Mobile game developers have been breaking their heads over the lack of revenue on Android. Some developers even took drastic measures and quit developing for the platform entirely. But were they right in doing so? The scenery is changing and Google Play is starting to generate revenue. It’s still not close to the amount of money spent on iOS but every journey starts with a single step. And that step has been taken.

Google’s Ace

Google has played their next card and it is called carrier billing – a seamless method of payment, surpassing the ease of paying on iOS. Alas, I myself can’t use it yet. For now it’s only available in several countries and in those countries only for people who use certain providers. You can view the list of countries and providers here.

What is carrier billing?

Carrier billing is not even innovative. Before the dawn of the smartphones we now own I had a Sony Ericsson K700i. A great phone with which I was able to browse the internet at ridiculous prices and it also had a market where I could buy games and wallpapers. I paid for these using carrier billing. Meaning I would just select whatever I wanted to buy using some of those old fashioned keys you may remember, you know, with numbers on them and such. Thanks to carrier billing it just downloaded whatever I selected, not asking for a credit card number or anything. The purchase would just show up on my monthly phone bill. That’s carrier billing.

No credit card!

That’s right, no credit card! Finally! In Europe and Japan, credit cards aren’t quite as popular as in the USA and not owning one made the purchasing of games on Google Play complicated. I’m a 22 year old European. Why would I need a credit card? The only reason I can come up with is for Google Play. But not anymore. I can’t wait till carrier billing hits my country and my provider. I will clean out the Google Play store :-). I do realize though that this method is not ideal for everyone. Parents, for instance, may not be so thrilled about this. Specifically parents with children that are old enough to operate their father or mother’s smartphone and yet too young to realize the value of money. That might be problematic. For numerous other users though, it really lowers the threshold of paying. A lot.

“But developing for Android is hard and more expensive”

This is an argument my co-worker Yorick offered, showing me this TechCrunch article. A fair argument. I, however, read a different TechCrunch article stating that the problem is not that big of a problem at all. Sure, there’s a lot of Android devices. But most of them are hardly being used. “A subset of roughly 20 devices makes up about 80 percent of the volume for Android, so the problem is more manageable than one might suspect. Similarly, more than 90 percent of Android devices are addressed by supporting OS version 2.2 and later.” That’s what my TechCrunch article says. Sure, it’s not 100% and you’ll still piss some people off because they won’t be able to run your game. But this is only a small percentage of Android users. If these people happen to download your game just reimburse them (provided that they paid for your game). It’s as simple as that. I also introduced Yorick to this man, who raises a fair counterargument as well. So, stop whining and get cracking. There’s demand for high-end mobile games on Google Play as well. More on this in the next paragraph.

Talk is cheap

And right you are. How about some numbers then? There’s this brilliant blog post called ‘Treat Android as a first-class citizen… It’ll pay off!‘ by TinyCo. They developed a game called Tiny Village and shared their experiences about releasing it on 3 different app stores (iOS, Google Play and Amazon). Over all devices TinyCo made 65 cents on Google Play for every dollar they made on iTunes and they expect this gap to shrink.

In this article there’s another example of TripleTown that made 67 cents on Google Play for every dollar it made on iTunes. You may already have connected the dots: These are both freemium games. This isn’t surprising as 68 of the top 100 grossing UK Android apps are freemium games. Not only on Android though. Freemium games have been taking over in general for a while now. As you can see in the image below, it’s also become a more and more popular way of driving revenue on iOS.

App Store top 100 Grossing Games

Google Pay

It’s time we get rid of the outdated notion that Android-users are unwilling to pay for games. If you want to drive revenue on Google Play, get on board now! And the best way to do this is with a freemium game of high quality. Unfortunately Paladin’s new game, Momonga, is not going to be a freemium game. But I guess we’ll see how it will fare on the new and improved Google Play. It is to be expected that the gap between total revenue generated on iOS and the total revenue generated on Google Play will be shrinking. And you don’t want to be late to that party, do you?

What do you think? Are you jumping on the Android bandwagon or will you keep focusing on iOS?


– Peter

P.S. After having Yorick proofread this blog post he told me carrier billing was going to hit the Netherlands soon as well. He was right, on May 26th 1 provider announced they would soon allow carrier billing. And lucky me… that’s my provider :-).