Jun 06 AT 1:32 PM Guest Blogger 30 Comments

Dev asks: Is it worth listing your apps on the Amazon Appstore?

Editor’s Note: From time to time, we like to invite independent developers to share their experiences working in various areas of the Android ecosystem. This is one of those times. Find more information about today’s guest author and indie game dev, Ziggy, at the end of the post.

I got into Android game development right around the time Amazon launched their Android Appstore. There’s been a lot of buzz around this service — Angry Birds Rio for free, the daily free app, the Popcap exclusives, the lawsuits with Apple. And, seemingly, they are doing some nice things. If you take a look at the Amazon Appstore page for a game like Plants vs. Zombies or Angry Birds Rio, they’re very well done. Much nicer than the corresponding pages on the Google Android Market. So that’s good. But what are they doing for smaller developers?

I’ve been watching how things are progressing, and I’m not too thrilled with what I’m seeing.

You may have heard some negative press around their Terms of Service. I read up on this topic, but I decided not to worry about it. At the time I only had one free game that I’d created. I didn’t expect I’d be cranking out games people would be lining up to buy… not for some time anyway. Also, the $99 developer fee was waived for the first year as an incentive to get developers to sign up. So, I signed up. There was really nothing to lose.

I listed sCatter on the Google and Amazon markets at about the same time. The Google listing went live immediately, and saw modest interest. After the initial “Just In” spike died down, I’ve seen about 20-50 new users a day with a little over 2000 total downloads so far. On Amazon, I waited for the game to be approved. Once it was approved, I waited about a week for it to go live. Finally, I sent Amazon an email and the game went live. Someone did write a nice description for the game, which was better than what I could have done. However, it’s been live for about a month and I’ve had 16 downloads.

OK, sCatter was my first game. Maybe it was a crappy game. But when I released Bus Jumper on the Google and Amazon markets at the same time, I went through the same ridiculous process with Amazon. I waited for it to get reviewed, waited to no avail for the listing to go live and had to send an email before it finally did. And this time, the description consisted of a paltry 3 bullet points, 2 of which were wrong. I ended up reviewing my own game just to correct the errors in the listing. It took another email to get the description fixed.

How’s this game doing? On the Google market it crossed 10,000 downloads last week — not earth-shattering by any stretch, but not too shabby either. On Amazon, it’s had about 50 downloads.

What about paid apps? I created an ad-free version of Bus Jumper and listed that on both markets. 10 downloads on Google, 0 downloads on Amazon.

For a small developer like me, what am I getting from the Amazon Appstore? Not a whole lot that I can see. I obviously don’t expect the same level of service they give Rovio and Popcap, but I don’t have any control over what gets put on the product page. I’m at the mercy of Amazon’s writers, who in my experience don’t always do a great job. And on top of that, I’m not really seeing what Amazon is doing to promote my games that’s worth $99/year. The “New Releases” link on the front redirects to “Hot New Releases.” And, as far as I can tell, there’s no equivalent of Google’s “Just In” category where every app has a chance to get noticed.

Then there’s the question of which apps are actually selling. Almost everyone I know with an Android phone regularly checks the Amazon free app of the day and downloads it, if it’s interesting. But almost no one has bought or even downloaded anything else from the Amazon Appstore. There isn’t any reason to, since the same apps are available on the Google store. What does this mean for developers? Well, I did a little research.

Let’s take a random Amazon app of the day — Talking Tom Cat. The paid app is doing well on the Google market with 100,000 — 500,000 installs and 18,000+ reviews. How is this doing on Amazon? It was listed on the Amazon market in January. It was the Amazon free app on April 3rd. Out of 208 total reviews, there are 3 reviews from before April 3rd, which says it probably didn’t sell much until it was picked to be the free app. Of 21 pages of reviews, 19 contain reviews posted between April 3rd and 7th, most likely written by those who downloaded the game the day it was free. After that the reviews peter out again, with 4 reviews in all of May.

