The International Game Developers Association has published an open letter to developers warning them of potential pitfalls in Amazon.com’s new Android App store. It would seem that Amazon’s Distribution Terms, which seem innocuous on the surface, have some hidden language that could seriously impact a developer’s freedom and income potential.
Among other things,
Amazon reserves the right to control the price of your games, as well as the right to pay you “the greater of 70% of the purchase price or 20% of the List Price.” While many other retailers, both physical and digital, also exert control over the price of products in their markets, we are not aware of any other retailer having a formal policy of paying a supplier just 20% of the supplier’s minimum list price without the supplier’s permission.
…if you ever conduct even a temporary price promotion in another market, you must permanently lower your list price in Amazon’s market.
The blog post identifies five specific scenarios that could adversely affect developers hoping to find success on Amazon’s Android App store, and warns developers to exercise due caution when working with the giant retailer.
Now, in general I think people hold a good opinion of Amazon and the flaws in the company’s distribution terms may be nothing more than inexperience at writing such terms for digital distribution scenarios. It wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon removes or adjusts some of these policies simply out of good business sense: developers won’t use the Amazon App Store if it would shackle them elsewhere. So don’t break out the pitchforks and torches, at least not yet.
The reality is that digital distribution is going to make up a large portion of the future, and sales to mobile devices such as phones and tablets will be a large portion of digital distribution. While we’re still enjoying the wild and free days of digidist (and of the internet in general, really), nowhere does it say that these days must continue. Already we’re seeing foolish DRM laws and other policies that are ill-thought-out or simply harmful to consumers. We have to hope for the best and do what we can to support the good guys when voting with our pocketbooks.
The IGDA rarely takes strong positions on anything (a trend I hope to see changing, and soon), so that it would issue such a hard statement is in and of itself telling about the level of concern developers should have. Three cheers to the IGDA for helping protect the little guys. THIS is what the International Game Developers Association is for!
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