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Android Software IT News

Amazon App Store 'Rotten To the Core,' Says Dev 346

Posted by Soulskill
from the peer-pressure dept.
suraj.sun sends an excerpt from this post made by a developer who decided to try out Amazon's App Store, only to be disappointed with the experience: "Amazon's biggest feature by far, has been their Free App Of The Day promotion. Publicly their terms say that they pay developers 20% of the asking price of an app, even when they give it away free. To both consumers and naive developers alike, this seems like a big chance to make something rare in the Android world: real money. But here's the dirty secret Amazon don't want you to know, they don't pay developers a single cent. ... Amazon is being predatory here, and asking developers (who are often desperate for exposure) to give away their app, in order to promote Amazon. In the end we agreed that we had entered the world of Android development as an experiment, and it would seem silly not to add more data to the experiment we were conducting. The day of our promotion came: ... Amazon gave away 101,491 copies of our app! At this point, we had a few seconds of excitement as well; had we mis-read the email and really earned $54,800 in one day? We would have done if our public agreement was in place, but we can now confirm that thanks to Amazon's secret back-door deals, we made $0 on that day. That's right, over 100,000 apps given away, $0 made."
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Amazon App Store 'Rotten To the Core,' Says Dev

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  • 100,000 apps ... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:41PM (#36965968)

    100,000 apps were given away to people who would have ignored your app and gone for someone else's free app if yours wasn't free.

    If your app is worth anything, you just earned more than 100k word of mouth sales at ${full_price}.

  • by fish waffle (179067) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:45PM (#36966024)

    you just earned more than 100k word of mouth sales at ${full_price}.

    Maybe, but that's offset by 100k apps worth of support paid for by $0 in income. From TFA, in their case, 300 emails/day, and no subsequent increase in sales.

  • by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:47PM (#36966060)

    Amazon told them in advance that they would get 0% of revenue (which would be $0, anyway). Amazon repeated this when they asked for confirmation. They recieved $0.

    The only problem is an apparent error in the reporting which stated $54,800 in revenue on $0 of sales. But that is the only contradiction here.

    Is this a good deal for developers? I don't know. Is Amazon screwing developers out of promised revenue with "secret back-door deals"? I see no evidence here.

  • Re:math is hard (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:49PM (#36966080)

    No, that isn't how it's supposed to work. On Amazon App Store, the developer is supposed to get either 70% of the sale price, or 20% of the asking price, i.e full price, whichever is higher. Amazon will often sell apps at a discount. That means if the list price for your app is $4.99, than amazon owes you at least $1, even if they decide to sell the app for $0.99. If they sell it at $4.99, you get $3.50. You are giving Amazon the right to set the selling price to whatever they want, in exchange for a small guaranteed cut at any price. This can be advantageous, because Amazon could adjust prices until it finds the most profitable point. Selling at 50% off list price is a good idea if you can sell three times as many copies that way.

  • Biased Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrb (1083577) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:50PM (#36966086)

    The summary implies that the developers didn't know that they would get no money. The article makes it clear that they not only were told they would get nothing, but they confirmed in subsequent emails with Amazon that they would get nothing. Knowing this, they still decided to go ahead with the deal.

    The Amazon emails have a good point:

    The Free App of the Day promotion is the most valuable and visible spot in the store. It hosted the launch of the likes of Angry Birds Rio, Plants v. Zombies and more. Amazon will not receive any sales rev share from the Free App of the Day; and in fact, with as the Free of the Day for one day, you will receive a subsequent Appstore main page placement for the following 14 days. All these highly valuable placements are at no cost to you. We want to promote your app and in exchange of the placements, at the 0% rev share for one day only.

    Being "Free app of the day" is a huge advert for your app - and adverts have a cost. Being app of the day is optional - not mandatory - the developers in question could have said no. And the cost is not 101,491 copies of your app - that's RIAA accounting. The majority of downloaders will try your app once and then never use it again. Some may continue to use it, and when they do, if you're smart you'll figure out a way to monetise their usage (e.g. charge for version 2, offer premium feature updates etc.).

    thanks to Amazon's secret back-door deals, we made $0 on that day.

