Don’t Let the Cheaters Get You Down: A Primer on App Piracy in China

Candy Crush pirates in China

29 Jun Don’t Let the Cheaters Get You Down: A Primer on App Piracy in China

Chinese piracy is infamous. Whether it’s a Louis Vuitton knockoff bag, a smartphone that looks strikingly similar to the latest iPhone, or a $2 Chinese-dubbed Jurassic World DVD, you can find a replica of almost any physical or digital good in China. With mobile games, this is certainly no exception!  But what does app piracy look like and how do you deal with it? Let’s dive in.

Why is there so much piracy in China?

Simply put, Chinese culture views piracy through a completely different lens than most of the West, as learning and doing through replication have been pillars of education ever since the times of Confucius. Duplication just isn’t seen as infringing on the rights of others.

There are two main reasons behind mobile game piracy in China:

1. Inability to access Western games

As Google Play is nearly inaccessible in China, authentic Android versions of Western apps are hard to come by.

2. High demand for games translated into Chinese

Most of China’s population cannot read foreign languages (less than 1% speaks English) and because there are many high-quality Chinese-made games, games unavailable in Chinese have a fundamental disadvantage to local games. The majority of foreign content will only compete with Chinese games if specifically tailored for the local market.

As Everett Wallace, our Head of Publishing, has described, mobile apps are pirated through reverse engineering or copycatting from scratch. Some Chinese apps stores even pull game APKs from Google Play and publish an incomplete, but playable, replica on their own stores.

What does this look like?

This level of app piracy means that pirated games are readily available on China’s app stores, both on Android and, surprisingly enough, iOS. Often, app stores have multiple pirated versions of a popular game up at the same time, coming from different developers who copied the same original code.  Download our guide to mobile game piracy in China and use the cheat sheet to Chinese app stores so you can get a look for yourself!

Many studios are shocked to see blatant copycats of their games available on dozens of app stores -and with millions of downloads! As of the time of writing this, for example, by checking just 5 app stores, we can see more than 18 million downloads of unofficial versions of NBA2k14!

What can you do about app piracy in China?

Be Preventive

Measures can be taken to prevent falling victim to piracy. Pirates usually become widespread within a few weeks of a Google Play launch, so by timing a Google Play launch in conjunction with a release of a localized game across China’s top Android stores, you can have the first-mover advantage over potential copycats, both in terms of userbase and standings with app stores.

Pirate Flag

Furthermore, some developers are working on security solutions that can be integrated with a product before its launch in order to deter copycatters and hackers.

Be Reactive

App stores are generally unwilling to take an app down, regardless of legitimacy, as long as their competitors also have it up. However, if you supply Chinese app stores with your official localized version, you can replace pirates, taking over their userbase, which is exactly what Oniix did with Tap Titans.

What does Oniix do about piracy?

Although we urge our partners to deter piracy by scheduling a China-specific launch on Chinese app stores in conjunction with a worldwide release, Oniix also acts reactively against piracy. We do everything possible, from keeping a constant watch on Chinese app stores, to conducting in-depth technical evaluations and comparisons of pirate games, and helping facilitate conversations with app stores and even the pirates themselves, all in order to take pirate companies down and ensure that our partners bring in revenue for their hard work.

Click here to download The Oniix Piracy Guide
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