Following Madfinger Games' decision to relaunch one its Android games as a free app due to an "unbelievably high" piracy rate, iOS and Mac app developer Matt Gemmell has weighed in on the situation. He has written a lengthy post titled Closed for Business in which he explains why Android app creators are having so much trouble making money.
The article's subheadings pretty much summarize the piece: Designed for piracy, A broken business model, and Freedom from choice. Here are three quotes from each section that I found particularly worthy to highlight:
- "The system is designed for piracy from the ground up. The existence of piracy isn't a surprise, but rather an inevitability."
- "Piracy isn't a symptom of social disease. Piracy is a symptom of failure to find an effective business model."
- "Open is broken as a money-making platform model, unless you're making the OS or the handsets. Most of us aren't doing that."
Gemmel makes excellent points throughout his piece and I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. Many will be quick to point out that he's an iOS app developer, so his conclusion under the last heading "Lock it down" should not be surprising: "Closed is better for business."
The problem is that he's right. There's absolutely no denying that (most) app developers make more money on iOS and that the App Store is much more profitable for Apple than the Google Play store is for Google.
That being said, however, I don't believe that "closed" is the solution. Gemmel clearly outlines why one is better than the other for app developers, and I do think Google needs to bring some of the App Store's features to the Google Play store, but I also believe Apple should do the same in vice versa.
There is a middle-ground between open and closed, between unlocked and locked, between free and paid. I just don't think we've found it yet, and likely won't for quite a while longer. After all, app stores are still relatively new as a concept as well as a business model.
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