The elusive exclusive: Apple and Google grapple to get games that the other won’t have

The elusive exclusive: Apple and Google grapple to get games that the other won’t have
Ever since the App Store launched in 2008, Apple’s dominance in terms of apps for both the iPhone and the iPad has been an accepted truism in mobile. Now, though, as Google commands an overwhelming 80% of the smartphone market, and its Play Store is officially larger than the App Store, Apple's app catalog superiority is put under question. As the two companies are grappling to secure exclusive titles, Apple is more than ever determined to fight to defend the aura of App Store supremacy. The Wall Street Journal has now learned that Cupertino is ready to even pay a considerable price for this position. Don’t blame it, though - so is Google (and Amazon, as a matter of fact).

What's really happening under the radar is that Apple and Google are both making a considerable effort to woo game developers in order to get high-profile titles exclusively on their platform first. The reward? In exchange for a few months of exclusivity, game developers get their titles placed on a prominent place in the featured section of the App Store and Google Play store, a position that could boost downloads up to ten fold.

So far, though, it seems that Apple is the one that’s more aggressive and successful with the task of wooing developers. Just remember titles like “Plants vs Zombies 2” and the “Cut the Rope” sequel that both launched first on the Apple App Store. EA, the creator of PvZ 2, agreed to a two-month exclusivity agreement with Apple in exchange for a prominent position in iTunes, while ZeptoLab, the developer behind Cut the Rope, got a 3-month exclusive agreement in exchange for a similar reward.

This marks a huge change, at least on Apple’s part - Cupertino used to have an editorial team that would normally evaluate apps based on the quality to determine whether an app is worth being promoted in iTunes’ featured section. Now, though, that team is much more influenced by whether or not such titles are exclusive for the platform.

Google, on its part, is trying to kill two birds with one stones: get those elusive exclusives, but also strengthen the Android brand. With Samsung dominating Android sales, many have suggested that the Korean company might dilute the message that it is actually Google’s Android that powers its products. Google is obviously aware of that, and is offering benefits for developers who use its brand symbols like the green robot more in their apps (Google has allegedly rewarded an app developer for using robot-shaped pictures for in-app purchases in an app). In its fight with Apple, though, Google's platform, has the sheer gigantic size of its platform as a very convincing reason for developers to not launch apps exclusively for iOS. French dev house Gameloft, for instance, launched its popular Asphalt 8 on iOS and Android simultaneously, despite being courted by Apple.

In addition to the big two, Amazon with its Android Appstore is also wooing developers in an attempt to secure exclusive titles for its own platform, making for an even more competitive app environment.

Overall, games are the single most important category of apps, both for users who spend the most time in them, but also for developers and phone makers. After all, the mobile app market was valued at $16 billion last year, 70% of which came from games. The stakes are obviously high, but what we’re wondering is whether having a game like “Plants vs Zombies 2” is really that crucial to you: would you base your decision to buy or not to buy a phone on game availability?

source: Wall Street Journal (paywalled)



27. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

This is just casual games. Just to kill time. If you'll buy a smartphone make sure to check the functionality and if you need it and of course the price.

29. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

I feel the same way. I got a 3DS and Vita for real handheld gaming.

13. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

Google and Apple are paying the devs to not release official apps for Windows Phone.

19. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Do you read the is just exclusive for a period of time...if anyone who is paying to make apps for their platform it is MS...

7. JMartin22

Posts: 2425; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

Gaming on mobile phone devices just isn't fun. All that's free about a F2P game is downloading the hollow shell (executable app) of a game. While the actual content of the game is hollowed out and removed from the gameplay itself, unless you inject it by paying $100s or more to get the full experience or potential of that "game" Nintendo might be on the decline, but they're one of the few publishers that actually offer a complete and whole game play experience, provided you pay a retail price; however, you'll save several fold that same amount from dropping all the extra money in one of those pit "free to play" games. IA

10. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 914; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

You do realize that there are a lot of good mobile games that aren't "free to play"?

23. JMartin22

Posts: 2425; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

You do realize that "high quality", console experience type games, well more often than not, adopt the F2P model that are designed to tailor the game's content and difficulty around microtransactions? IAPs are pretty much unavoidable if you want play a game that's professionally made nowadays

25. Blazers

Posts: 792; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Square Enix is a big offender of this. They charge a premium price for Deus Ex: The Fall, then basically force you to pay for upgrades to complete the game (which isn't even complete). Good luck finishing that game with the weapons they give you. And for the ports like FF that they can't add IAP too, they price the games at almost $20.

6. someones4

Posts: 628; Member since: Sep 16, 2012

i still think that Android is the ultimate gaming platform. Since you can play all the Nintendo games, PSP games and some PS games on Android phones. No other platforms can do all those

15. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

You mean Android has more emulators than ios and windows phone.

22. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Which makes it the ultimate gaming platform to him. I dont see the problem.. One could make that argument for the Wii or PC too.

4. vincelongman

Posts: 5830; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Meh most "AAA" mobile games are crap now days any way IAP need to die (expansion packs are fine, no cheat IAPs) People need to stop paying to win

8. JMartin22

Posts: 2425; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

Paying to "win" in online gaming usually not even under the same classification of fun. It's structured to give an individual a feeling of superiority, self-validation and a means of feeling important. Many of them feel like they're achieving something in that virtual world or community that they can't do with as much impunity in actual reality.

3. wargreymon

Posts: 764; Member since: Nov 05, 2013

This is the problem with lame game studios who rather sell their soul and have secure money than put the effort in making a good game that speaks for itself. Losers = the gamers.

1. chocowii

Posts: 478; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

I still cant understand how app or game exclusivity becomes a decision factor in buying devices.

2. saurik

Posts: 86; Member since: May 13, 2013

Because you're not a gamer.

5. vincelongman

Posts: 5830; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Why game on phone/tablet when you can game on PC/PS4/X1?

9. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 914; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

Because a PC/PS4/X1 won't fit in my pocket.

21. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

But the point being...if I buy a PS4, PS3, 350, Xbox One...its for games mostly. A phone or tablet....not so much. But if one does buy a phone or tablet for games mostly...more power to them. I could see if you said a 3DS or a Vita... PC is a different animal..

11. vuyonc

Posts: 1094; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

Don't make us laugh. Mobile games don't make you a gamer. They probably never will.

12. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 914; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

@vuyonc Agreed that being addicted to Candy Crush does not make you a gamer but there are plenty of mobile games that appeal to real gamers depending on what you like.

16. SeanContra

Posts: 82; Member since: Mar 24, 2014

Um... Casual gamers are a thing these days. I know, I was shocked too.

17. dexter_jdr

Posts: 1163; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

"mobile" gamer. lol

20. chocowii

Posts: 478; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

Maybe its the other way around saurik. You dont even know what a chocobo is. Im a gamer just by looking at my avatar. Thing is only a handful of mobile games has a premium feeling to it. Mobile games today are lack depth, overly repetitive gameplay, to name a few. Also games on consoles and PCs doesnt require pay-to-progress when you buy it all on the disk

26. lilg29

Posts: 89; Member since: Sep 14, 2011

Its just like the game quiz up, For iPhone users they got it right away but for android users we got it a few months after almost halfway through the hype of the game. I recently got an iPhone and one of the reasons was the fact that iOS gets the games and updates first.

28. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

The flip side to that is many iOS game ports to Android either start out free or a cheaper. There is a pro/con to these things at times. Me personally.....I know there are some iOS games that never made it and probably will never make it to Android. Oh well. I wont lose sleep over it. Like MS and Sony for consoles....if I want to play Xbox exclusives...I have to get an Xbox. And before the PS4 n Xbox on both PS3 and 360 usually ran, performed, looked better on the 360. Still didnt, doesnt matter to me... A few exceptions like late in their life cycle it got more even and huge games like GTA V. That did better on the PS4.

14. DCSeerIvan

Posts: 35; Member since: Apr 14, 2014

Yah! iPod touch is horrible. You're just paying the brand.

18. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

It doesn't directly..... But you can see others talking that every games release first in IOS.. That turns many to buy iphone...

24. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

I dunno, but it is pretty frustrating that several games are Ios exclusive and that the app developers just dont even care to port to other platforms, even though they took a lot more effort to bring to mobile in the first place. Another frustration is Square Enix not bringing Final Fantasy Tactics to Android (except in Japan). It has been available for a few years now on iOS, in fact it was one of Square Enix's first ever mobile titles. However, they farted around in bringing it to android, and when they did, they only ported it for the Japanese version. No english or other language android versions, even though it was ported to several languages already for Ipad. Similarly frustrated with Xcom being Ios exclusive, both games are perfect for on the go since they are turn based and touch screen friendly, but nope, us Android guys just have to be content with Free 2 Plays.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless