updated 10:53 am EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Platforms now in more equal competition
Apple and Google are each offering game developers special incentives to prefer their app store over their rival's, according to sources for the Wall Street Journal. The prime example given is EA's Plants vs. Zombies 2, which Apple promised to advertise prominently at the App Store. In return, EA was expected to keep the game an iOS exclusive for two months, which pushed the Android release into October. Another developer, ZeptoLab, agreed to three-month App Store exclusivity for Cut the Rope 2 in order to get better advertising. Asphalt creator Gameloft says it was offered exclusivity, but decided that a simultaneous iOS/Android release made more financial sense.
Google appears not to be concentrating on exclusivity, but is offering to promote games that include Android branding. Russian developer Game Insight says it got better promotion within a section of Google Play in return for discounting in-app purchases shaped like Android's famous robot mascot.
Amazon is reportedly using exclusivity deals to attract developers to the app store on the Kindle Fire and the Fire TV, something the company confirms but without offering extra details.
The Journal's sources claim that Apple's editorial team has been factoring in exclusivity -- and recommendations from its developer relations staff -- more and more when choosing which apps to promote. The editorial team normally picks apps based on its own hands-on experience, allowing otherwise unknown developers to get attention.
In the console world, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony will regularly use exclusivity and other incentives to attract high-profile games. The migration of this practice to the mobile world may reflect the newfound importance of mobile titles to the gaming industry, as well as the growing parity between the App Store and Google Play. While the App Store still has a bigger selection, Google Play has been rapidly catching up and now offers Android versions of many iOS titles.