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'Battle Dungeon' iOS game aborted after rampant piracy overwhelms developers

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Battle Dungeon
Battle Dungeon

Available on Apple's iOS App Store for less than a week, Battle Dungeon has abruptly been pulled by its developers after their servers were overloaded with users who illegally pirated the game. "The high load revealed technical issues which we don't feel we can fix to the level that our paying customers deserve," Hunted Cow Studios said in a statement. The studio has released a small number of iOS games to this point, but it wasn't until the debut of its first multiplayer-focused title that the magnitude of piracy — already a significant worry for Android developers — on Apple's platform became clear.

"Around 90 percent of our signups were coming from pirated copies."

In a message on Hunted Cow's forums, senior developer Wayne Robinson revealed that approximately 90 percent of account signups originated from pirated copies of Battle Dungeon. "10 signups to every legitimate sale was a ratio none of us expected to have to cover," he said. The flood of illegitimate users came after a hacked build of the game surfaced online, allowing installation on any iOS device. Multiplayer sessions are now unavailable, but sadly single-player gameplay has also been wiped out since the game's enemy AI was hosted online.

One benefit of in-app purchases: extra safeguards against piracy

Robinson says his team consciously chose to avoid a freemium model whereby the game's profitability would depend on in-app purchases. "We are players of games ourselves and like a lot of you we don't like when the guy with the deepest pockets gets the biggest sword." Such a strategy is by no means a surefire path to success for developers: the makers of recent iOS hit Punch Quest were forced to reverse course and attached a 99-cent price tag to the game after the free-to-play model proved unsustainable. Yet the added security measures surrounding IAPs have prompted Robinson to urge his fellow developers to move in that direction — so long as they're working on multiplayer games. For now, Battle Dungeon's future remains uncertain and existing users can contact Hunted Cow for a refund.