Opinon: Developers have lost faith in the App Store
Back in October 2009, US indie developer Nimblebit launched its own App Store discovery website.
Called AppClassic, at the time it seems like an odd move. Effectively Nimblebit was building an off-portal way of getting consumer sales through a system of working out the best games via a combination of number of App Store rankings.
As NimbleBit's Ian Marsh pointed out; "If you look at the App Store charts, you're only looking at a tiny fraction of the total apps on the store."
"Many the apps will start to slide back down after a few weeks, and even more after a few months. Over the lifetime of the App Store, many apps that have been well received by shoppers are now buried in the charts."
DIY app stores
Since then, there's been a steady drip, drip, drip of similar initiatives.
The Christmas Appvent Calendar, in which saw one game a day released for free during December, was a massive success, with some titles being downloaded over 65,000 times.
Inspired by this, the concept's gone daily with FreeAppADay, which has driven over two million free downloads.
Other developers have launched their own promotion sites.
Appy Entertainment has its BestiPhoneAppStore, Sauce Digital its AppDope, Cobra Mobile has just soft launched Appulike, while variations on the theme include Origin8 with its February Freebie Fever, and Hudson with its promotional Thursdays.
And less we forget, the social gaming networking platforms are putting their huge access to consumers to good use. OpenFeint's Free Game of the Day promotion has been regularly boosting games into the US top #5 free chart.
Other companies are entering the market with pure play iPhone discovery apps too, such as Chomp, or Mplayit's Facebook-based app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.
Every developer who doesn't have access to big licences or isn't particularly chummy with Apple is looking to give away its content for free to get consumer eyeballs and a half decent position on the App Store.
An old conservatism
The reason is that the App Store has been a complete failure when it comes to promoting games.
As a retailing experience it's brilliant of course. No one would deny that, but as more and more games have been released, the big players or those developers who managed to get their games in the App Store early in the cycle, have become more and more entrenched.
In fact, as I pointed out in September 2009, the App Store has become exactly what the mobile operator deck became in the world Java and Brew games; static and controlled by big publishers and big licences.
And that's why everyone else has gone off-deck and is now trying to make their own off-deck portals.
Reach out and touch faith
This comes with its own challenges however. Massive fragmentation means most developers or publishers won't have access to a large enough consumer base to drive sales.
More worryingly perhaps is the impact on the App Store free chart, which is now being swamped with the daily yo-yoing in and out of freely promoted titles; something that's disrupting the business model of those companies relying on ad-supported games and the freemium model.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though.
As is already happening, most developers and publishers are going cross-platform, taking their games to iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Maemo, bada and Windows Mobile, as well as PSP Minis and DSiWare.
Building discovery websites that work across as many of those platforms as possible is the new opportunity, at least for the first half of 2010.
And that's why the new religion is platform and app store agnostism.