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Apple, Google Vying For Mobile Game Exclusivity

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the mine-all-mine dept.

Google 52

An anonymous reader writes "Here's an interesting look at the battle for mobile video game money between Google and Apple. 'Last August, for the launch of "Plants Vs. Zombies 2," a highly anticipated sequel to a popular zombie-survival strategy game, publisher Electronic Arts Inc. struck a deal with Apple, which promoted the game prominently in its App Store, according to people familiar with the matter. In exchange, one of these people said, EA agreed to give Apple about a two-month window of exclusivity for the title, which wasn't released on Google's Android software until October.'"

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Too bad it sucked (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46805883)

because of micropayment hell.
Was looking forward to it and would have paid for it. It as good time waster when flying.

Re:Too bad it sucked (4, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | about 3 months ago | (#46805951)

Almost all games have fallen into that pit since 2011 and IAP became doable. Games that cost a few bucks and were very playable now are "free", but require numerous micropayments to be even playable. Want the same weapons/towers/birds that you had when you paid for the game in the pre-2011 version? That'll cost you, likely $10-20 total.

Re:Too bad it sucked (3)

gweilo8888 (921799) | about 3 months ago | (#46806225)

Mod parent up. This is the reason I've stopped playing games almost entirely -- I am sick of being nickel-and-dimed to death.

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806473)

So you might say...

*removes sunglasses*

You're tired of their games?

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46807149)

Yeeeaaaaaaaaaa [Insert quarter to hear remainder of yeah.]

Re:Too bad it sucked (2)

ToasterMonkey (467067) | about 3 months ago | (#46806921)

Mod parent up. This is the reason I've stopped playing games almost entirely -- I am sick of being nickel-and-dimed to death.

This sounds like going to a cheap theater and complaining the experience sucks and concession stand prices are high.

One option is to go to a theater that does't suck, and pass on the concession stand.

Neither of these will be cheap AND good. Shocker.

Re:Too bad it sucked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46808183)

This isn't an apt comparison.
You can't find the same game in a different theater, and even triple AAA game titles are vulnerable to similar corruption.

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

Andrio (2580551) | about 3 months ago | (#46808509)

Bad analogy. The theaters are just vehicles for the content, not the content itself.

A better analogy would be going to see a the sequel to a great movie you really liked, only to find out you have to pay $0.99 for each character to appear in the movie. You're also given the option to skip the boring beginning credits, but that costs 0.99 cents. The high-quality CGI special effects are an extra $1.99. Every 30 minutes, you have a 10 minute wait, although you can bypass them by paying an additional 0.99 cents per wait. Also, the ending is not included, so you have to pay $4.99 to see it.

Wait, I hope I'm not giving Hollywood producers any ideas....

As a developer who uses in-app purchase ... (2, Informative)

perpenso (1613749) | about 3 months ago | (#46806519)

What is a developer to do? People want to try before buying.

Personally, in the things I publish, ex Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] , a RPN Sci Stat Biz Hex Bill/Tip calculator that supports fractions and complex numbers, I like the idea of two apps. A fully paid app that is ad free and includes all functionality and a second free app that has only basic functionality, scientific functionality, but is expandable and ads are removable (Biz, Hex etc are in-app purchase). The later lets people try things out. As an incentive to buy the fully paid version I offer it at a bundled price, less than if all in-app purchases are made in the free version.

I understand the controversy but this is the best solution I've come up with so far. I would be happy to hear other suggestions.

Try app before buying the hardware (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46807313)

So how should I go about trying your apps before buying the iPod touch or iPad mini on which to run them, in addition to whatever Android kit I already have?

easy (1)

erlegreer (1994842) | about 3 months ago | (#46808291)

Although I find it impossible that you don't have friends or family who have several iOS devices to test a trial version app on, here's an answer:

Pick a random direction, walk 10 feet, bump into any random person who already owns an iOS device, buy them a coffee in exchange for them letting you try an app on their device.

Re:easy (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46907619)

Apart from potential "I don't want you touching my...", that might work. Still, I don't see how any single app can be worth $299.

Re:As a developer who uses in-app purchase ... (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about 3 months ago | (#46808325)

You are not an asshole.

I've used apps that have payment systems like you describe, and I've found it to be a completely fair balance between free trial and paying, and I usually pay.

Neither are studios like TellTale that create episodic content. Often, the first episode is free, and you pay per episode after that. They create new content, and if I like what I've had so far, I pay for more. We both win. The developer gets more money and I get more content.

