How do you beat a thief at his own game?
Consider this. Mumbai-based Games2 Win's London Bus game was recently lifted (called 'scraped' on the internet) by a gaming site in the US. In the normal course of events, a game company -- having employed digital rights management or DRM software -- would stop a game from playing or destroy it if the game appeared on a site illegally.
There's a problem, however, even with this approach. Hackers began placing stolen games and their 'keys' (to unlock) all over the web. Besides, Games2Win did not want to interrupt their stolen games from being illegally played on sites.
Hence, using its proprietary technology, Inviziads (for which it has filed a global patent in April 2008), Games2Win identified the 'thief' and brought back traffic to its home site, besides making money from the scraped content.
Games2Win hosts 290 games and each and every game has been scraped. It has found at least 4,000 sites, predominantly in China, East Europe, Latin America, the US and European Union that have scraped its games so far.
Scraping, which implies lifting content from the original site and placing it on some other site without authorisation of the original developer, has consistently proved a sore point for Indian gaming companies since it robs them of potential revenue. Around 40 original flash games are developed everyday, and it's estimated that 3,000 sites scrape each of these games daily.
Now, however, online flash game advertising firms like MochiAds, Inviziads and Gamejacket have come to the rescue. With clever use of technology, they are putting game developers back in control of their content.
"Inviziads accepts that games will get stolen. But it (the technology called Inviziads) works in a clever manner with the thief. The ads we have embedded in our games remain invisible on Games2Win.com, and people who steal these games do not realise that they are taking the ads with them too. Once the game is placed on an external site, the technology recognises that the game is on an alien site and starts serving the ads. The invisible ads then become visible and start playing before the game begins," says Kejriwal.
"Nobody can stop anyone anymore. We want our games to play, to be enjoyed and the ads to come just before the game loads (for 15 seconds) and then not play again, until the game is replayed. The most effective way is 'piracy marketing' -- not to put commercial ads inside but house ads and bring the traffic home using innovative messages like 'If you like this game, you better visit xyz.com' work wonders," he says.
L Maruti Sanker, managing director of Hyderabad-based 7Seas Technologies, concurs: "We have around 300 games on our portal onlinerealgames.com and more than 100 gaming portals have our games. Usually, more than 100 sites scrape our games. However, we have deployed US-based MochiAds' SDK (software development kit) to integrate the ad code and get revenue streams from our scraped games. We are set to launch 10 more games this year which will also employ this technology."
However, for Reliance Big Entertainment's online gaming arm Zapak Digital, scraping is not going to be profitable because scraping is generally done by small sites which do not have a large audience and the CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) for such sites is extremely low so it won't help games recover return on investments.
"Having said that, scraping is still a good medium to get back traffic to the mother portal. Thanks to third party providers Gamejacket and MochiAds that guarantee CPMs, our games are now played on 200 portals and we see 15 million gameplays per month now from 60 games running on various sites," says Rohit Sharma, chief operating officer of Zapak.
For Zapak, revenue from its scraped games is not a focus as it prefers to distribute its games for brand recall and some traffic coming back to Zapak.com. Even at 50 million gameplays per month from scraped games, Zapak.com won't see revenues of more than about $40,000 per month, which according to Zapak is not at all exciting.