Mobile Mavens

The Mobile Gaming Mavens debate whether mobile ecosystems are becoming restrictive

In the shadow of The Open And Free App Movement

The Mobile Gaming Mavens debate whether mobile ecosystems are becoming restrictive

GetJar's Patrick Mork knows how to stir up debate.

Most recently, the CMO of the free download app store, launched an grassroots campaign called The Open And Free App Movement, as an avenue for developers to reveal how "the increasingly closed app ecosystem" is affecting them.

So, what did the Mavens think about the current state of the mobile ecosystem and GetJar's response to it?

Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative didn't disagree with Mork, but equally didn't see a problem with the ecosystems being closed. Frankly, he thought it was just a way for GetJar to get press.

"...Traditionally mobile and the game industry in general has been completely closed off and it's not until the last few years that an indie developer could even get an app published for most platforms without the aid of a big publisher," he pointed out.

"Most people look at the Apple ecosystem as an example of a closed ecosystem but I look at it as simply regulated."

Wen Chen of Chinese developer Coconut Island couldn't see a problem either.

"I don't see any negative point of a closed ecosystem, especially for indie game developers," he pondered. "We are small and would like to give all our energy in developing games. If open means you must deal with diversity, hundred of stores and thousand of distribution channels, no thanks."

Stones and a sling

The new chair of the IGDA's Mobile SIG, Kevin Dent of consultancy Tiswaz, made a Biblical comparison.

"GetJar is basically trying to be the little guy against Goliath," he said, pointing out it's not a game developer and, in fact, owns 'a pretty rudimentary content management system and content download platform'.

"It's enjoyed phenomenal success and more power to it. The last time I checked though, it's not a non-profit organisation," Dent said.

Still, he did accept the original complaint over the term app store is a fair one, but wished "GetJar would be honest and say 'We do not agree with Apple that app store is a defensible trademark and will hold that line in the courts'. Everything else is just noise and, to be quite frank, insulting to developers."

Better the devil you know

The Mavens then received a history lesson from Jon Hare of Tower Studios.

"Closed (or standardised) technology with an open market to use that technology is the way that all other great media formats such as film, TV and music became really mass market," he argued.

Lunaforte's Richard Hazenberg continued the theme. "I still have vivid memories of the days when carriers managed the route to market," he said.

"Only a handful of carrier appointed publishers/aggregators were the gatekeepers. Now that's what I call a closed system, so with that in mind I'd refer to the current app stores (yeah, I mean all of them) as pretty open."

He also pointed out that closed systems actually simplified the marketplace for consumers, something essential that was missing from earlier systems.

So while there was broad agreement for the thrust of Mork's point, none of the Mavens appear to be prepared to sign up to The Open And Free App Movement.

Here's Eddie

A final point was, however, made by Eddie Dowse of PopCap, a new recruit to the group.

"What a day, I get accepted into the Order of the Mobile Gaming Mavens, where the topic for discussion is the 'narrowing ecosystem' and then I find myself working for Electronic Arts, a small boutique software publisher you may have heard of," he joked.

A backroom operator, Dan works behind the scenes to source and proof content for; if you notice Dan's work, then something has
gone wrong. Dan's background is in writing about politics, tech and the games industry, and he's addicted to social networking and board
games. His favourite mobile games are Carcassone, Neuroshima Hex and Catan
(though he laments its lack of online multiplayer).