So, what’s happening here? I would guess that Talking Tom Cat made very little money before or after April 3rd. On April 3rd, it got a huge number of downloads. And since Amazon’s TOS says they will pay you 20% of your list price if they discount the app, the developer made some money that day. I expect they, ironically, made more money the day their app was given away than all the days it was listed for 99c combined.

I checked a few other apps, and it’s the same story. Good downloads on Google, zero or very few reviews on Amazon. Then the day it becomes the free app, bam, lots of reviews that die down to nothing in a few days.

That seems to be the way to make money on the Amazon Appstore. Write a good app and hope it gets picked to be the free app of the day. Amazon has been skimming the cream off the top. But pretty soon they’ll run out of really high quality apps to run as the daily promotion. At that point, some of the smaller developers will have a chance at getting their app selected. And I think that is already happening to some extent.

But here’s some more relevant news — Amazon is now discounting prices on previous free apps. What does this mean? I think it means that the apps didn’t do as well as Amazon had hoped after the promotion. Lots of downloads on the free day, but after that, not so much.

What does this mean for Amazon and the Appstore? Sure, this is building buzz, but are they making any money off the daily free apps? I don’t see how. Also, I think this is solidifying customer behavior. People just download the daily free app and not much else. Now I’m just a software developer, and I’m sure there are smart marketing people at Amazon who have a plan all figured out. But I can’t really see what that plan could be. Their blog post today talked about Plants vs. Zombies and brand stores for big publishers like Popcap. It ended with this comment:

“Brand Stores are appropriate for bigger vendors. That said, we are constantly working to showcase lesser known vendors and their apps on the Amazon Appstore and other Amazon.com destinations. We are doing this through promotions, targeted emails, promotions on related items’ pages, and more. We are dedicated to helping expose small developers’ apps.

So why do we keep banging the drum with these big vendors and better known apps? It’s simple — we think that by giving our customers exclusive content, great deals, and the brands they know and love, we’ll be able to drive more traffic to the Amazon Appstore and inherently to every app in the Amazon Appstore.”

Well, that’s a good sentiment, and I hope they back that up with some action. Otherwise, once my $99 developer fee comes due in a year, I don’t think I’ll be renewing my membership.

This post was written by Ziggy, of Ziggy’s Games. As noted above, Ziggy is an independent developer with two releases in both the Android Market and the Amazon App Store. You can learn more about him on his site or by following him on Twitter.
From time to time we invite guest bloggers to contribute articles about various Android topics. This is one of those times...

    Most Tweeted This Week

  • http://Website MrChaz

    The app that I have I’ve tested the Amazon marketplace is actually better doing better day to day than the Google market version.
    That said I still have had more downloads on Google’s version – it’s a little hard to tell because Amazon doesn’t give you a currently installed count.

  • http://Website Farshooter

    One thing to remember, AT&T doesn’t allow 3rd party apps yet so this could explain SOME of the lack of downloads from Amazon.

    One of the things that keeps me coming back to Amazon for my app purchases/downloads is because you can use the apps across multiple devices. I have a T-Bolt and a Xoom, both with the Amazon App Store installed and signed in with the same account, same with my Google account. With Amazon, I can purchase an app and install it on both devices which I have yet to see with Google.

    If I could purchase an app on Google and have it available on all my Android devices, I wouldn’t look for apps on Amazon beyond the free app of the day or other exclusives.

    • http://Website ChaosKiller

      Well you talk about AT&T not allowing 3rd party apps, don’t forget that the Amazon Appstore is US only. Small userbase in the appstore…

    • http://jim.nuttz.org JIm Nutt

      Odd, I buy stuff all the time from the Google Market and put it on both the Droid and my Thunderbolt. It’s always just worked.

