Google has shown some recent conviction about the business of games. Relative to the Android platform, however, they have some work to do. The good news is that Android is ramping up and a lot of devices are selling. Android has the potential to be a platform comparable to Apple by 2012. But as a game platform right now, Android strikes out. It is a well-known fact that the supply of good quality games on Android lags far behind what Facebook and Apple have to offer. Here’s why:
Strike one: many current devices do not have one-touch payment because they are not integrated with mobile carrier billing systems. This is likely to be addressed comprehensively by 2011.
Strike two: Conventional games don’t sell on Android because Google has a senseless and lazy policy to ignore what is posted into their app store. Google also allow consumers to try any paid app and then easily return it up to 24 hours later for a full refund. Seriously, when so many other things on the app store are already free and everything else is free for 24 hours, why would anyone pay for a game?
Google defends this policy because they don’t want to police the store. I could understand this if Google were a new startup with a small staff incurring startup losses. But we are talking about Google! If Apple and others can pay attention to what is in their app store, surely Google can also do so. Google has ignored this problem and may remain in denial until 2011, when the widening deficit in their app quality compared with Facebook and Apple should finally motivate them to fix the problem.
Strike three: Google does not currently allow competing ad networks on Android so there are no offer completion networks, which have been a staple of the growth and evolution of engagement and payment with social games. As social games have been the only type of game that can monetize without direct payments, this policy nukes Android for the remainder of the game industry. However, Google’s recently announced acquisition of Jambool should soon provide at least one in-house offer network alternative.
As long as they keep selling devices, Android could be a great game business within two years, but it would blossom much faster if Google becomes more proactive about these issues.