As mobile gaming continues to loom ominously over the console wars, Apple and Google are beginning to adopt a tactic from their predecessors: fighting tooth and nail for platform exclusivity.
According to a report in today's Wall Street Journal, the two tech giants are starting to compete with one another to woo mobile game developers towards their respective app store, offering plum opportunities such as "premium placement on their app stores' home pages and features lists." The Journal specifically identified a deal struck between Apple and game industry giant Electronic Arts for last year's long-awaited mobile puzzle game Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time.
Apple "promoted the game prominently in its App Store," the Journal reported, citing anonymous sources. In exchange, EA then "agreed to give Apple about a two-month window of exclusivity for the title, which wasn't released on Google's Android software until October" of 2013.
On one level, the Journal's report suggests that iOS and Android mobile devices are basically going to start imitating the combatants of the consoles wars that preceded them. But what's interesting about the detail provided in the Plants vs. Zombies example is that it implies that customs and standard practices are, at best, still emerging when it comes to the new platforms.
Apple, for instance "doesn't offer money for game exclusives," according to the Journal's report. Instead, the company provides "only marketing or promotional assistance," and "it typically makes such offers after meetings in which game makers either discuss or demonstrate their coming titles." Google and Amazon have also gotten in on the action by luring game developers over to their side of the fence with similar promises of "premium placement."
This could lead to conflicts further down the road as exclusive deals shift the curatorial focus of featured lists and other aspects of each service's respective app store. In Apple's case, for instance, the Journal reports that "the push to secure exclusive games challenges a long-standing policy of leaving decisions about which apps its App Store promotes to an 'editorial team' that tests the software, without taking business considerations into account."
We've reached out to representatives from Apple, EA, and Google, and will update the story once we hear back.
Update: Google got back to us to say they cannot comment on the story.