July 24, 2012

Why Mad Finger’s Android Market Understanding might have been wrong

So two days ago Madfinger Games just made their new game Dead Trigger free . They cited extremely high levels of piracy in the Android ecosystem. The game was initially 1$ with in-app purchases.

There are a lot of things that come into play when you try to explain why the piracy rate is so high in Android. It’s not like iOS apps are not pirated. If you jail break your iPhone you get an option to side load apps. Its not as easy when compared to Android though.

What one really needs to understand is that both the platforms cater to vastly different markets. While the iPhone is doing great if not dominant in most developed countries, Android obliterates all other smart phone platforms in the emerging nations. It’s market share in China is almost 70% , in India its over 50%. iOS on the other hand has only 17% market share in China . I am not too sure of iOS’s market share in India but my best guess is its around 5%. These are the two largest mobile markets in the world. Most other emerging nations have the same ratio of Android to iOS devices. In short lot of Android’s users come from developing nations, a stark contrast to the iOS where most of the users are in the developed countries.

What one must realize are the buying capacities of both the markets are different, where its easy for someone in the US to buy an application worth a few dollars as an impulse buy in a country like India most people think twice as its a relatively larger investment. This is not even factoring that most of the emerging markets are primarily driven by prepaid accounts as banking & credit card penetration is low. Bluntly most of users of the Android Platform think harder before buying an app and some might not be in a position to buy apps, which from their point of view is an expensive app. Its nothing new in most developing countries piracy is high in every sector.

That being said Book sellers probably knew this, which is why they printed “Eastern Economy Editions” of many books. These editions can be up to 90% cheaper than their US counter parts on Amazon. Recently FlipKart and Indian e-retailer started selling Music online, and if you have an Indian credit card you can buy a Justin Bieber song for 0.25 $ instead of paying 0.99$ on Amazon.  These multiple price models have been successful in making sales. In short you can’t expect to have a single global sales strategy. Its has to be catered to the country so that the general population is able to consume your service and not find a way to pirate it.

Now if you add up 2 & 2 you can understand that you need to have a different selling strategy for Android and iOS and the two Markets are inherently different. Don’t expect to have massive sales of a 1$ app in a country like Nigeria which the number of people who have bank accounts is less than 10%.  Most users in these markets are more than happy to have ads in their apps if allows them to consume your app.

Also note what making their game free did to the number of downloads of Dead Trigger. At half a million active installs, well placed & non intrusive ads in their game would have made them a lot of money.

Disclaimer : I work for a mobile ads company vserv.mobi .