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

by: Andrew GrushApril 21, 2014


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.


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.

  • Droidfan

    Desperate and pathetic

    • Jusephe

      What ?

    • Anonymousfella

      What?? Dude you have no idea what you’re talking about. Everybody does this.In fact everybody should be doing this. Microsoft spent a lot to make Titanfall exclusive to Xbox One. That was a system seller…do you think they’d have managed to get to 5mil shipped if the didn’t have such a strong exclusive after the disastrous E3??
      Anyways, as they author rightly said exclusives aren’t they main deciding factor for most but for the small percentage which buys the iphone regularly just to play the next version of Infinity Blade, Apple must be doing something right. Google should too. Plus we’d all like some nice games on it favourite mobile os

      • RarestName

        Google’s doing it as well.

      • John Garlits

        Fµck that. Cross-platform games FTW. Why-TF would you encourage this? I don’t even want Google doing this really, unless it’s like something they actually produced themselves. Otherwise, it’s just lameness.

        • Anonymousfella

          Of course I would want apps/games to be cross-platform so that I’d get the best games just sticking to android. However apple has been doing this from quite some time and google should as well to stay competitive…

    • RarestName

      Agreed. You’re so desperate to bash them that you left this pathetic and useless comment.

  • MaqueGenio

    I would be more surprised if they were not doing it. The notion that software sells hardware can work on mobile space as well. Still funny (and sad) that they are fighting over crappy games like angry birds or flappy things instead of more serious gaming. Maybe someday…

    • Andrew T Roach

      Light games can run on more configurations and apply MUCH less strain on the battery.

    • RussianDroid

      The reason Apple is going after ‘crappy’ games is because there are a lot more casual gamers than serious gamers on mobile devices. Games that are easy to pick up and put down like let’s say in subway or while waiting for something/someone are way more popular than serious games. Just look at the top charts in Play.

  • Andrew T Roach

    I use my iPad Mini with Retina for games because the battery life is more consistent while I’m playing, and the game selection specifically optimized for tablets is larger. That’s my personal experience.

    My Nexus 7 (2013) is a good performer as well, but has a much shorter battery life and too many converted phone games. It’s still great for Emulators.

    • Igor

      Good point. But I will still choose Android over any iDevice.
      More storage choice, more games you can put on device, and removable batteries.
      And I prefer AAA games using emulator than any popularly casual IAP-infested game.

  • MasterMuffin

    I don’t play games that much on mobile devices, but I still know that (sadly) iOS has more quality games :/

    “as it gives Apple and edge when it comes to mindshare.” :>

    • Anonymousfella

      Exactly. Android has the productivity side cornered. Now games should be the priority. I mean Google’s rich enough to pay the devs to make exclusives for Android…

      • Fred Chiang

        hmm except games probably won’t make google much money :/

  • Gary W


    Mr. Grush, is this your conjecture or something inferred from Apple’s action or actual statement? Having key exclusives simply makes the platform more attractive, which is desirable to every company. Why do you think “feeding the false perception” is the primary goal of Apple here?

    • MelchiahX

      Have you ever seen an Apple keynote? They love bashing Android. It’s quite pathetic really.

      • Gary W

        I have, but never watched a whole keynote. I don’t know if Apple said or implied Android is harder to develop for.

        • MelchiahX

          I’m not 100% sure if they outright said Android was more difficult to develope for, they always mention things like “Android fragmentation”, that Android is the “copycat”, they’ve even compared their devices to Android ones on stage to make it seen theirs was superior (which with every device comparison you’ll get pros and cons for each but they obviously only mentioned the Android device’s shortcomings lol). Plus Apple has the tendency to always mention our point out when other OEMS or OSes happen to be inspired by something they’ve done but then when Apple is the one being inspired by another OEM’s or OS’s features they make it seem as if it never existed prior to Apple’s magical invention. I don’t personally care about the whole Android vs iOS cuz there’s room for both and plenty more for other OSes to step up. But it’s Apple’s arrogance that bothers me and their business practices I don’t agree with. Just my $.02

  • Pouf

    Developing games for Android is not hard, but you have to compete with emulators. That’s true for both small and big developers.

    Take for example, Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega release them on iOS first, because Android already have Sonic emulators, while there’s none on iOS. From economic perspective, it’s only logical to release on iOS first, while Android port can follow later for additional income.

  • StraightEdgeNexus

    Who cares? Occasional temple run and angry birds is okay for mobiles. Most mobile titles have poor controls and gameplay sucks(eg. Gta san andreas). I seldom play games on my nexi 7, for me, right now PS3 FTW. Also playing on mobile and calling yourselves a gamer is a joke.

  • John Garlits

    Exclusives are always lame, and it’s far from a reason to switch your OS. The exclusive games I don’t even care about anyway.

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