In May of 2008, Imaginuity New Media began developing their debut iPhone app Rocky Artue, a game the company hoped would be among the first to propagate into the iTunes App Store. On July 13, iPhone 3G and the iTunes App Store launched to the public in grand fashion, but Rocky Artue was not part of Apple's big coming out party.
After nine long months and an outlay of over $25,000 dollars, Imaginuity New Media, finally launched Rocky Artue into the App Store. Two days later with only 100 paid downloads to speak of, Rocky Artue was cracked and posted as a bootlegged game creating a free-for-all for those with jailbroken iPhones. In fact, 2,075 pirated copies of Rocky Artue have been downloaded since its debut on February 6th. Compared to only 200 paid downloads of late which has cost Imaginuity over $6,200 in gross revenue. With Apple's loss amounting to just over $1,800 dollars of that total.
What's shocking is that the $2.99 app was cracked only two days after it hit the App store according to Pinch Media, a company that provides real time web analytics for iPhone SDK applications. Pinch Media's co-founder and lead developer Jesse Rohland, called the Rocky Artue bootlegging, one of the largest cases of piracy he's seen, as stated in an email to Allan Restrepo, President & Founder of Imaginuity New Media.
"Unfortunately I have bad news for you that you might not want to hear. We typically see these large discrepancies between our numbers and Apple's for paid applications that have been pirated," Jesse Rohland wrote in an email, "I did a quick search for cracked versions of your application in the wild, and like most, it's definitely available for people to steal. Your case is actually one of the largest cases of piracy we've seen where typically we see paid applications receiving around 5x more users from piracy then from legitimate downloads."
I spoke with Allan Restrepo, who by now is convinced that the pirating underground is running rampant below the surface of Apple's wildly successful App Store model. A viral black market that few mainstream iPhone users are aware of. Restrepo is not convinced that enough is being done to protect developers from bootleggers.
"I don't think that anyone is aware of the piracy that exits inside the Apple environment," Restrepo told iPhone Savior, "Maybe Apple will tighten up their DRM to make it a little more difficult for hackers to get through."
Checking the App Store today, Rocky Artue has only received a small number of reviews, holding onto a 3.5 star rating. Most of the reviews are very positive, but the greatest endorsement for Imaginuity is that their first iPhone game has been deemed worthy of pirating. Making Rocky Artue an underground hit. At least 2,007 ass clowns with jailbroken iPhones think so, and that's only after six days.
"In some ways I'm flattered," said Restrepo about his app being cracked so quickly, "But on the other hand I'm sickened by all of this. We put our hearts and souls into this game and within 48 hours it had been stolen from us by 1,000 unique users. It's just a real disappointment."
John Gruber, author of Daring Fireball recently featured an interesting article outlining the idea that iPhone developers may start fighting back by beginning to implement their own anti-bootlegging measures. Gruber was concise in assessing the benefits and pitfalls of Apple's current protection scheme for App Store applications.
"The problem is that the current protection scheme is universal and uniform — every licensed app from the App Store is FairPlay-protected in the same way," Gruber wrote, "So when bootleggers found a way to crack one App Store app, they found a way to crack every App Store app. iPhone apps are easier to bootleg systematically than Mac apps because every single iPhone app is protected the same way."
Imaginuity New Media is all too aware of the painful reality of App Store bootlegging. The question still remains, what can developers do about it? The recent release of Crackulous, an automated app-pirating tool created with evil intentions so jailbroken iPhone users can steal paid apps, only serves to empower the unscrupulous minority. Especially since the release of Crackulous was given such tremendous exposure on popular tech blogs worldwide.
For now, having a paid game morph into an overnight success may be the only real defense for iPhone developers. Though the odds of that happening are becoming slimmer by the moment with the App Store surging to over 20,000 titles in just seven months. I would expect the number of titles to double by July. I would also expect that those interested in pirating iPhone apps will be growing in number as well. Apple's battle to protect their stake in third party iPhone apps has only just begun. In the immortal words of Axel Rose, "Welcome to the jungle."