Up to 90 per cent of iPhone games are stolen

Software developer Gamized has blasted Apple for its inability to curb piracy on its iOS platform, calling the problem 'humiliating'.

The company's Luis Fonseca - who we can only hope is known as The Fonz to his friends - has sparked an iOS piracy debate by revealing that fewer than one in ten copies of commercial games currently being played by iDevice owners has actually been paid for.

Gamized, an agency which usually develops branded games for other companies, decided to take the plunge and create its own title earlier this year, leading to the birth of Fingerkicks.

It's a simple soccer game where, as the title suggest, players use swiping gestures to boot a ball into the back of a goal.

After waiting a couple of weeks for approval from the Apple Board of Censorship, Fonseca and his team were delighted when the 99 cent game finally made it onto the iTunes App Store. They were even more ecstatic when, after just a few days, more than 17,000 people were actively paying the game using Apple's Game Center leaderboards.

Although Fonseca probably hadn't ordered a fleet of Ferraris, the available indicators were good and it looked like the game was going to be a hit.

"Unfortunately, the reality is that we’ve collected less than $800 in sales for FingerKicks, and Apple’s policies (or lack thereof) are the primary reason for the huge losses," says Fonseca in a blog post.

The company had assumed that Game Centre, Apple's social hub for iOS gamers, was a reasonable barometer of sales. 17,000 active players must surely translated into 17,000 sales, right?

Well, not exactly.

"It was a bitter disappointment when we discovered that the Game Centre numbers weren’t reflected in the iTunesConnect purchase reports," writes Fonseca. "In fact, iTC reported only 160 purchases – a substantially lower number than the number of people actually playing the game. How it that possible?"

It's at this point that the folks at Gameize realised just how widespread iOS app piracy is. Owners of jailbroken iDevices can use a variety of applications to install pirated software and its a fact of life which all software developers have to deal with. But the disparity between the number of paid downloads and those playing the game without paying the 99c fee are still startling.

As of yesterday, Fingerkicks has sold 1163 legitimate copies but close to 16,000 pirated copies are being played on Game Centre. That means that 91 per cent of the copies out there have effectively been stolen.

"Most bewildering of all is that, even with all their rhetoric chastising piracy and intellectual property theft, Apple apparently has no functional counter-piracy safeguards in place on their Game Centre – essentially permitting users to play pirated software on their Game Centre without any fear of reprisals or consequence," writes Fonseca.

Whilst its always been true that one pirated game does not equate to one lost sale, and most pirates download more titles than they will ever be able to play properly in a dozen lifetimes, it's a startling revelation to realise that nine out of ten copies of some apps are pirated.

It's also true that even the game's limited commercial success may have been driven by the level of piracy, and the fact that it charted high on a number of pirate tracking sites including Installous.

But it's Apple's inability, or unwillingness, to prevent pirated games from appearing on Game Center which really rankles Fonseca.

"Recent events have proven that no company in the world can achieve 100 per cent security against intrusion or piracy," he writes, "and we’re sympathetic to Apple’s plight. However, it’s reasonable to assume that many if not most of the 16,000 users playing FingerKicks on Apple’s Game Center probably wouldn’t be playing a pirated version if it weren’t so readily available and so openly accepted by Apple.

"Maybe Apple has tried and failed to take down Installous, or maybe they’re completely powerless to stop them. In either case, until Apple fully embraces the issue and supports their vendors and suppliers, we will be forced to re-evaluate our plans for other iOS games until Apple fixes this humiliating piracy problem."