laws work. It seems like you just have to assume it's going to happen and account for it. (And, well, given how the Chinese government loves to over-use the banhammer on all forms of entertainment, can you blame them? You know a country is messed up when it's safer for people to pirate a videogame than it is for them to purchase it.)
    But in this case, I doubt the piracy was the result of any bans. Still, if the pirated version was easier to find or more widely advertised than the proper paid version, it's possible that many of those people didn't even know it was a paid app. (I ran into that with Deus Ex - I assumed because it was an old game, I wouldn't be able to buy it anymore. But I did correct myself by buying it on Steam when I saw that it was available.)

      I visited China relatively recently and didn't see a single iPhone that wasn't jailbroken and running a weird app launcher. Ditto with Android phones. I somehow doubt all those people paid for their rows of premium apps, but there you go.

    Unfortunately there are not many options to monetise these apps, you can either make them free and infest them with ads, or charge money and get pirated.

    The story does lack info on whether or not there is a free 'trial' version of the app, which one would think would go a long way in reducing the need to pirate a $5 game to see if its actually worth playing.

    I'm not quite seeing how this piracy is such a bad thing for them.
    Consider: most of the piracy is coming from China and Russia from people who would not have paid for the game anyway, so they're not losing sales.
    If anything, the amount of downloads is an indication of how popular and good a concept the game is so they would do well to try and use it to better market the game to legitimate buyers.

    I love how $5 is considered "relatively high"

      Very low production cost, potential audience of millions. Given the barrier to entry for selling the product, a few dollars is reasonable. 5 dollars is premium price for an indie product. So relative to the market it's expensive

    There would have been almost no piracy nor downloads if the game's name wasn't similar to the hit song. So it's not as bad for the games as it sounds. Plus the article seems to have misinterpreted the meaning of the game downloaded so many times. It just means that the song is popular and that the song is the thing that's getting pirated. The game got there just as an unexpected baggage.

    i have now read about this game that i would otherwise have been completely unaware of.
    as has been said this association to a song is likely why it was pirated and does not necessarily mean it has "lost" sales.
    I would have to say that this piracy was the best thing that has happened to this obscure game

    Strange game, high price. Was there a demo? Honestly, this is pretty much expected.

    Also note that a pirated copy is not a lost sale in a great number of cases.

    It's not surprising that this game saw more piracy in general:
    "There is no singleplayer mode and its multiplayer is local only."

    So the type and amount of uses this game solicits is rather particular. I don't see people impulse buying this. In LAN parties of the past I definitely don't remember jumping in the car to go and buy a game I've never played before because one of my friends suggested it would be fun.

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