Apple luring game developers into offering iOS timed exclusives, in exchange for more prominent advertising

April 21, 2014
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Back in September of last year, EA ran into a bit of controversy over Plants vs Zombies 2, when an exec reportedly admitted that Apple had paid the company a ton of money to delay the Android launch. Later it was reported that the unnamed executive had really said something to this effect, but it had been meant as a joke.

Now according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, we learn that while money might not have changed hands, that doesn’t mean an exclusivity deal wasn’t reached. WSJ’s sources that are “familiar with the situation” claim Apple has been working hard to woo game developers into releasing titles to iOS ahead of Android.

Apple has been working hard to woo game developers into releasing titles to iOS ahead of Android.

What’s the incentive for developers, if not cash? In the case of games like Plants vs Zombies 2, the game was featured prominently in the app store in exchange for a delayed Android release, giving it more views in the AppStore and potentially more downloads. Another example of a game that reached a similar marketing/advertising agreement was ZeptoLab’s Cut the Rope 2 — which arrive to iOS in December but didn’t hit Android until March.

Why exclusivity matters for Apple

In the video game market, both full and timed exclusives are rather common. For developers, there are usually monetary or promotional/marketing advantages, and for the console maker exclusives can make their system seem more desirable when compared to the competition.

For Apple, having key exclusives not only allows the company to attract gamers interested in getting into the action ‘right away’, it also helps Apple continue to feed the false perception that Android is harder to developer for due to fragmentation and other “Android problems”. After all, a gamer will see apps hitting iOS months ahead of Android, and may assume there must be ‘technical reasons’ for such delays.

Having key exclusives helps Apple feed the false perception that Android is harder to develop for.

As Google Android continues to increase its marketshare (representing 80% of smarphones shipped in 2013), Apple is losing the war. This is why it is important to keep alive the idea that Android is less secure, more fragmented and has a weaker library of apps, as it gives Apple an edge when it comes to mindshare.

Now to be fair, there was a time when all of these above points were completely valid.

In terms of app development, Android has traditionally been harder to develop for, in large part due to the shear amount of screen sizes, resolutions, processors and Android versions that developers had to account for. As time has gone by, however, Android’s development tools have improved making this less of an issue than it once was.

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Google strikes back

Before you start shaking that stick at Apple in anger, it’s important to mention that WSJ reports Google is also working to form exclusive arrangements with app developers. WSJ also mentions that Amazon has been working to bring timed exclusives and even full exclusives to its AppStore as well, in an attempt to lure consumers into buying Kindle-branded tablets and simply installing the App Store on their existing Android devices.

Of course, game and app exclusives probably don’t have quite as big of an impact on what devices consumers buy as it does in the world of home and portable gaming consoles. Still, this could change in time, especially as mobile games become increasingly more advanced.

What do you think, how important is gaming to your Android experience? For those that also own Apple devices, does the company’s tendency to get games first one of the reasons you own an iPad or iPhone? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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