    Amazon also made $0 that day (from your app). You agreed to the deal. It gave your app enormous exposure. You didn't lose 101,491 sales, because the vast majority of those people would never have bought your app anyway.

  • The distributors (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:51PM (#36966100)

    Amazon, google, apple, microsoft and all the other big players control the market for apps. This is a very bad position for individual developers because it means that to get a foothold in the market, they need to be a part of one of them.

    Is the moral of the story to read the contract, No. The moral is to stop feeding these companies and stop them from being able to command the market.

    I really hope tech people realise this soon else we can safely say that we asked for this state of affairs to come about.

    Please please please, stop giving your hard work away to these monsters just so they can grow bigger. Seriously, what else do they do apart from get bigger? It is us as individuals that do all the innovating, not them, they just pick up our innovations and run away with them. They are leaches!

    How about we start distributing our hard work ourselves?

  • Re:Facts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:54PM (#36966128)

    The old version of Amazon's agreement stated that developers would receive 20% of the original price when an app was given away for free. Then they changed it, and they didn't make it clear to developers. For many of them it was a nasty surprise. Unfortunately I can't find the original, but the new version is here https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/mobile-apps/devportal/pdf/Appstore_Distribution_Agreement.pdf [ssl-images-amazon.com] with the added sentence "No Royalty is payable for Apps with a List Price of $0.00." in Section 2(a).

    It's amazing how many problems and complaints would be solved if every ToS, EULA, and online agreement required some kind of electronic signature to be valid. It should be something that would take more than a quick mouse-click to apply. Also if any amendments to existing agreements had to come with a statement to the effect of, "The amended agreement is identical to the previous one in every way, except the following:" which could be covered in a couple of paragraphs, rather than reading tens of pages of legalese to find what has changed.

    The entire notion of a contract or agreement is that both parties fully understand it and both parties voluntarily agree to it. The fact that most people neither read nor understand most agreements and EULAs and ToS's means that this system is failing and needs to be changed. Unless of course we are prepared to reject the idea of informed, voluntary consent to mutually satisfying agreements. Anyone who wants to reject that notion should understand that your alternative is the law of the jungle.

  • Re:math is hard (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) * on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:55PM (#36966142)

    So you don't think it's fishy how Amazon publicly advertises 20% even for free apps? And in the screenshot, Amazon told them they received $54,805.14 in earnings that day? As stated in the article's comments section, the terms are confusing and fuzzy.

  • Re:iOS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @05:56PM (#36966152)

    This has absolutely nothing to do with Android. These are Amazon's App Store's terms and conditions. I find it amusing that you talk about "Android fanboys" when your Apple fanboyism is very evident.

    Grow up, and get your facts right.

  • Re:math is hard (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:03PM (#36966222)

    So you don't think it's fishy how Amazon publicly advertises 20% even for free apps? And in the screenshot, Amazon told them they received $54,805.14 in earnings that day? As stated in the article's comments section, the terms are confusing and fuzzy.

    Not to mention that it takes more effort to make them confusing and fuzzy than it would to make them simple and clear. While it proves nothing, it strongly suggests that this is intentional.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:05PM (#36966238)

    A company Amazon's size shouldn't have issues in clearly communicating the terms of the deal. Every email was poorly worded, and then they turned around and showed a profit of 54K when none was actually there. This smacks of the same sort of deals that record companies make. They prey on the new artists who need exposure and don't realize their own worth.

    Making excuses from Amazon doesn't change the fact that it's a dirty tactic.

  • Re:Hmmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzytv (2108482) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:09PM (#36966262)

    You mean you need a lawyer for everything? washing a car, eating a donut, doing basic math etc.?

    Becaue the article is not about law or signing a contract. It's about the fact that Amazon describes the promotion as "20% for the developers" but in reality they make deals with the developers so that they pay them 0%. Yes, both sides obviously have enough brain cells to be responsible for their actions, so it's their fault they've signed the deal. But the article is not a whining about this - it's a warning to the other developers and to the public that those 20% is just a virtual reality.

