If you're trying to make money, dump your iPhone strategy

While I know that there are thousands of apps you can buy for your iPhone/iPod touch, I've never actually met anyone who's ever bought one. I guess I only know people who buy a couple games, download a dozen more for free, trial a couple of free apps they immediately get bored with, then give the whole thing to their kid.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a contrarian argument. If you're trying to make money selling consumer games and apps, it's time to dump your iPhone strategy and march straight back to the cellular phone carriers and beg them to take you back.

Allow me to introduce myself. I own the WirelessDeveloper Agency, perhaps better known as WDA. My role in the industry is to provide services to mobile publishers: distribution, production, marketing, etc. If my publishers aren't making money, I'm not making money.

I deal with the serious people, the ones who are actually trying to make a living selling mobile content. They're not "developers" who create game knock-offs or user-submitted-wallpaper apps. No, these people actually pay for licenses, build quality product, QA the heck out of it and pay to market it. They need to make a return on their investment because they have families to support.

I had a sinking feeling when the iPhone first launched. I declared that each AT&T customer who bought one was taking a "poison pill." One less active Media Mall customer. I prayed that it would flop, but it didn't.

I instinctively knew what would happen to mobile publishers if the iPhone took off. Pretty much the same thing that happened to the record labels when the iPod launched. Almost instantly, Apple became their most lucrative digital storefront for music, but at the same time homogenized pricing and killed the album business. ITunes is paradox; it's both a blessing and a curse for the music industry.

I'm a Scrabble fan and I've bought the game several times for mobile. Once for my Treo 650, again for my BlackBerry Pearl, and then again for my iPhone. I'm pretty sure I paid $19.95 and $14.95 the first two times (though that may not be exactly right; it's been awhile). But I do know, for sure, that I just bought EA's version of Scrabble for my iPhone for a measly $5.99. That's a beautiful game by EA, polished, error-free, easy-to-use, fun and absolutely gorgeous. I should have paid $24.95 for that game and been happy about it! Instead, EA had to sell it to me for $5.99. What a shame.

Apple has done it again--price homogenization. Intense market-speed pressure, fueled by fierce and open competition to get to the 99-cent hit game. You can't even tell a good one from a bad one. Look for a decent chess game someday and you'll see what I mean. The ratings are useless because the "developers" all simultaneously praise their own products and trash their competition as part of their launch strategy.

It's a giant digital flea market...Continued

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