Apple, Google Vie to Offer Exclusive Game Apps

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By Ian Sherr and Daisuke Wakabayashi

A long-running battle between Apple Inc. and Google Inc. for mobile dominance is spreading to the most lucrative genre of apps: videogames.

The two Silicon Valley giants have been wooing game developers to ensure that top-tier game titles arrive first on devices powered by their respective operating systems, people familiar with the situation said.

In exchange, Apple and Google are offering to provide a promotional boost for these games by giving them premium placement on their app stores’ home pages and features lists, these people said.

Last August, for the launch of “Plants Vs. Zombies 2,” a highly anticipated sequel to a popular zombie-survival strategy game, publisher Electronic Arts Inc. struck a deal with Apple, which promoted the game prominently in its App Store, according to people familiar with the matter.

In exchange, one of these people said, EA 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.

ZeptoLab’s sequel to its popular puzzle game “Cut the Rope,” introduced in December, reflected a similar pattern. The company and Apple agreed to about a three-month window of exclusivity for Apple’s App Store, in exchange for the store prominently promoting the game, one person familiar with the matter said. ZeptoLab launched an Android version in late March.

Apple and Google representatives declined to discuss specifics of their exclusivity efforts. Exclusive titles are a common marketing strategy for videogame consoles, but are new to mobile apps.

Their rise marks an escalation in the battle for mobile-device customers, with Apple particularly determined to counter the rise of Google’s free Android software.

Emily Greer, head of Kongregate, a gaming service owned by retailer GameStop Corp. , likened the contest to an “arms race” for the best content.

“When people love a game, and it’s not available on an alternate platform, they’ll change platforms,” she said. “The level of attachment a person has to a game can exceed almost anything.”

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Wall Street Journal (April 20, 2014)