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Everyone is keenly aware of the iOS App Store where, at the end of October, Apple reportedly achieved two milestones -- over 300,000 apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad were listed and more than 7 billion downloads had been recorded.
That's a lot of competition for developers who may not have considered selling their games elsewhere on one of the less-familiar but still very successful "app stores."
For example, on Google's Android Market where a leaner 100,000-plus Android apps reside. That's up from 60,000 in May, with an average 5,000-plus added weekly. Approximately 15 percent are games (although the company would not give a more specific breakout).
Or the Ovi Store where the daily number of app downloads for Nokia smartphones just topped 3 million.
And then there's the platform-agnostic GetJar which provides more than 60,000 mobile apps across all the major handset platforms and where the daily download rate is similar to the Ovi Store's.
All three stores are eagerly welcoming game submissions as evidenced by recent interviews with corporate spokespeople.
Android devices especially are enjoying a growth spurt -- over 200,000 are activated daily, double the number just six months ago. But, admits Eric Chu, game developers have been asking for native access to more parts of the system.
And so, this week Android is unveiling Version 2.3 of its platform, says Chu, with approximately half its new capabilities specifically targeted at game developers. Chu is group manager, Android development ecosystem.
Android 2.3 is said to enable smoother animation and increased responsiveness among other enhancements. The SDK is available immediately to developers and Chu expects that devices will be shipping with the updated platform "over the next quarter or so."
"We're trying to make the game developers' lives easier by allowing them to bring over existing native code with little work... and that should definitely increase interest in Android as a platform for gaming," he explains.
Chu emphasizes the fact that the 26-month-old Android Market is "an open marketplace, not a store or a reseller, meaning that it is structured to create an open distribution system for developers to make their games available to users. We don't get in the way of testing or validating whether an application is good enough to be listed."
Developers who submit games to the Android Market aren't slowed by a certification process, he adds. The games are immediately available to users worldwide. If a developer subsequently finds a bug, they fix it, resubmit the game, and the updated version is posted.
"Developers don't have to worry that when they start building a game that it may not get approved," Chu says. "If they go to our web site and look at our content policy, if they follow that policy, they should know that we won't arbitrarily block their game from being available to their customers.
"That is very, very important when looking at making an investment in a platform. You want to be certain that you'll have the ability to distribute it."
According to Android's rev share policy, developers get 70 percent, carriers get almost 30 percent, and Android "keeps a small percentage to cover a portion of the transaction costs," Chu notes. "The Android Market is really an investment on our part to make certain that the Android ecosystem has an open distribution model for developers and users."
In-app billing is not yet supported but, "when it is introduced soon," he adds, "there will be the same revenue split."
Developers interested in posting games on the Android Market are urged to go to the Android Market Web site, download the free SDK, "and start playing around with it," says Chu. "Technical help and information is available on our developer page and in various forums. After you finish building your game, you pay a $25 fee, you submit your game, and you're done. It's as simple as that."
Gamers who are unaware of the Android Market become enlightened as soon as they turn on their Android device which comes with the Market pre-bundled. While not all Android devices share the same features and capabilities, the Market is smart enough to do the proper filtering so that, for example, phones without keyboards will only list games that don't require keyboards.
"It's very easy to find games in the Android Market," says Chu. "You just click on the tab for 'games' and you can see all the different subcategories. Our ranking algorithm is a bit more sophisticated than relying solely on the number of downloads a game receives. At the request of many developers, it looks at downloads and it also looks at whether people are actually keeping the game on their device plus a variety of other factors."