EA, et all, ARE assholes. There is no full version, but there is an endless gauntlet of payments that come up for as long as you play the game. THIS SUCKS, and I've stopped this treadmill.

Re:As a developer who uses in-app purchase ... (1)

JanneM (7445) | about 3 months ago | (#46810221)

A free but limited version and a full, paid one is completely reasonable. There's several ways to do it too, but I think perhaps the best division is between the casual and the dedicated user. Casual users are unlikely to pay if forced, but they can still be good advocates for the app, so it may be worth it making sure they still have something to use.

The Aedict Japanees dictionary, for instance, is one of my most used apps. It has a free version that is really the full old (pre-Android 4) version of the app; and a paid version that is newer, better, more polished and with lots of added funcitonality. You can use the core functionality in the old app, but you really want all the improvements in the new one.

Games could have just the first few levels. Productivity apps could limit the document size or number of simultaneous documents. But I do think that making the free version usable for the occasional user likely pays off over time. Casual users advocate the app, and they may become dedicated users over time.

Re:As a developer who uses in-app purchase ... (1)

rsborg (111459) | about 3 months ago | (#46810401)

A free but limited version and a full, paid one is completely reasonable. There's several ways to do it too, but I think perhaps the best division is between the casual and the dedicated user. Casual users are unlikely to pay if forced, but they can still be good advocates for the app, so it may be worth it making sure they still have something to use.

I also like the Carcassonne/Ascension model: DLC game expansions within the game as IAP. That's how to do IAP right, not this "buy my virtual coin" bullshit. Whenever I see an awesome looking game, I immediately check to see if anything looks "coin-like" on their IAP list. Any scent of that kind of BS puts the game into "ignore forever" state.

I'm not looking to crop-share on your farmville, developers. It's really a pity that Apple never bothered in reigning in this app business model.

Re:Too bad it sucked (4, Insightful)

Swampash (1131503) | about 3 months ago | (#46806007)

because of micropayment hell.
Was looking forward to it and would have paid for it.

Quoted for great truth.

PvZ was and remains a fantastic little cartoon tower defence game. PvZ2 is rubbish.

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

painandgreed (692585) | about 3 months ago | (#46815507)

Quoted for great truth.

PvZ was and remains a fantastic little cartoon tower defence game. PvZ2 is rubbish.

I disagree. I got PvZ2 and played the first three worlds without paying any money. I did buy some of the extra plants later just to give the company some money, but as far as playability, they don't help. The game is geared towards enabling weak willed people who are willing to pay to hit the easy button all the time, but that is hardly required to play the game. All the plants that are needed to play are in the game for free. Really, the plants I bought actually hurt my game play in the endless games because they pop up as random choices and aren't usually the plants I need.

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806059)

because of micropayment hell.
Was looking forward to it and would have paid for it. It as good time waster when flying.

I absolutely agree 100%. I never even considered PvZ2 when it was announced that it would have micropayments.

But there's another issue that is ... odd that I don't know if anyone's considered. The vying for exclusivity on this title implies that they (Google/Apple) think that this game is so awesome that it will cause people to abandon a competitors phone for their own instead of waiting for the exclusivity to run out. Are the marketing guys just making this stuff up as they go along?

Re:Too bad it sucked (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 3 months ago | (#46806191)

>But there's another issue that is ... odd that I don't know if anyone's considered. The vying for exclusivity on this title implies that they (Google/Apple) think that this game is so awesome that it will cause people to abandon a competitors phone for their own instead of waiting for the exclusivity to run out.

Well at least Apple think that. Not so much Google or they might have vyed harder.

>Are the marketing guys just making this stuff up as they go along?

Yes.

Re:Too bad it sucked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46813853)

>But there's another issue that is ... odd that I don't know if anyone's considered. The vying for exclusivity on this title implies that they (Google/Apple) think that this game is so awesome that it will cause people to abandon a competitors phone for their own instead of waiting for the exclusivity to run out.

Well at least Apple think that. Not so much Google or they might have vyed harder.

You conclude that from "reports". The delay of the Android version certainly can't have anything to do with problems due to fragmentation.

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 months ago | (#46806251)

I'd say "it sucked" goes for almost all mobile games. Most non-mobile games aren't great, but the amount of shovelware seems much lower on consoles and PC.

When is "mobile game" going to mean more than shitty controls and everything else? The best games at best seem to be "good" only when judged by the standard of "compared to what else I could be doing on a plane."