  • http://jim.nuttz.org Jim Nutt

    One huge problem I’ve had as an Amazon App Store customer is the need for the apps to phone home on a regular basis. I have an original Droid that my 4 y/o son uses to play games on, it isn’t activated and only has network access over wifi. Periodically (and usually at the worst possible time) apps downloaded from Amazon just stop working until you have a network connection. It’s extremely maddening and for some of the apps means I’m repurchasing them from the Google Market to avoid the problem. While that’s good for the developers I suppose (they get two sales), it means that I don’t buy apps on the Amazon store anymore.

    • http://Website Tom

      You will have the same problem on the Android Market as well. Most paid apps use license verification schemes which all require a network connection.

  • http://Website ggfb20

    As an avid Android user my biggest peeve with amazon is the frequency at which they update their apps, it us usually weeks if not months (if ever) after googles android market. That could be a reason why people chose to purchase from the original app market.

    • http://www.ziggysgames.com Ziggy

      There’s very little that we as developers can do about that, because the 1+ week turnaround time applies for app updates too. I recently had a case where I released an update with new features, and accidentally let a bug through. Within a few minutes a crash report showed up, and within a few minutes after that, I had it fixed and a new version was published in the Google market. Now imagine if that had happened with the Amazon market – it would take a week for the fix to show up on the website.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of developers release updates to the Google market first, let it play out for a while to make sure it’s stable, and only submit it to Amazon after that.

      • John Guillory

        Yeah, I have had 2-3 updates awaiting for my original app to get reviewed so I can post an update. I haven’t wanted to attempt to delay the process any more, so I figured I’d wait to update my app after it’s live. Now I see either way, it’ll be delayed. I may have to bight the bullet and just pay the $25 for Google. $99 for iTunes, $99 for Windows, $25 for Google, and Amazon said $99 after the first year…. I say it’s a miracle there’s any free apps at all on any of the phones. Do these companies realize the number of apps plays an important part in the sales of the devices that use their operating systems?

  • http://Website Major

    Of course download totals are much smaller on Amazon’s App Store vs. Google Market. Google Market comes preinstalled on most Android devices, whereas Amazon’s App Store is currently pre-installed on zero.

    Amazon does have a plan for their App Store: the release of a new Kindle tablet (and possibly phones?). Wait until then and I bet you’ll see your daily download counts skyrocket.

  • http://Website Nate

    I have only purchased one app from the Amazon App Store so far, and I regret that purchase because the app became free last week.

    The free app a day is counterproductive because it prevents people from wanting to buy apps in the Amazon App Store.

    I still download the free apps from Amazon, but for all of my paid apps, I’m sticking with the Android Market.

  • http://Website Saneless

    Great read, thanks for the insight.

    One thing you don’t even mention about the Free App of the Day is the reviews. Free Apps have TONS of 1-star reviews. I doubt those existed before it went to free. And a lot of times they’re 1-starring things like Amazon’s issues and they have nothing to do with the developer.

  • http://Website Eric R.

    In The Amazon Store, the supposed “Free App of the day” is fully paid for by the advertizing partners. I originally saw the Amazon store as a place I could download apps without regard of device. I tried a couple of the “Free” -of-the-day apps, only to find out that they were loaded with ads (unexpected in a “paid” app). This may be the true reason why the “free-of-the-day” apps stop working unless they can call home (perhaps to upload a user-search history, and download updated advertizements).

    Also, look at the app store itself, it is plastered with enough advertizing to pay for the store without them selling a thing.

    -nothing is free my friends


  • http://www.anifree.com Devid

    I had my popular aniPet Aquarium Live Wallpaper (https://market.android.com/details?id=com.anifree.anipet.aquarium) listed as the Free App of the Day on April 17 by Amazon Appstore.
    It was a big download that day only (around 100k downloads) but I got $0 revenue for that day (not the 20% of the listed price as Ziggy mentioned in his article. “For Free App of the Day, the typical rev-share off is 0% rev share for the day” — from Amazon Appstore Acount Team). Then the following 3 days I got only dozen downloads, after that, it turned to be normal just as before the big promotion, only one digital download everyday. So, It’s totally a big loss to be the Free App of the Day which you get 0 revenue but lost so many potential cusotmers.
    My applications were listed on the first day when Amazon Appstore went alive. Thus far the revenue I get till today is just about one day revenue from Android Market.
    Totally disappointed on Amazon Appstore!

