The Hills Are Greener: The Perils of Freedom

The Hills Are Greener: The Perils of Freedom

Jun 27, 2011

Is it really possible that a major game can’t sell on Android? Cut the Rope has taken the same path that Angry Birds has taken with distribution on Android, which is to give away their app for free, generating revenue by way of in-game ads instead of selling the app as a paid app like on iOS. Kami Retro from Gamevil has also gone down this path, showing that they might be experimenting with this ad-supported game model on Android as well.

It’s not quite clear why publishers and developers have decided en masse to pursue this model when releasing on Android beyond reaching a wider base of Android owners. If it’s a piracy issue that publishers are worried about, it seems kind of silly since adblocking on Android is not all that difficult for those with the technical knowhow. Essentially, if people don’t want to give a developer revenue, it’s not that much of a stretch to actually do. It seems like it’s just attacking the lowest common denominator, instead of actually solving the problem of not being able to sell paid games on Android. Plus, it just doesn’t sound smart to have a game that displays ads for other free games that people could download; while playing Cut the Rope, I’ve seen ads for not only Words With Friends for Android, but also for Angry Birds in Google Chrome! Such is the peril of allowing advertisements.

As well, this has the long-term potential of hurting the growth of paid applications on Android Market. A larger developer can make up for small click-through rates on ads by way of sheer number of users playing the game and viewing the ads; this requires a game with a name like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, or Words With Friends. As someone trying to make money with Android has shown, when just trying to start from the ground up with an Android app, the results can be rather rough. If big-name apps and games continue to hit Android as free downloads, and users continue to expect to get premium quality apps and games as free downloads, then why would they ever pay for apps and games? Fruit Ninja has succeeded on the Android Market, but it appears to be the notable exception to the rule, rather than any kind of indicator that other developers are taking.

If the Android Market is ever going to reach a point where major developers will consider it worth the financial benefits of working on it, then it will require a market where users will expect to pay for some apps; when major apps are regularly being released for free, how can this ever happen? Do I like free games? Sure! Call me a hypocrite for playing and downloading these games when they go free, but I am still just a man who likes getting things for free. However, I still recognize that this trend ultimately is bad for smaller developers looking to grow on Android because they cannot ever expect to make meaningful revenue, even just starting out. The big guys just aren’t making it any easier for the little guys, because free is hard to beat.

Carter Dotson
Carter Dotson, editor of Android Rundown, has been covering Android since late 2010, and the mobile industry as a whole since 2009. Originally from Texas, he has recently moved to Chicago. He loves both iOS and Android for what they are - we can all get along!
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