I released my game, Red Card Rampage, on the Android Market around 6 weeks ago. Sales have been abysmal on Android, to say the least. It has been #1 on GameSpot for a while, and had some nice reviews such as this and been posted on pretty much every major English-language android forum. Priced at only £0.99, I found that even Samsungs’ tiny new Bada marketplace did four times as many sales in its 2 weeks so far than the game did on Android in those 6 weeks (net sales on Android; i.e., after returns with a rate of almost 50%; more on why later). On iPhone we got more in the first day of sales than the entire total number of downloads on Android so far (i.e., not taking into account returns even! Average rating on iTunes for 53 ratings is almost 5). Out of the 17 ratings on the Android Marketplace, I have an average of 4.7 (including 1 guy that gave it a 1 for some reason).
With Android sales exceeding iPhone, it begs the question, what the hell went wrong?
Well, I happen to have several answers:
- We published the game in the UK. Google forces us to therefore sell the game in pounds to the world. Unfortunately, according to the last monthly report by admobs of May 2010 before they unfortunately got bought over by Google, 66% of all Android users are in the US. Well guess what? US customers cannot buy apps being sold in a foreign currency through their carrier. I know this first hand because a friend of mine refused to buy my game, because he could not buy the game through his US carrier (T-Mobile) on his Samsung Vibrant. He told me he did not trust using his credit card on his Android. Which brings me to my next point.
- Severe lack of trust by the consumer of what they are buying in the market. This bullet is actually one that I can go on and on about. In a recent study, several Android apps have been found to be sharing data without the users consent. And worse, since ANYONE can release ANYTHING without having to go through ANY approval process, you end up with a lot of unwanted crap, that consumers are really reluctant to try anything new or anything they haven’t heard of. This is really bad for unknown Indie developers like me, because if they haven’t heard of my app, they won’t buy it!
- The fact that there is no approval process, means the marketplace is just FULL of crap, and more get submitted by the minute. This makes it EXTREMELY hard for indie games to have any visibility at all in the Android Marketplace even when their games are brand new.
- The Google Android Marketplace does not do a good job of highlighting new games. When my game was new, even though it was priced at only 0.99 pounds (remember it was published from the UK), the game got hardly any downloads at launch when compared to iPhone or Bada sales at launch.
- Google has the crappiest support in the world. Absolutely no freakin’ way to call any body or get any support. They various forums that are completely useless as questions never get answered (e.g., my question here and here). I tried joining an advanced group for NDK developers and asking my question there, but guess what, the forums are moderated! So, if you ask your question, you have to wait several days before someone emails you back saying sorry your question was rejected because it has nothing to do with the NDK (even though in my opinion it was only to do with the NDK). They recommended a different forum, so then I tried submitting my question to that other forums, and again, my question never made it through moderation, but this time, with no response. So basically, I tried 3 different venues they provide, and no answers, and in most cases, they don’t even give me the privilege of asking!
- No complete way of specifying the required filters for the Marketplace. My game requires the phone to have support for floating point instructions. Unfortunately, some phones do not have that, such as the HTC Hero. Well, there is no way for me to tell Google, “please don’t show my game on phones that don’t have an fpu”. As such, in the description of my game I was left with no choice but to have an explicit warning that it won’t work on the Hero. Because of this, people buy the game, see that it doesn’t work on their Hero (and potentially other such devices), and then return it (thus the high 50% return rate).
- Android filtration system buggy as hell. My game requires OpenGL 1.1. Luckily, Google has a way of saying that. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work . Whilst this successfully prohibited my game from lower end phones that don’t support OpenGL, it ALSO prohibited showing my game on higher end phones that support even OpenGL ES 2.0! That friend with the Samsung Vibrant (a Galaxy S variant) simply could not find the game even if he explicitly searches for it. I tried SOOOO hard to tell Google about the issue (as mentioned in my last point), but no one wants to listen!
- Android Marketplace itself is buggy as hell for the consumer. I get emails from customers complaining that they can’t see my game. Or that if they can, they can’t buy the game. Or that if they can, they can’t download the game. Or that if they can, they can’t install the game. The Google marketplace is PLAGUED with these issues. Just take a look here at the Google support forum.
- No Desktop component for Android. Apple has iTunes. Samsung has Kies. But Google has nothing. The lack of it makes it much more difficult for users to manage their software and therefore Google is lacking one important venue for people to browse and find apps.
- Piracy. This cannot be stressed enough. The Android Marketplace is plagued with piracy, and almost encouraged. Some guy was offering WRZ$ 10 to hack my game (no idea what WRZ is).
But Android is here to stay. Why? Because the SDK itself is very well designed (perhaps over-designed), and built for the future. And of course because there is large scale adoption by the leading manufacturers and Android sales are only on the up. As such, it still makes it more than desirable for us developers to target Android, but we need some better way.
I envision a new Android world, a world without Google.
And many more alternatives are coming.
Most notably, Amazon. Yes, Amazon is soon to provide their own Android Marketplace. There will be a more hefty entry fee, and an approval process, so hopefully this will eliminate the crap. And more may be on their way, from Verizon to Best Buy.
Of course, so many alternatives suck for the developer, but no one is to blame here but Google, for truly, royally, screwing it up.