The funnel of the conversion to install had too many steps, few users knew how to go through all of them, and there were little to no acquisition channels. It won't be possible to return to these times, thankfully, even if two well-established marketplaces, the App Store and Google Play, cease to exist at once. Though I don't think we'd soon have nice alternatives to them either. Google allows 3rd party marketplaces to be installed on Android devices but it doesn't seem that any of them come close to Google Play in features and user experience, to be honest.
Even Epic Games Store, if we take a look at PC gaming marketplaces, is pretty scarce in terms of features: despite having an opportunity to copy and hone Steam best practices, the UX isn't great. For example, they still don't have a shopping cart — though it's pretty vital for user experience, especially during sales. This feature has been sitting on their roadmap
for at least a year. I think smaller companies have even less chances to quickly develop something decent without causing users' complaints.
Also, it's great that developers now have access to numerous features incorporated in just two marketplaces with a huge number of paying users. We can have a look at the Chinese mobile market where thousands of stores exist, users are scattered across them, and a developer has to accommodate to several sets of rules while rarely getting even a pinch of features that the App Store and Google Play have. Of course, the App Store is available there yet (while Google Play is blocked). However, if the App Store caves into Trump's demands and bans WeChat, the interest in Apple devices will decline — this app is vital for Chinese users, playing the same part as the web does in other countries.
Ok, I'm trailing off here. The trade war between the US and China is sometimes cited as an underlying reason for this conflict but I'm not sure I want to dive into this issue at all. I only know that Tencent owns 40% of Epic Games — but
Tim Sweeney, their CEO, is still the decision maker.
So, there shouldn't be doubts that Apple changed
the way apps and games are distributed to the better. Hell, the biggest irony of all this situation with lawsuits is that they lowered industry standard to 30% — and I recall 80% commissions before this standard was established in 2011 — while providing a bunch of tools that make developer lives easier.
Also, the commission isn't always equal to 30%. The App Store and Google Play commission structure is more favourable for app developers that use in-app subscriptions as their monetisation model, cutting the commission from 30% to 15% for each user after the first year of their subscription. However, for other monetisation models and games the commission rate stays at 30%.
And if your app qualifies as a reader or a business app, you can add an alternative payment method. Definitions of these two categories are rather vague, and Hey! by Basecamp tried to use this loophole
but couldn't get through the review process in the App Store. Dropbox somehow qualifies as a reader though.
Digital Context Next also raised their concerns
about the flexibility of Apple's policies regarding the subscription fee. During latest antitrust trials of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, it was revealed that Amazon Video Prime's fee was reduced to 15% for new subscribers and was waived for previous ones. The app was also allowed to implement other payment methods.
Oh, by the way. I'm not talking a lot about Google Play because it mostly follows the App Store trail. Also, Google allows installing other marketplaces on Android devices so it softens the power dynamics between an OS company and developers.
The ultimate goal of Epic Games is linked to this fact more than to service fees. They don't hide their intention to create a stand-alone gaming store as they did for Android, PC and Mac — it's mentioned in the lawsuit against Apple. Epic Games don't seem to think that the company that created an ecosystem is entitled to be the only beneficiary party.
Their strategy to attack the commission rates of a competitor instead of their place in product distribution has already worked once. In result, Epic Games attracted more users because Epic Games Store was lavishly mentioned in headlines, tweets, and subreddits. It was likely just a side effect that Steam lowered their commission
for games that earned more than 10 million dollars.
I don't think this conflict will seriously affect the dominating role of the App Store and Google Play on the mobile market — as we can see, Steam haven't lost its leading position. However, it might tank some companies and nurture new possibilities for developing awesome products.
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