How Not To Sell Android Apps

There’s a firm selling what look like first-rate Android games. However, they are selling them outside of the Android Market. In principle, this is a fine decision. In practice, this firm — who I will refer to as “Deep Game” to protect the guilty — is a textbook case of how not to sell Android apps.

FAIL #1: If you are going to have a “Buy” button, clicking it should do something. This may seem patently obvious, but not to Deep Game. On their site, clicking the Buy button has no impact, except if you go and set up an account. At minimum, clicking a Buy button should at least pop up a message pointing out any prerequisites to purchase (e.g., being logged in).

FAIL #2: If you are going to have a FAQ, have it be well-written and accurate. Again, this may seem patently obvious, but Deep Game has difficulty with the obvious. When trying in vain to actually get a Buy button to work, I meandered into their FAQ. They have a delightfully pertinent question (“How do I buy a game from…”). Their answer is gibberish, referring to things that do not exist on their site (“settings screen”) or are not relevant to an Android device (“WAP enabled”).

FAIL #3: Do not collect unnecessary private information…until (and unless) it becomes necessary. Their registration form requires a birthdate. It is entirely possible this will be necessary for some games, if they are “Rated M for Mature”, or whatever. However, that information will not be needed until and unless somebody goes and requests to download a game that requires an age filter. Collecting it up front may simplify coding, but it opens Deep Game up to privacy issues, particulary since they do not provide any way to opt-out of that data being stored. This is exacerbated by…

FAIL #4: If you are going to collect unnecessary private information, don’t do it twice. Having created an account and having clicked on the now-magically-working Buy button, I am prompted to provide my birth date again. Even for games that should have no age restrictions, like a soccer (a.k.a., football) game.

FAIL #5: If you are going to have multiple Buy buttons on a page, have all of them work, or at least have the bigger one work. Visit the page for the soccer game, and its Buy button fails to respond, even if I am logged in. However, in their Flash grid of ten games, the Buy buttons work.

FAIL #6: Do not impose device models or carriers. By default, Android games come up with a graphic representation of the Motorola DROID. This is a fine choice as an image, since it’s the most popular Android 2.x device in the US. However, if you try buying a game, it forces you to be working with Verizon…because it is trying to have you buy the game for a DROID. You have to go through a whole separate signup process to register a phone, culled from an incomplete list of phones. Moreover, you have to have a phone number and you have to have a carrier. So, even though I wanted to buy a game to put on an HTC Evo 4G I received at Google I|O, I can’t, because that phone is not on their roster of devices and I’m not going to have Sprint service after another 29 days (unless I take on a third mobile contract, which does not excite me).

Suffice it to say, Deep Game did not get any of my money.

And, of course, Deep Game is going to say it is doing all of this to stem the tide of piracy, despite the fact that their own site is costing them sales. They might make more money by having a sensible purchase model (pay your money, get your APK), even if that makes it easy for a pirate to get their hands on it. After all, a pirate with a rooted phone can get to the APK anyway, so why put roadblocks up for the people who want to give you money?

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