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.

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"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.

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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]

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DISCUSSION

Let's do some quick math here...

50,000 times downloaded with 144 copies sold, which leaves 49,856 unique users who did not purchase the game.

At a price of $5 per download, the pirated copies have essentially prevented the creators from earning $249,280

Let's give people the benefit of the doubt though and assume a few things.
FIRST, let's assume that we're dealing with the rare and fabled "Honest Pirate." You know, that pirate who justifies their behavior by saying "yeah, well, if I like it I'll buy the game. Totes. I will. I promise." Let's say that half of the 144 people were double purchases: once for pirating, and then once again to purchase the game. This means that we'll take away 72 downloads from the 49,856 number, leaving us with 49,784

Now, let's say that HALF of that above number was downloaded when the price was at 5 dollars, and the other half when it was at 3 dollars. So, 5 bucks a pop for 24,892 downloads, and 3 bucks a pop for another 24,892 downloads gives us $124,460 and $74,676 for a loss of $199,136

So, being completely generous, the actions of these pirates directly resulted in a loss of anywhere between 249,280 to 199,136 dollars that could have gone to the creators of this work, but instead they will never see.

Keep up the noble work, boys. You're doing a fine job.