    • http://www.ziggysgames.com Ziggy

      Wow, so you don’t make any money off the daily promotion? That sucks. It also makes sense, since without that, Amazon would essentially be giving away free money to one developer a day. So I was wrong, hoping that your app gets picked to be the app of the day doesn’t do anything for revenue. In fact, it probably hurts revenue, because you’ve just lost 100k potential buyers.

      Thanks a lot for posting, this is the first account I’ve read from a developer whose app has been the free daily app.

      • http://www.nexsoftware.net Justin Shapcott

        Hmm, in that case I’m not even sure I’ll download the Free App of the Day. I was really only doing it to help the developers get some revenue without giving up my own. Thanks for the insight.

        • http://www.ziggysgames.com Ziggy

          I agree, Devid’s post was quite an eye-opener for me. I wrote a follow-up post on my blog talking specifically about this.

  • http://lettersfromdave.wordpress.com daveloft

    Amazon Appstore: 1 Country
    Google Market: 131 Countries

    Get it on the market first then worry about possible expanding it to Amazon.

  • http://www.epicflex.com CJmac

    Odd timing on this read. I’m mainly an Adobe Flex (Flashbuilder) dev and find the entire Amazon developer experience to be frustrating at best and oddly inconsistent.

    After submitting two apps that took about 2 minutes combined to list at the Android Marketplace I’m weeks later finally seeing them approved at Amazon after initial submission. They were disapproved the first time due to the fact they contained links to Android Marketplace (which I can understand) and was informed they could not link to another marketplace. Fine. I repackage both and resubmit. Over a week later I’m informed one of the two failed due to the fact it expects Adobe Air updates from Android Marketplace (which is not due to my coding but rather the Adobe default at compile time) and must instead direct users to Amazons marketplace to grab Adobe Air updates.

    The strange part is the free app of the two failed first, giving me a hint as to what to fix. Since it was disapproved it allowed me to resubmit a corrected app. As you all know apps under review do not allow you to upload a new binary. I had to recompile using the command line to force the compiled apk to get Air updates from Amazon and resubmitted. The other one was going to have the same issue with them but I assume they just hadnt reviewed it yet and they were coming back to me in the order they went in. I knew the other app would need the same fix but could not upload the corrected binary until it failed the review process allowing me to upload the corrected like the first (which is just absurd IMO). Today, over a week later again…I get an email saying both apps are approved. This makes no sense as one is fixed as directed by Amazon….and one never had the chance to since it was locked from changes. Not only is the process overcomplicated, its inconsistent. All said and done the entire process was nearly a month to complete and I’m to the point with this market where I could care less from here out about it and have a foul taste in my mouth. I had no idea writers were going to completely rewrite my app descriptions (and do such a poor job IMO) and make the entire experience the equivilent of cutting teeth.

    Reading this article and the replies just makes the taste that much worse.

  • http://Website Jason

    Since Amazon opened their App store, I have purchased all (when available) applications from Amazon instead of Google. Why? Simple. When I purchase from Google, I get the app on just my own personal devices. When I purchase from Amazon, I get the app on my devices, my wife’s devices, and both of my kids devices because we all use the same Amazon account.

    Is this great for developers? Probably not. But it’s the way the system works.

    I also will probably end up with an Amazon Android Tablet at some point in the future, so I expect their App store experience to only get better.

  • http://www.epicflex.com CJmac

    “Is this great for developers? Probably not. But it’s the way the system works.”

    “I also will probably end up with an Amazon Android Tablet at some point in the future, so I expect their App store experience to only get better.”

    An app store is nothing without developers to populate it with fodder. If Amazon is the hot rod of your Android experience, remember its engine isnt that powerful without developers to give it gas. As it stands…its not too developer friendly.

