The reason iPhone game developers are becoming digital retailers

If the App Store is Walmart, it's time to break out your own yard sale

The reason iPhone game developers are becoming digital retailers
This article is a guest contribution from Paul O'Connor, brand director at Appy Entertainment, Inc.

Halloween marked the first birthday of Appy Entertainment.

In our initial 12 months in the market we've launched four iPhone apps, written manifestos, and won a bake contest. But I never foresaw us becoming retailers.

Appy isn't alone in entering the retail side of the app market however.

Plenty of developers are opening app stores of their own. We debuted our holiday-themed app store late last month. Ian Marsh of Nimblebit runs the App Classics store. And we're all waiting to see the next free game offered up by the very clever Appvent site. The lines between developer and retailer are blurring.

What's going on here?

While Appy is pleased to rake a few cents of commission off sales through our app store (thanks to Linkshare), our number one motivation in setting up our own storefront was discoverability.

With 100,000 apps in Apple's store, getting noticed is harder than ever.

We've enjoyed extraordinary good fortune as Apple has promoted our games such as Appy Newz, FaceFighter, and Zombie Pizza on iTunes at one time or another.

Thanks to Halloween, Zombie Pizza was featured by Apple for a month straight - but we still need all the help we can get when it comes to pulling eyeballs onto our products.

We tweet, and we blog like crazy, and we've wrack our brains trying to make great games, but Appy (like everyone else) must largely depend on Apple's endorsement to reach new customers in their App Store.

With the visibility of category top ten lists diminished by the last iTunes reorganisation, independent publishers are even harder to find once they've had their fifteen minutes of fame in Apple's feature listings.

This has made for strange bedfellows.

We've always been of the opinion that a rising tide would lift our little boat, and we haven't been shy about reviewing and promoting other publishers' work on our blog, but now we find ourselves actually selling other people's games.

Partially this is because we'd look even more ridiculous than usual opening up a store with just our four paid titles, but primarily it's because the ultimate objective of any developer-owned app store is to open a secondary channel outside of iTunes. And that means packing your store with enough interesting things to (hopefully) generate a little Google search magic.

Registering near the top of a Google search for "best apps for my new iPhone" could make or break a company with what we estimate will be ten million new users entering the market this holiday quarter.

And so we gird up our loins and prepare to take on mighty iTunes. Apple must be shaking in its boots!

Uh... no. No one is going to supplant iTunes - and every independent iPhone app store just links back to iTunes in any case - but in this unforgiving and bare-knuckle market you have to try every trick in the book... even if it means selling your competitor's products right alongside (or instead of) your own.

Step right up, folks, have I got an app for YOU!
Thanks to Paul for his column.

You can keep up-to-date with Appy Entertainment via its website, blog, twitter, and - of course - its app store.

PocketGamer.biz regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.