In a recent interview, Rovio CEO Mikael Hed said that app piracy isn't a huge threat to their signature title, Angry Birds. In fact, it may help increase their popularity. Hed draws a lot of parallels to the music industry, and sees suing your fanbase as fundamentally "futile".
"We took something from the music industry, which was to stop treating the customers as users, and start treating them as fans. We do that today: we talk about how many fans we have. If we lose that fanbase, our business is done, but if we can grow that fanbase, our business will grow. ... Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day."
This is pretty smart on Rovio's part, since they don't just have a stupid little slingshot game now - they have a brand. That brand is proving to be way more valuable for cartoons, merchandise, and cross-licensing (like the case with Rio) than as an iPhone app. It's on these fronts that Rovio is staying agressive.
"We have some issues with piracy, not only in apps, but also especially in the consumer products. There is tons and tons of merchandise out there, especially in Asia, which is not officially licensed products,"
While Angry Birds might be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to app store success stories, Hed's mindset here should show that publishers should always be thinking beyond the app. There's a big world outside of mobile apps, and the more of it developers can latch hooks into, the more relevant their software becomes. Of course, I would imagine less successful developers have much smaller margins for their apps, and nowhere near the same popularity with which they could viably sell shirts, plushies, or other branded goods. No doubt they're hit much harder by app piracy than Rovio.
Source: The Guardian