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Is there really that much of a difference between "Click [here](link-to-app-store) to buy this game!" and "Click [here](link-to-self-hosted-page) to buy this game!"? The only real difference I can think of is when software was primarily distributed via physical media, but that hasn't been the primary distribution mechanism for a while (and I would expect that nearly all software these days doesn't even have an option for physical media).



There are massive differences. For example, in the Windows world you are allowed to find out who likes your stuff and build relationships with them.


Relationships? What are you talking about? I can't recall the last time I ever felt I had a "relationship" with a game developer, on _any_ platform. The only way I can meaningfully interpret your claim is by replacing "build relationships with them" to "and market directly to them", i.e. being able to email your customers with marketing messages. And I'm glad Apple doesn't give my email address to everyone I buy an app from.

The only other interpretation I can think of is "Apple doesn't let you respond to reviews on the app store", but the ability to respond to reviews is not an industry-wide expectation. I can't think of anywhere before the rise of mobile gaming that anyone considered the idea that a game developer should be able to respond to reviews.


> I can't recall the last time I ever felt I had a "relationship" with a game developer, on _any_ platform.

The original post here was on Spiderweb Software's forums, which have been around in some incarnation or another for over a decade and hosts a community that has built up around their games. This is a company that has always relied on a close relationship with its customers.


I would think jblow knows what he's talking about here, he's delivered at least one great game to the world (to me, Braid had the perfect difficulty ramp and an awesome level of inventiveness).

As a buyer on Steam actually I didn't feel I had a direct relationship with jblow as the developer, but I would have been very happy to receive his marketing material, especially if it was programming tips!

http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-5-tips-of-a-productive-dev...

(...looking forward to The Witness)


Compare and contrast the experience of buying an iPhone with the experience of buying an iPhone app.

When you buy an app, you are basically looking at sales sheets from people you don't know making claims you can't verify. The only way out is to go find reviews about the apps from blogs you can't trust.

Now think about buying an iPhone. I've owned an iPhone for 8 years. I know intimately the support experience. I know intimately the build quality. Software quality. Product lifecycle. When a new iPhone comes out I have basically all the information I need to make a purchasing decision, without ever laying eyes on the actual product. People who don't have that information can go to a retail store where they can try the product and talk with knowledgeable and friendly people about it, and many of them turn into me in 8 years.

I want to be able to create that kind of experience with my products. Because if smartphones were sold the way that apps are today I don't think many people would buy them.


If you sold your app for $600 I bet you could create that kind of experience. And if Apple sold phones for $2 you can bet the buying experience would be a lot different.


I completely disagree.


It's not about giving your email address to everyone (I wouldn't want that either), but it's about having the friction-free option of doing so. There are a number of game-makers for whom I absolutely want to be emailed when they make something new, because I love their stuff. That doesn't happen on iOS very easily.


Why not? Every app page has a link to the developer's site, and the developer's site can offer a way to subscribe to some sort of newsletter. And games often provide links in the game itself to view information about the game developer.

Edit: I recognize that it's not particularly common for developers to try and encourage users to sign up for some sort of marketing. But I think that's just because developers haven't really considered it to be an acceptable thing to ask users of their games for, rather than any actual difficulty in doing so.


In the ~17 years I've been involved in the Descent community online, I've had conversations with the developers of Descent 1, Descent 2, Descent 3, a project that was going to become Descent 4 until Interplay pulled support, and Descent:Underground (which just successfully kickstarted last week.) In particular, the Descent:Underground group is currently improving parts of their game based on conversations with me and others who play the older games.


I'm not sure what your point is. Are you trying to argue that it's impossible for iOS developers to form communities where they can talk to their users? Because that's obviously false. Are you trying to argue that PC game developers got such communities "for free"? Because that's also obviously false.


I'm addressing your comment that "form relationships" can only be meaningfully interpreted as something other than "relationships", by noting that I have formed actual worthwhile relationships with game developers in the past and present.

My comment does not address the rest of what you're saying (in particular, I don't care at all about iOS games or their app store), only that one point.


