Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Monday, December 6, 2010

Marketing Android Games

If you thought marketing iPhone games was hard, wait until you tackle the problem of marketing Android games. The same basic problem exists in both markets: There are tens of thousands of games vying for attention, and there's very limited tools built into the app markets for finding your game.

The Android app market, though, has bigger problems than just numbers. Here's an excellent blog post on the Android market's problems, which I found via Gizmodo. This developer notes some of the key issues for Android developers, which is that they're just not making much money for the most part. The problems with the Android market can be seen in some very simple things, such as this: Where are the killer apps? If you look at the top apps for the Android platform, most of them are also available on the iPhone. Most of the rest are system-support type things, like anti-virus or system hacking tools. If you've been in the game industry for a while, you know the power of system exclusives. How much has Mario helped Nintendo sell hardware? How much has Halo helped Microsoft? It's hard to even say where Nintendo would be if it wasn't for the little plumber. And if you took away all of the impact of Halo, would the Xbox and Xbox 360 have been very successful?

Yet the Android market doesn't seem to be attracting many exclusives, despite the fact that sheer numbers seem to be looking pretty good for Android.

The latest Comscore numbers show that Android has just about the same market share as Apple in terms of subscribers in the US market. The Android is closing in on Apple as the phone platform most desired by potential buyers, too.

Look at the numbers from Nielsen's latest survey. The Android platform is almost as desired as the iPhone platform among likely smartphone upgraders. Wow, that all looks great for Android developers, right? If only. Revenue for the iPhone platform is many times higher than Android. Why the disparity? It's in the details. The marketplaces are just not comparable in interface or in ease of use. The Android Market is clunky, ugly, and bereft of even the limited ways the App Store provides to find and suggest apps to customers. At least the Android Market has finally introduced a Related tab to provide some suggestions for customers looking for apps. A step in the right direction, but there are still miles to travel. Hot picks? Lots of categories to make it easier to find what you're looking for? Sort by user ratings? No, aside from a few of the top titles, you're going to have to know about your Android app's existence before you go hunting in the Market for an app. This is not designed to help small developers sell products.

Speaking of which, the Android is not helping much with the freemium model. That's the model where less than 2% of the apps in the App Store are generating 30% of the App Store revenue... yet it's not something you can readily do on the Android platform. I know there are plenty of bright people at Google, and surely some are aware of this, but perhaps it's too hard to herd the engineers in the direction of making such improvements.

So some Android developers (or potential Android developers) are looking to get their apps paid for by Verizon or some other carrier and pre-installed on the phone. They may not get very much per unit, but at least it's something. Not a business model that works for everybody, though.

The Android Market needs to get a makeover, either from Google or from somebody else. Perhaps a third party can create a functioning app market where Google doesn't appear to be all that interested. Maybe the Android tablets already swarming to the storefronts will help catalyze the development of a well-done marketplace. Apple needs some good competition on the software and business model end of things, not just on hardware.

Meanwhile, marketers looking at the Android marketplace have to try even harder than on iOS. More social media, more ads, more PR, a better hook. You cannot count at all on the internal Android Market tools to help users find your game. You have to find an audience outside and bring them in.


  1. I think another major issue is user expectations. It seems that most users think that every Android game should be free. With that mentality, what incentive is there for a developer to enter the Android market? Pair that with fragmentation issues and an OS that changes every other day and you'd have to be CRAZY to make an Android exclusive. So be on the lookout for our upcoming Android exclusive game UPSAT which launches this Monday 1/16/2012 ;)

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