Amazon’s Android Appstore off on the Wrong Foot?

The International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA) furnished an advisory yesterday warning game developers about the perils behind selling your game through Amazon’s appstore. Amazon appstore’s terms of service do sound extremely self serving. From IGDA’s post:

1) Amazon steeply discounts a large chunk of its Appstore catalog (imagine: “our top 100-rated games are all 75% off!”). Some developers will probably win in this scenario, but some developers — most likely, those near the bottom of the list — will lose, not gaining enough sales to offset the loss in revenue per sale. Amazon benefits the most, because it captures all the customer goodwill generated by such a promotion.

2) By requiring all developers to guarantee Amazon a minimum list price that matches the lowest price on any other market, Amazon has presented developers with a stark choice: abandon Amazon’s market or agree never to give another distributor an exclusive promotional window.

3) Other digital markets that compete with Amazon (both existing markets and markets yet-to-be-created) may feel compelled to duplicate Amazon’s terms, and perhaps even adopt more severe terms in an effort to compete effectively with Amazon. In essence, we’re looking at a slippery slope in which a developer’s “minimum list price” ceases to be a meaningful thing.

4) Amazon steeply discounts (or makes entirely free) a game that has a well-defined, well-connected niche audience. The members of that niche audience snap up the game during the promotional period, robbing the game’s developer of a significant percentage of its total potential revenue from its core audience.

5) Amazon steeply discounts (or makes entirely free) a hit game at a time when the game is already selling extremely well. This sort of promotional activity may attract consumers away from competing markets and into Amazon’s arms. But it might actually represent a net loss for the developer, which was already doing quite well and didn’t need to firesale its game at that moment in time.

Furthermore, Amazon is pretty strict about apps pointing back to other AppStores from within an app. From this post on Stackoverflow:

So one of my applications was rejected from the Amazon app store today. The reason was because inside my app, I linked to the paid version of the app on the Android market. Disappointing, but whatever, I guess everyone wants their cut…

The buck doesn’t just stop there. Loren Donelson shared his story about how his app was rejected by Amazon because the ads in his app (served by Greystripe) were pointing to the Android market (as opposed to the Amazon appstore). Not his app itself, an ad in his app. From Donelson’s post:

The screenshots reference a third party ad network, Greystripe, that I use to monetize the free app.  Greystripe is used by many, many Android devs including (I think) Angry Birds to monetize free apps.

In my case it looks like Greystripe presented an ad for an Android app and the advertiser’s link pointed to Google’s Android market.  That flagged me for violating Amazon TOS: all links must point to the Amazon app store.

Amazon has responded (to the IGDA) but I think more detailed communication about the rationale behind their self serving policies is definitely warranted. I wouldn’t discount Amazon’s capabilities to build an awesome appstore experience (hey, they pioneered the best webstore) but right now developers should think about how they can use Amazon’s appstore as a marketing tool as opposed to one they can bank on to make (significant) revenue.

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