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

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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 $5, and currently on sale for $3."


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 finalizing your game's name.

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