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Gamezebo.com | Mobile exclusives are the next big thing, says WSJ

21 April 2014

When he’s right, he’s right. Back in January, Gamezebo founder Joel Brodie made a bold prediction: Apple and Google would start pushing companies for exclusives on mobile games, in the same way that Microsoft and Sony do in the console space. This weekend, the Wall Street Journal released a feature that suggests Joel’s assumption is now well underway.

“The two Silicon Valley giants have been wooing game developers to ensure that top-tier game titles arrive first on devices powered by their respective operating system,” WSJ reports, citing sources close to the situation.

When you have only two big players, though, I suppose a situation like this is an inevitability. Especially when both seem equally matched in appeal for developers. Apple might be less effected by piracy, and developers may see more success with paid games as a result, but the install base of Android dwarfs what Apple is doing on a global scale. If you’re not sure who to develop for first, being courted by either Google or Apple for an exclusive might make that decision a whole lot easier.

“When people love a game, and it’s not available on an alternate platform, they’ll change platforms,” Kogregate’s Emily Greer told WSJ. “The level of attachment a person has to a game can exceed almost anything.”

If Greer is right, there are two elements at play that makes exclusives even more important on mobile than consoles: the nature of ownership and product life cycle. With a new Xbox or PlayStation only happening every 5-7 years, the worst Sony has to worry about is someone buying an Xbox as well, becoming a two console household in the process. With new phones coming out on a yearly cycle and people typically owning just one such device, Apple has to worry about losing a long-term customer.

And yes, I realize the irony of typing this with a Nexus 7 to my left and an iPhone 5S to my right. Having said that, I think we can all agree that technophiles like yours truly are the exception rather than the rule.

The question is no longer “is this happening?,” but “how can I make this happen for my game?”

That’s a question that still doesn’t have a very clear answer. By its very nature, an exclusive is more valuable if it’s from one of the big players (or at the very least, a proven mobile franchise). Both Cut the Rope 2 and Plants vs. Zombies 2 were timed exclusives for Apple, and eachs seem to fit snuggly in those parameters.

And while no one is saying it, I’m going to bet that Hearthstone’s iPad-only tablet nature right now is likely the result of a similar deal.

There are other elements at play that might give you an edge — Game Insight tells WSJ that they were able to get a feature by incorporating Android-brand items in a game — but I suppose the real starting point for all of these is to have a good relationship with Apple or Google in the first place.