Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Mac App Store

The Mac App Store has opened for business, and it's delivering some changes that have important ramifications for game developers. In case you're not a Mac user and missed the news, the Mac App Store is an App Store similar to the one on iTunes for iPhone and iPad. But this one is separate from iTunes, and it doesn't have a huge number of apps so far -- about 1,000. You just download the App Store to your Mac , and then you can browse for software you might want to download.

What's the big deal? Can't you already download Mac software from a variety of places? Sure, but this puts everything in one place. Well, not everything, but I'm pretty sure that will be more nearly the case after a month or two. Better still, it makes installing Mac apps easy; right now it's confusing unless you're very familiar with OS X. Many of the apps are more iOS-like, in that they are focused around a single task rather than being an enormous collection of features. Better still, many of them have adopted more iOS-like pricing, so you can find free apps and low-cost apps, not just $50 software. So there's a lot to like about this new way of acquiring software.

On the other hand, there's some drawbacks as well. If you've already bought the software, you'd have to rebuy it if you wanted to get the free updates possible through the App Store. For now, there's no free or trial versions of software available, so you'll have to find those elsewhere. There are other concerns, but many of them may well be addressed by Apple over time.

Users seem to approve; the Mac App Store hit 1 million downloads in its first 24 hours of operation.

What does this all mean for gaming? A lot, actually. Games are a large part of the apps being offered here, with many iOS developers jumping in to create OS X versions of their games. Mostly it was easy; they took a week or two just to tweak things for the platform differences, but the code moves over easily. (Not surprising if you realize the operating systems are so similar at their core.) App developers now have a very large market opened up to them for very little effort on their part. And a greater flood of software will make Macs more attractive... particularly if it beefs up the supply of games, the Mac's perennial weak point.

Isn't this what Games for Windows should be? Yeah, you'd think. Microsoft could make an app store for Windows... but they likely won't any time soon, I bet. Too revolutionary for them. They are edging closer to getting it together though, with Windows Phone 7, Xbox Live, and now Windows on ARM chips... if they can just break free from the interface tyranny of the past, they could be a contender in the brave new marketplace.

The Mac App store is another sign of the apocalypse, the vast paradigm shift in how software is designed, sold, and used, and the computing platforms it gets used on. Games are just a part of this vast shift, as we move to smaller and more mobile platforms (tablets and smartphones), and more focused applications instead of bloatware (I'm still trying to figure out why Microsoft completely changed the interface to Office software without any way to access the old interface... accelerated my transition to OpenOffice, I'll tell you). It's time for game developers of all types to rethink their business models as many associated markets are rapidly changing: books, games, software. And it's not just the products, but the very business models are changing, too.

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