Even with handheld game systems with decent controls, like the DS, there were few games that I'd choose to play if I could be playing on a PC or console. I personally don't believe that more computing power will inevitably make console or PC games better, I think it's just a problem of lower expectations for mobile games. We're used to 99.9% of mobile games being shit. Compare the amount of shit EA got for Sim city 5 vs the iOS dungeon keeper. About the same level of complaints from what I could see, but the two games didn't seem to be the same level of shitty. Sim City 5 had some technical problems. Dungeon keeper was fundamentally some asshole asking you for change over and over again. EA deserves much more shit for dungeon keeper, but we're used to abuse in mobile games while we have higher expectations for real games.

Just a rant there. It'll change if and when it changes I suppose.

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 3 months ago | (#46808091)

So, only games you like are good games? Some people actually do like games like Sudoku and so on. Puzzles, that do not require any specific controls.

Re:Too bad it sucked (2)

rk (6314) | about 3 months ago | (#46809181)

Nothing wrong with Sudoku, but the EA version would say "Want to place a 9 here? Wait 20 minutes, or buy the 10 pack of 9s for $1.99!"

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 3 months ago | (#46809293)

Too bad I had commented, or I'd add to your karma! :)

Re:Too bad it sucked (1)

damnbunni (1215350) | about 3 months ago | (#46811565)

Honestly, give it a try now. It still has micropayments, but you can entirely ignore them.

They patched it and changed the game massively, removing the 'collect keys to open gates to progress', simplifying the map, and adding the Zen Garden in.

I still prefer the first one, but with the latest patches 2 is pretty good.

And I really like the Laser Beans.

What's the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46805941)

If the point of exclusivity is to drive sales of your hardware or overall service... I don't want to meet the person who buys an iPhone so they can play Plants vs Zombies 2 months sooner than everyone else...

Re:What's the point? (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 3 months ago | (#46806019)

Exclusivity works very well on consoles. Like HALO, for example. You won't be finding it anytime soon on the PS4.

So, having it tried on smartphones makes sense. If one side or the other does land a lot more exclusive games than the other, it can be something that can force the hand of a consumer, because their buds are playing the game, but they can't unless they upgrade phones.

The stakes are high for the long term.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806227)

If you really want to play a game that's not available for your phone's OS, you can always get an iPad or Android tablet. No new phone needed. Of course, now you have another device to carry with you whenever you think you might want to play a game that's not on your phone.

Monthly cost of tethering upgrade (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46807231)

If you really want to play a game that's not available for your phone's OS, you can always get an iPad or Android tablet. No new phone needed.

But if it's inherently multiplayer, or if it uses always-connected DRM (such as LVL StrictPolicy [android.com] ), you're likely to need to upgrade your existing smartphone's plan to a plan that includes tethering.

Re:What's the point? (4, Interesting)

gweilo8888 (921799) | about 3 months ago | (#46806277)

It only works well when the hardware is perceived to be equal. I've never owned a Playstation, have bought Xbox from the start and own almost every game in the Halo franchise. It's far and away my favorite non-racing game, but at the same time, it's not enough to skew me towards the XBone over the PS4.

I still remember how Microsoft screwed the pooch on the XBone's launch, how clearly they deride the gamers who keep them in business, and I can also see how their hardware is nowhere near the caliber of that in the PS4. So for the first time, when I upgrade it will be to a Playstation and not an Xbox.

And that shows rather nicely that exclusivity doesn't work if your hardware or overall offering is considered inferior by your potential customers.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806639)

It's at worst 10% behind PS4. I hope you haven't been taken in by the lies about Xbox One not being able to do 1080p/60fps. A few poorly executed launch games don't reflect the limits of a console. Hell, the Wii U can do 1080p/60fps.

Re:What's the point? (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 months ago | (#46808575)

It would be one thing if it was just fanboys' asserting that the PS4 is outperforming the Xbox One. Game developers have confirmed it as well. Developers are still trying to optimize their games for both platforms; but it seems that GDDR5 is beating DDR3 + ESRAM for now. Also Sony for the most part has kept focus on the objective of the PS4 being a gaming console. MS has tried to make the Xbox One as an entertainment console instead.

Re:What's the point? (1)

phalangion (2590447) | about 3 months ago | (#46806311)

That may be true of permanent exclusivity like the franchises on consoles, as mentioned by the Coward above, I seriously doubt anyone will be thinking "I just can't wait 2 more months to play PvZ2." Although, even if the exclusivity is short-lived, it may serve to give the impression that one platform is being favored by developers.

Re:What's the point? (4, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 3 months ago | (#46806455)

Most likely they wanted to release it a couple months early for iOS anyway, and found a way to convince Apple to give them free advertizing for something they were going to do anyway.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806323)

Exclusivity works very well on consoles. Like HALO, for example. You won't be finding it anytime soon on the PS4.

So, having it tried on smartphones makes sense. If one side or the other does land a lot more exclusive games than the other, it can be something that can force the hand of a consumer, because their buds are playing the game, but they can't unless they upgrade phones.

The stakes are high for the long term.

Overlooking the fact that, IMNHO, anyone picking one phone over the other based on games is an idiot, I'm pretty sure that for those select few they would probably just get an iphone and an android tablet or vice versa

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806651)

Overlooking the fact that, IMNHO, anyone picking one phone over the other based on games is an idiot, I'm pretty sure that for those select few they would probably just get an iphone and an android tablet or vice versa

Why so? It's likely that their phone is going to be their primary handheld gaming console for the next couple of years at very least. Why on earth would you not consider how good the device is at carrying out one of your primary use cases when buying it?

For how many is the phone primary? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46807267)

Anonymous Coward wrote:

It's likely that their phone is going to be their primary handheld gaming console for the next couple of years at very least. Why on earth would you not consider how good the device is at carrying out one of your primary use cases when buying it?

Probably because a lot of Slashdot users doubt that "It's likely that their phone is going to be their primary handheld gaming console" will apply to a substantial number of paying customers. A lot of people have a Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita because directional controls and discrete buttons are better for the game genres that they prefer. Or is there a way to make the controls in a platformer like Mega Man acceptable without having to pay $40 extra for a clip-on Bluetooth gamepad?

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806075)

History tells that October passed, we are at April and we're still alive. Is there anything special in being able to play that game as soon as it's published? Would you buy an iPhone vs a Galaxy for that? There are tons of games to play. It's even less important that watching a TV serial when it gets aired vs 6 month later on DVD. Hell, I have unplayed levels of the original Angry Birds from the time it was hot. Anybody remembers the year?

Paying for the privilege (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806081)

It wasn't that long ago that the general app-developer mode of operation was "release for iOS, Android maybe later sometime". If Apple are now paying companies to effectively delay the Android release of their app, perhaps this shows that the mood in the developer community (or Apple's perception thereof) is shifting - in a direction not favourable to the image of Apple's ecosystem as "the" app store.

Re:Paying for the privilege (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46814033)

It wasn't that long ago that the general app-developer mode of operation was "release for iOS, Android maybe later sometime". If Apple are now paying companies to effectively delay the Android release of their app, perhaps this shows that the mood in the developer community (or Apple's perception thereof) is shifting - in a direction not favourable to the image of Apple's ecosystem as "the" app store.

Sure. If what ONE person says it actually true. Read the WSJ article. "In exchange [for promoteing the game prominently in its App Store], one of these people [who said there was a promotion deal] said, EA agreed to give Apple about a two-month window of exclusivity for the title".

Gee, was that one person the same that claimed that in six months people will develop for Android first - almost 2 and a half years ago?

PvZ2 is unplayable (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806261)

Is it any good?
I wouldn't know.
After stumbling across Plants Vs. Zombies on a Humble Bundle for the Android, I bought the Game Of The Year edition for Microsoft Windows. Great game! Highly recommended!

Shortly afterwards, I was quite pleased to see that PvZ2 was available. Except, playing the game required a free account with EA.
The way these companies attempt to control the end user experience is so disheartening. Similarly, I enjoyed Trials when my friend showed that to me on an Xbox 360. I bought Trials Gold on Steam. However, only after purchasing it, I was found that I was forced to agree to a EULA. One that I actually disapproved of.
(Probably a clause about reverse engineering, as well as stating that restriction remains alive even after termination of an agreement. It's not that I have a habit of disassembling a game. But that activity has appeal in an idealized fantasy existence where I am a bit smarter and life and do more of that awesome activity. I certainly don't like being constantly asked to agree to give up rights.) Result: the game has not been installed, since doing so requires agreeing to such nonsense. Well, EA made its money off me there. I'm not a person who feels like wasting my time by trying to figure out if I can possibly return that software. However, I don't expect to be blindly buying the sequel.

The attitude of Microsoft (DRM-supporting, and migrating everything to a company-owned cloud) and Google (more and more), specifically to try to restrict users to gain profit, but expect negativity to be offset by an absolute love that people have for the positive benefits that the companies may market, is driving people to love these companies just as much as people love the wireless phone service providers. That is, people loathe them. Absolutely loathe them.

The situation of companies trying to control the end user experience is beyond just disappointment. It has reached disgust. I know a lot of people complain, but are just talk. But software permissions are actually important to me. Company aggression has now started to affect buying habits.

Re:PvZ2 is unplayable (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 3 months ago | (#46808243)

Clauses against reverse engineering are nearly ubiquitous in (non-open) software. Amusingly, Origin's EULA, Popcap's EULA, Plants vs. Zombies' EULA, and Steam's EULA all forbid reverse-engineering of the code that each agreement applies to. It seems that you may have some kind of double-standard with software, AC.

Re:PvZ2 is unplayable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46842215)

Most games on Steam do not require a separate window in Steam's installer, asking for an additional agreement to a new EULA, before proceeding to install.
Also, many EULAs prevent reverse engineering (which is itself a sad state of affairs, but I do recognize that as being widespread). However, most such EULAs do not have an additional clause that tries to make such terms survive after the agreement ends.
If I decide to discontinue engaging in an ongoing relationship, I have no continued benefit to continuing to be bound some restrictions that limit educational opportunities in order to try to discourage new competition.
Of course, I did mention that qualifier in the original article (when I said this is about reverse engineering "as well as" survival of the terms). I appreciate the comment regardless. I think your feedback helped me to understand the common attitudes a little bit better.

Not News (2)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about 3 months ago | (#46806437)

I hate to break it to you, but this isn't news. This kind of behavior has existed in the games industry and app-store industry pretty much since they've existed.

Your relationship with Apple and Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46806757)

You are a pawn. You are their bitch. They will use you and abuse you. You are not their customer and you are not important to them.

Why? (1)

jemmyw (624065) | about 3 months ago | (#46807047)

Ok I sort of understand why, but mobile phones are such a different type of purchase than games consoles. If I was looking for a console I might inspect the available games, and I wouldn't care what it looked like in my living room, or how it performed (assuming that it runs the games I want).

But mobile phones - if you're looking at top end phones I highly doubt anyone thinks that deeply about the available games these days (now that Android is nearly equivalent for apps). They'll be looking at specs, look and feel, etc. And if they're buying a low end phone then it'll be an Android anyway.

Re:Why? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#46807291)

I think it's to get people to buy an iPod touch or iPad mini in addition to whatever Android phone they were planning on buying.

Re:Why? (1)

jemmyw (624065) | about 3 months ago | (#46807371)

Granted that might be the strategy, but it'll surely fail if both are doing it... nobody (I'm probably wrong) would base the purchase of an iPad on the basis of a specific casual game.

Re:Why? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 3 months ago | (#46807891)

Granted that might be the strategy, but it'll surely fail if both are doing it... nobody (I'm probably wrong) would base the purchase of an iPad on the basis of a specific casual game.

Agree. I've seen pilots buy an extra iPad just to run some iOS-only application, but you're talking about an app that costs $150/yr to use, on a plane that costs $100/hr to run, that replaces a $5000 piece of dedicated hardware. So, if your alternative is to spend $5k on a hobby you already spend tons on, then buying a tablet you won't use for anything else isn't a big deal.

On the other hand, for the average person who is already integrated into the Apple or Google environment with iTunes, Google Music All Access, one or two mobile platforms, and so on, they're not going to buy a $500 device that isn't useful for anything else just so that they can play one more game. That isn't even counting incremental costs like a data plan (which somebody might already have on their existing tablet, but wouldn't have on a new one without a substantial cost).

Re:Why? (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 3 months ago | (#46808247)

What app is that?

Re:Why? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 3 months ago | (#46808373)

Well, the one that always comes up is ForeFlight. It is in the App Store but not available on Android.

Then there is Garmin Pilot - which is on both, but the iOS app is always about a year or two ahead in terms of features (the Android one just got a big update which brings it up to where the iOS version was in 2012 I think).

Until that update the Garmin app on Android was actually inferior in most aspects to the FOSS Avare, which has about two volunteer devs. Discussion forums had users openly talking about switching to the biggest brand name in aviation navigation to FOSS software or start-ups. I'd say Garmin is now substantially ahead of Avare on Android, but Avare isn't standing still and could conceivably catch back up.

Exclusive applications drive me nuts in just about all cases. People shouldn't need to juggle devices just to run their favorite apps.

So who is going there first? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 3 months ago | (#46807167)

It ain't no battle till one of them introduce a fifteen inch hole golf. Let us see who does it first.
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