  • http://Website JayMonster

    Many of the same complaints (sans the approval one of course) were made about the Android Market (when compared to iTunes) originally. ” Nobody pays for apps… sales are so much slower, amd so on.

    Well the Amazon appstore prove itself out? Only time will tell, but I think it is way to early in the game (so to speak) to come to any conclusions yet.

  • WickedToby741

    If Amazon launches a tablet like they’re expected to, it will become more of a big deal. It can be pretty safely assumed that the Amazon Appstore will be the exclusive app store for the tablet (or tablets), and if it sells anything like the Kindle, it will most certainly be worth it. Just wait and see.

  • http://Website Michael

    For what it’s worth, I regularly buy from the app store. My only complaint is how long it takes to get updates. I certainly hope the dev experience gets better. I think Amazon will be forced to address this issue sooner or later… Without devs, the AppStore dies

  • http://twitter.com/mecandes Mecandes

    Also, the Amazon app store is not available everywhere. Not even Canada, for poutine’s sake!

  • http://www.typhon4android.org/ Mike Leahy

    I’m a little late to the game on this one, but I’ll chip in here. My main concern is that Amazon is abusing developers as a class with the free app of the day & auto-discounts. If Amazon wants to compete in the app store / market game and offer incentives to end consumers to sway them to use their store then Amazon should shoulder the costs of the free app of the day or make it opt in for devs perhaps also with controls for developers to set the minimum sale / discount percentage. While developers with no traction may see some sales through a free app day occurrence it will not benefit developers with reasonable to mid+ traction. Also the general restrictions against not being able to do exclusives whether price or availability or even features between app stores is simply not cool. I will bet that Rovio or PopCap or any of the larger players just chuckle at the standard developer agreement and have their lawyers contact Amazon corporate to make a real agreement. The $99 yearly fee is a joke especially for low / no traction developers and as mentioned as geez they already get 30% and profit even more with their price adjustment system without any real assistance for small developers.

    Regarding the app mentioned, I don’t think the Talking Tom Cat app is a good example as it asked for far too many permissions and when I checked it out for install I simply refused to install it. Talking Tom Cat doesn’t need access to my contacts, SMS, etc. So this app in general is not a big seller at least it would seem so though I don’t have any numbers in front of me. I would be more interested to hear stats on something like Pew Pew 2 which I snagged for free then immediately went out and bought it on the Android Market.

    I suppose what saddens me the most is that I actually dealt with Amazon corporate and their legal team for a 3rd party contract for a 6 month contract for the latest Amazon MP3 / cloud player release. I rearchitected the download architecture and added cloud drive support. I won’t mention specifics of their 3rd party contract, but it was wholly caustic and not a single clause / term in it was friendly, fair, and many not even reasonable (so openly worded in their favor). There were “cross-state tricks” applied with many difficulties brought forth given a careful reading. It was the worst contract I’ve ever signed, but did so cause it was a ~6 month gig. I got one clause removed that was retarded and straight up evil (“FU contract worthy”), but other than that the Amazon corporate legal team did not budge. The outright arrogance that is in their stock 3rd party independent developer contract (this is for devs that actually develop their tech!) and the dealings I had with their legal team left a very sour taste and I really am bummed to see the same source of arrogance being applied to all developers as a class with their app store agreement. Now… I certainly want to mention the above is not a knock on the actual folks whom I worked with at A2Z as everything went down within professional bounds and product got shipped.

    I recommend end users / general folks use the Amazon app store simply to preview apps that are free and if you use them then buy them from the Android Market.

    I think if they want to control the price of apps then they need to drop the exclusivity requirements to prevent developers interaction with other app stores. Also eliminating the $99 fee is also fair game if they want to control pricing indiscriminately.

    The commentary related to geographical distribution and putting apps into various app stores that reach different areas is pertinent. Since the Android Market covers US distribution I recommend devs just stick to the Android Market and put the $99 (granted it’s free 1st year) and such into marketing and getting the word out about availability on the Android Market.