> Relationships? What are you talking about? I can't recall the last time I ever felt I had a "relationship" with a game developer, on _any_ platform.

iD/John Carmack, David Braben, Sid Meier, Rockstar, Volition, Gearbox Software... I could keep rattling off names and developers, but those are all examples of companies and individuals who have dedicated followings who follow them from game to game or platform to platform.


Yeah, you can follow companies, but "relationship" generally implies that it's reciprocal. A one-way "relationship" is called "stalking" ;) I don't really see why the App Store affects the ability for customers to choose to follow their favorite developers.


Because it commoditizes the product. Apple wants apps to be fungible and rapidly consumed and thrown away, and that does not lead to a real relationship with a producer. You have no reason to form a relationship with the provider of something that is placed, and consumed, on the same level as a Snickers bar.

Games on PCs, Valve's best efforts notwithstanding, are not yet so reduced.


There's plenty of incentive for Apple to make apps plentiful and easy to acquire, but I strongly disagree that there's any incentive for Apple to want apps to be fungible. Why would there be? This is a claim I've seen repeated a few times without any supporting evidence. And I can't think of any reason why Apple would want apps to be fungible (more-so than any other software platform, at least; there is an incentive for there to be competition within any given category, but that's not the same thing as having the apps actually be fungible).

There are a lot of people who like having tons of new games available to try for a few minutes or hours or days, and then throw them away. But the existence of those people / that market does not mean that there isn't also a market for games that people stick with for a long time, and that are sold and maintained for a long time.


> Yeah, you can follow companies, but "relationship" generally implies that it's reciprocal.

iD and Bungie both have a long history of heavy interaction with their customers. That's rolled off for iD, but Bungie's back-and-forward seems as lively as ever.


I'm still unclear on what part of the App Store makes it impossible for companies to engage with their customers. I've played many Bungie games, but nowhere in the purchase process for any of their games was I encouraged to form a relationship with the company. Any back-and-forth with companies happens in channels other than the retail channel; twitter, forums, websites, etc. I don't understand why selling on the App Store vs, say, PSN Store, or Xbox Live Arcade, or any of the numerous Windows PC retail channels, affects the ability to engage with customers in this fashion.


> I'm still unclear

Given you're fighting with actual, successful game developers as well as adopting a take-em-all-on style with everyone else I'm not sure you want to be clear.


> I can't recall the last time I ever felt I had a "relationship" with a game developer, on _any_ platform.

It was common many years ago. And some indie developers still engage their fans, solicit advice, etc...


I am talking about Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity, Broken age that happened ...

It is impossible on the AppStore ...


It's impossible to build a community of users if you publish on the App Store? That's nonsense. All 3 of those games are by known developers with a pre-existing fan base and all 3 have user communities that are distinct from their retail channels. There is no reason to believe that the retail channel must provide a user community in order for a user community to exist.


But you cannot kickstart an ios game because you don't know if you can deliver. Due to apple censorship.


Huh? There have been multiple successful kickstarted iOS games. The most high-profile is probably Republique (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/486250632/republique-by...). And I have no idea what you mean by "due to apple censorship".


jblow: So follow them on Twitter? Go to their website? Seriously, you're acting like a developer can never see the outside world after they sign the developer agreement.


It's about how much friction is imposed on what. As anyone designing a "funnel" for web purchasing (or whatever) will tell you, a little friction goes a LONG way.

Yes, of course you can go out of your way to get connected to the people making a game. But it's just harder to do that on iOS than on Windows, and this has consequences in terms of the viability of these platforms for small developers. (It is by no means the only factor. The race-to-zero pricing on iOS is probably a bigger factor.)


You mean iOS developers aren't allowed to do things like have Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, or host forums?


> The only real difference I can think of is when software was primarily distributed via physical media, but that hasn't been the primary distribution mechanism for a while

It was a major distribution medium until fairly recently, even if not primary. Heck, you can still go into lots of retailers and buy physical media for PC games.


For some games, yes. But not for most of them.




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