April 21, 2014, 12:17 PM — There's a battle brewing over winning the exclusive rights to popular video games. But to hear The Wall Street Journal tell it, this time the battle isn't happening on traditional consoles with games like the Xbox-exclusive Titanfall, but on mobile devices.
To make its case, The Journal points to two recent games that popped up on Apple's iOS platform before moving on to Android several months later. The first, EA's Plants vs. Zombies 2, appeared in Apple's App Store last August and landed on Google Play in October. More recently, Zepto Labs rolled out Cut the Rope 2 on iOS in December and then brought the game to Google Play in late March.
By itself, these two release windows are relatively meaningless since popular apps often land on iOS long before they hit Android. But the Journal cites several anonymous sources who say that Apple promised both companies prominent App Store placement in return for an exclusivity window of several months.
As for Google, the Journal doesn't cite any examples of the search giant winning an exclusive game for Android over iOS--perhaps not so surprising given the current worldview of Android vs. iPhone. Despite Android's overwhelming market share for smartphones worldwide, there are many studies showing that iOS is where the majority of the paying customers are.
But does a potential war of mobile gaming exclusivity make sense?
For app makers it does, even large ones, since app discovery is always one of the sore points developers have with the mobile app ecosystem. It's a lot easier for users to find a game when the first thing they see in the App Store is a large banner advertising it; the Journal reports that prominent app store placement can send downloads skyrocketing up to tenfold.
But what's really in it for Apple or Google? Are mobile gamers really so passionate that they'd switch to the iPhone just to play a hot mobile game?
Most smartphone owners are tied to a smartphone for two years thanks to the standard mobile contract in the U.S. So switching midstream seems unlikely. The real advantage, then, may be in the long term. One or two apps is just a blip, but if Apple or Google manages to snag a slew of exclusive games--the killer app of the app world--over the years, that's something that users are much more likely to notice.