  • Re:Biased Summary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:09PM (#36966264)

    thanks to Amazon's secret back-door deals, we made $0 on that day.

    Amazon also made $0 that day (from your app). You agreed to the deal. It gave your app enormous exposure. You didn't lose 101,491 sales, because the vast majority of those people would never have bought your app anyway.

    To be fair, Amazon profited by using this "free app of the day" to attract people to the Amazon Appstore. I had always thought that the developer was profiting financially from Amazon when they offered an app as the free app of the day. Apparently, they do not compensate the developer except that they feature them on the main page and then give them priority placement for a week afterwards. However, they seem to be able to set the price to whatever they want for that week afterwards. The author says that they discounted their app for a few days afterwards to 99 cents when it had the priority placement.

  • by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @06:41PM (#36966540)

    Yes, and the article says that they saw this, asked Amazon about it, Amazon confirmed that it was 0, and they decided to do it anyway because they wanted more data points for their Android developing experiment. They didn't misread anything. They knew they were getting screwed, wanted to know how badly, and then wrote about it.

    Stories like this have been circulating lately about sites like Groupon/Living Social, etc, where the company (Amazon in this case) promises the world as far as exposure and sales, but then when you sign up for the promotion, you discover that you lose money hand over fist, and the business doesn't really pick up on the back side of the promo. A lot of small businesses have gotten in trouble by signing up for stuff like this.

    Seems to me these guys were testing Amazon to see if the same could happen there, and then reported that it can.

  • by salesgeek (263995) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @07:15PM (#36966818) Homepage

    OK, you got a glass of unsweetened lemon juice. Here is how you put some sugar and water in to make it taste better:

    Time to come out with a pay-only upgrade. You have 100,000 users. If you charge just $1, you have a chunk coming your way, depending on how many upgrade.

    Done in one.

    Oh, and this is why apps should always have a way for the developer to message the user with a link. This way if you get sick of the market that distributes your app, you can tell you users to "Get super awesome app 2 here (links to app store that isn't the one you are mad at)."

    Finally, you can use the same in app message feature to tell your users about your other apps.

    Or you can go sulk about your 100,000 user new customer base. It's up to you.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @07:20PM (#36966858)

    The developers were told that they'd get no income from the giveaway.
    The developers asked Amazon for confirmation that they'd get no money.
    Amazon responded that yes, they would get no money.
    The developers decided to give their app away regardless.
    The developers were upset that they then got no money.
    The developers decided to bitch and moan about it.

    Cry me a river.

    And where is the evidence that they didn't see increased sales from this? Where is the evidence that Amazon refuses to let developers publicly discuss the terms -- especially considering that this dev is publicly discussing the terms?

  • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @11:55PM (#36968656)

    The developers were told that they'd get no income from the giveaway.
    The developers asked Amazon for confirmation that they'd get no money.
    Amazon responded that yes, they would get no money.
    The developers decided to give their app away regardless.
    The developers were upset that they then got no money.
    The developers decided to bitch and moan about it.

    They thought it was a raw deal afterwards, came to their conclusion and quit the Amazon Store. Then they issued a nice article warning others and explaining their reasons. What's not to like ?

    And where is the evidence that they didn't see increased sales from this? Where is the evidence that Amazon refuses to let developers publicly discuss the terms -- especially considering that this dev is publicly discussing the terms?

    RTFA : "Did the exposure count for much in the days afterwards? That’s also a big no, the day after saw a blip in sales, followed by things going back to exactly where we started, selling a few apps a day." Also they added a graph of sales to the article as proof (see update 2 in TFA)

    Where is the evidence that Amazon refuses to let developers publicly discuss the terms -- especially considering that this dev is publicly discussing the terms?

    You want proof people are being told not to discuss the terms from the people who are being told not to discuss them but doubt the person who did come forward ?
    Let Amazon issue a clear denial.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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