    We’ll see what happens with Amazon’s actual Android based device releases later this year. It will be interesting to see if they don’t include the Android Market on them; I suppose that is to be expected.

    I thoroughly recommend all developers to read the contract very carefully and put some thought into what it all means as there are gotchas and the Amazon corporate legal team does not have bests interest in mind for devs as a class. Amazon may have general good will with end consumers, but I can’t see how their stock terms for developers will generate long term good will. Heh.. Even at that I recommend end users of Amazon tech to read the TOU and other documents one clicks through as there are some catchy terms there too. So yeah.. I don’t give a vote of confidence for the Amazon app store.

  • http://Website Read the Fine Print

    I signed the Amazon non-disclosure agreement so I can’t be specific, but everyone out there who has signed their developer agreement and had paid an attorney to review it for them, might want to ask for your money back. If you have the agreement, the key phrase you want to search for are ‘derivative works’. Study that section, get second opinions, and once you come to understand what that section means, see if that doesn’t make you see red. Perhaps you’ll also come to understand why they wanted all these developers to submit all these titles through them, and sign their developer agreement. We did not sign, and are glad of it reading all these stories. Due to the nature of what I just wrote, and the size of Amazon, the long arm of their legal department, and the grey area of pointing out two words, I’m going to keep this one anonymous. Good luck and God Speed!

  • http://Website George


    Either your sources are wrong or you are missing something… Are you sure you did not get any revenue from the Amazon store?!?
    The AGBs clearly state it – “70% of the end price or 20% of the list price- whichever is greater”. And a rep from Amazon confirmed this to me:
    So for a 1$ app you get 20 cents on the free day, and 70% on normal days. Or if they list it for 70cents you still get 70 or 20 depends on which is greater – no less than this and this is clearly stated in their terms, read it up. So you either had your app for free all along or something went wrong or the AGBs were different at that time, which I can’t imagine….

  • http://Website HLDeveloping


    Your wrong a developer must sign up to have their app listed as the giveaway of the day and I straight asked Amazon if they pay for the downloads it receives for that day here is the main parts of those emails:

    My question short and simple:
    Do you pay for the downloads of apps included in the free app of the day program or do developers just give the app away for that day?

    Their response:
    Hi HLDeveloping,

    The developers just give the app away for that day.

    Thank you for your interest in marketing, we are excited about potentially working with you to get your app and our store promoted in various ways. We receive a large volume of requests and encourage a well thought out proposal (e.g., exclusive marketing opportunities, online site placement, participation in our Free App of the Day, informational statistics on app performance, etc). The next step to getting your app nominated for placement in the Amazon Appstore is to visit the marketing form located at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/html-forms-controller/Amazon-Appstore-Marketing.

    Before you get started on the marketing proposal, please review the following participation guidelines to better understand the process:

    Submission and Participation Guidelines

    - All submissions for promotional placements are due 4 weeks before date specified for such placement. Submissions that don’t meet this criteria will not be accepted.
    - The Amazon Appstore will communicate acceptance of proposals and run dates via e-mail.
    - The developer is responsible for the accuracy of all information on the store as related to its apps. Apps submitted must have complete screen shots/icons/thumbnails, descriptive text, and other relevant information on the app information page (via the submission of the Developer Portal). Amazon will use commercially reasonable efforts to see that accurate information is represented on the site; however, content updates can be made by submitting correct information to the Developer Portal. Changes should be visible within 14 days prior to the app availability date.

    Once the marketing proposal form has been submitted it will prompt you back to the Developer Portal. Proposals will be processed on a first come, first served basis. We will be reviewing proposals on a weekly basis, if your request has been approved, you will be contacted by an Amazon representative.

    Thank you,

    Best regards,

    Amazon Appstore Account Team

  • devang

    where to see current status of submitted android application in amazon app store like ‘developer console’ in play store?