Lose Your Phone, Lose Your Games: A Stingy Strategy That's Suicide for Multiplatform Sales [UPDATE]

Last Updated Jun 1, 2010 6:00 AM EDT

UPDATE: Based on public response, Gameloft has agreed to revise the policy in the near future. Good call.

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One of the biggest third-party mobile game companies is setting a dangerous precedent with its apps. According to Pocket Gamer UK, Gameloft is not allowing Android headset users to redownload their software if the phone is lost, stolen or destroyed. The Android app store allows backup, but customers are on their own if they want the 10 titles only available through the Gameloft website. Your strategy is in trouble if Apple (APPL) seems more forgiving of its customers than you are.

Mark Brown from Pocket Gamer UK:

If you lose your Android handset, accidentally wipe its memory or simply upgrade to a more powerful 'droid phone, you'll lose your Gameloft games.

That's the rub you get when you sell games outside the Android's official marketplace. It's totally kosher, and a boon for Android users who can't access the store from their device or country, but it does come with its drawbacks.... "One purchase entitles you to one download of the game to one phone number and on one phone model only." Which means if your Gameloft game leaves your Android for any reason, it'll never get back on unless you cough up and pay again.

This doesn't affect the games available through the official Android Marketplace, which all come with the Android's system-wide policy for re-downloading games.

Unfortunately, the developer's recent spate of 3D games, including N.O.V.A., aren't on the marketplace, meaning you'll have to go through Gameloft's own site and take your chances.

It is a short-sighted precedence to set and wise companies wouldn't follow the example. It ignores several truths in today's marketplace:
  • Multiple platforms: Apple has a similarly stingy policy when it comes to digital music, but an app purchase is tied to the user's account, which can be accessed on multiple platforms. Buy an app on your iPhone and it can be downloaded online through your iPod or iPad as well. With a Google Tablet right around the corner, the narrow "one user one model" strategy will get tiresome quick.
  • Higher priced Android games: Less restricted by competition, the average Android game costs more than its Apple counterpart. To quote TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld, "Games are on average about the same as on the iPhone, around $2.50. But if you look at the price distribution, that tells you a different story. While most of the top paid games on the iPhone go for $0.99, on Android many more games are priced between $1.99 and $4.99."
  • Increasingly costly games: Mobile games on the whole are becoming more sophisticated, which means more development time and, as a result, higher price tags. Pocket Gamer mentions 10 DRM-encrypted games that, if one were to purchase all of them at $4.99, would cost almost $50.
  • Multiple Android phones: With dozens of Android phones expected by year's end, Google mobile users will probably be upgrading, swapping and purchasing multiple phones. How does this DRM plan make sense in this environment? It doesn't.
At this point, Gameloft should either let go of the DRM control or beef up its Android app store presence and totally drop selling on its own website -- especially when Google's multiplatform dreams are already coming to fruition.

Photo courtesy of bahkubean Related: