Alternative App Stores: Issues with the Mobile Market

Today marks the beginning of a series of articles about alternative mobile game markets. Within these blog posts, we would like to highlight the profitability of web-based games (and some mobile) that use alternative billing systems for world-wide success. 

Due to the rampant popularity of the iTunes App Store and Google Play, many believe these are the only places to go when releasing a game. While many find this option the way they’d like to start, it is important to note that there are other routes that can ensure a successful game lifecycle. In this series we will examine regional markets and what  other markets could help your game release.

There are more alternative app stores than ever before. See how they can work for you.

There are more alternative app stores than ever before. See how they can work for you.

Issues with the Current Mobile Market

To start out, let’s discuss some of the issues associated with today’s mobile markets. To understand how to move forward with your game, it’s important to recognize some of the problems developers can face in these markets. 

Closed ecosystems mean a competitive landscape.

Closed ecosystems mean a competitive landscape.

Closed Structure

Mobile marketplaces right now, and historically, are built up from a series of closed, independent ecosystems. Some are more closed than others, such as Apple’s carefully monitored App Store. Closed systems such as Apple’s can have rigorous review and approval processes, wherein your game will be examined to see if it adheres to their policies and regulations. While this ensures high quality games and a high standard of excellence on the iOS platform, it also means your game might not be approved for a variety of reasons. The percentage that such companies charge is a considerable amount. On the Google Play side of things, there may be a bit less restriction and a bit more revenue going to your pocket, but you must be utilizing the Android OS, which has a lot of fracturalization because of different devices and updates. One way to navigate around these murky closed ecosystems is by simply taking yourself out of it, and building your game for a web browser. You can remain autonomous and retain most of the revenue you make.

Monopoly

These closed systems, unchecked and offering similar services in similar gaming areas, can lead to a monopoly. If your number one operating system controls the majority of the marketplace, the products are being chosen and screened and tailor made to each OS specifically. As the larger companies compete for the number one spot in mobile platforms, exclusivity deals with large developers are becoming commonplace. Getting featured is difficult if you aren’t a larger, more established company, and the competition is fierce. After adhering to strict guidelines and a potentially difficult submission process, you run the risk of seeing your game lost in the thousands of apps that come out every week without promotion.

Lack of Flexibility

Many large, well-known game and app stores have a fixed billing system that takes a large chunk of a game’s revenue, upwards of 1/3 off the top often times. These charges may not seem too hefty for a large developer, but can really hit small dev teams hard. When game makers don’t know all of their options or any other ways to release their game other than on the main app stores, they face a rigidity of options and a one-size-fits-all method of game sales. This doesn’t change according to game type or size of the company, or even vary according to your game’s ranking or discoverability. This lack of flexibility can hurt developers as they try to reach out to their potential user base.

Lack of flexibility and competition means it's hard to get your games seen and played.

Lack of flexibility and competition means it’s hard to get your games seen and played.

Marketing Budgets

With such huge companies behind the large app stores, it’s no surprise that their budgets for marketing can be unbelievably big. Games that cater to the hardware and device features are often singled out over other games, and developers who have their own large marketing budgets usually have a leg up. As the main concern for these larger marketplaces is to gather new users, many of their marketing tools and efforts are used to draw in new players and devs, not necessarily to support their wide expanse of existing users and their catalogs. This is another reason that having a web-based game may be a good idea, as you aren’t making a small cut for less support or aren’t essentially watching your revenue get turned into marketing dollars not promoting your game.

Why Else Should You Move Towards Alternative Mobile Markets and App Stores?

One way to avoid all of these issues is to be your own boss. The most straightforward way would be to design your game with the web in mind, and release it for web browsers. In addition, find alternative virtual stores to sell your game on, and try them out. If you decide to publish for mobile through Android platforms, bear in mind that the main reasoning behind doing so is to increase your audience and exposure. With more eyes comes more chances for monetizing your game. Some Android platforms have specialized features, like superior discovery options or incentivized discounts and a higher rate of being featured as opposed to larger, more well known platforms.

“Though Play Market, Samsung Apps, LG store and few more major Android app stores dominate Android market, there are few smaller alternative ones, which still could bring good revenues to developers. This could be a perfect opportunity for smaller developers’ teams, as these stores are much easier to work with (simply less efforts to get your app published there). They are more flexible in terms, and it is much easier to get a good visibility for the app,” says Andrew Lukashenko, business development manager at Xsolla.

If you’d like to really release your game independently, use a third party payment system, such as Xsolla. Payment systems like Xsolla offer web games alternative billing so that developers can remain independent and in charge of their content. A good solution to the issue of how difficult releasing games on the top app stores is to release web versions supported by alternative billing systems and if so desired, pursuing alternative app stores as well.

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