论及苹果的现实扭曲领域或其个人崇拜式的控制趋势，诋毁者也有他们的言辞，但还有群体似乎与前者的观点存在相似性。就像Marlon Brandon和Al Pacino（游戏邦注：二人在电影《教父》中饰演黑帮首领。）一样，Steve Jobs需要开发商的绝对忠诚。只有少数公司的运营如此依赖CEO，这也是为何Jobs的健康问题如此引人关注的原因。
现在想来可称作“戏弄App Store”的此类行为引起苹果的注意，因而公司开始封杀这些应用在所难免。苹果意图通过更改排名法则来调整App Store排行榜，遏制为App Store外的Tapjoy等公司产生大量利润的行为。
在整场反Flash的战斗中，苹果最终允许开发者使用Flash工具的做法让Steve Jobs和Adobe首席执行官Shantanu Narayen间的矛盾归结为一场闹剧。然而在Safari浏览器上，苹果仍决定不支持Flash格式。包括流行的Unity引擎在内的其他工具也卷入到争论中，正是因为苹果缺乏对禁令所涉技术的澄清，才使得Unity及其开发团队遭受更大的损害。
苹果也曾与大型发行商合作，以独立的方式在App Store中开展季节性销售。最为著名的例子是EA Mobile的圣诞节销售，大部分产品都在打折促销。正因此行为，才使得EA诸多游戏在这个关键节日中位居前25大付费应用排行。
Opinion: Is Apple the App Store’s honest gatekeeper or is it running a protection racket?
There are plenty of ways of describing Apple: the best consumer technology company in the world; the most valuable technology company in the world; the most surprising post-war corporate resurrection; the most cash-rich company in the world…
Detractors have their phrases too, talking about the Apple reality distortion field or its Stalinist control tendencies. But there is another organisation with which it seems to share some similarities. Like a cross between Marlon Brandon and Al Pacino, Steve Jobs demands the unswerving loyalty of his family. And few public companies are so dependent on their CEO; something Jobs’ ill health throws into grim focus.
It’s my party
Taking into account the vow of silence, this comparison has been further highlighted by the way Apple is managing the App Store.
Last week, news broke Apple had started rejecting some games using some download incentivisation programs. These work via Offerwalls, typically in free-to-play games whereby players can gain additional in-game currency or credits if they download certain free or paid apps that are made available on the Offerwall. Publishers pay to have their games and apps featured, of course, as the increase in downloads these promotions generate can be large enough to boost games into top 25 or 10 rankings on the App Store; typically on the free games chart. Similarly, the publishers of games including Offerwalls gain a slice of the advertising revenue too.
The house rules
The market leader in this space is (or was) Tapjoy, which is used by many iOS publishers and developers, ranging from the largest players to the smallest indies. They use the program as it solves the biggest problem of the App Store; discoverability.
With over 350,000 apps available, getting your game noticed is difficult and vital. Incentivised downloads provide the most cost effective results in terms of gaining releases visibility and chart position, which can then be monetised. Indeed, such has been Tapjoy’s success in gaining chart position that many other companies – Adknowledge, W3i, Flurry etc – jumped into the space, offering similar incentivised download schemes, with some games including Offerwalls from multiple vendors.
Such behaviour – now retrospectively referred to a ‘Gaming the App Store’ – was going to catch Apple’s attention so it was no surprise when Apple started to reject apps. As well as manipulating the App Store charts – something Apple also attempted to mediate by tweaking its ranking algorithm – this activity was generating large amounts of cash for companies such as Tapjoy external to the App Store.
Island of confusion
So far, no surprises. As the saying goes ‘It’s Apple’s App Store. We just code in it.’ But the situation in this case is much more complex. Sure, some games using Tapjoy have been rejected, but many others are still live. Games using some other incentivisation schemes have been rejected too. Others – generally the smaller outfits – haven’t been affected.
No one seems to know what’s going on, even it seems Apple, and it’s that confusion which is really spooking developers. Of course, no one will go on the record publicly to voice their disquiet; that would be commercial suicide given Apple’s power in terms of promoting games on the App Store with its featured spots and other promotion activity. Few companies will try to talk to Apple direct about the situation either; keep your head down is the order of the day.
Still, feelings are running high. “It’s like Apple beat up on Tapjoy with a rubber hose and then a couple of days later picked them up, dusted them down and told them to get on with it,” one developer (not even a Tapjoy client) said.
Bait and switch
More concerning is the way that the day after games using Tapjoy were rejected, developers and publishers using incentivisation schemes received calls from Apple’s iAd team asking them whether in light of the current situation they’d like to spend their marketing dollars with Apple. Now, let’s get this into perspective.
We’re certainly not suggesting Apple’s decision against these schemes was pre-meditated in terms of boosting its own ad network. For one thing, all third party ad networks on iOS were making exactly the same calls to developers; good sales people make the most of opportunity.
Equally, the iAd team operates out of New York, not Cupertino and, anyhow, communication between the two is known to be problematic. Yet, it’s one thing for Apple to make the rules, quite another for Apple to seem to make rules it doesn’t fully enforce, and something else entirely for Apple to be seen – however opportunistically – to be trying to profit from those rule changes.
Got a history
Still, taking a step back from the current confused situation – and believe us, the information is imperfect – it’s not the first time Apple has demonstrated a lack of clarity, or been accused of double standards.
There was the whole anti-Flash crusade, which boiled down to a playground spat between Steve Jobs and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen before Apple finally allowed developers to use Flash tools. Its decision not to support Flash within the Safari browser remains firmly in place however. Also caught up in that debate were other tools including the popular Unity engine; again a lack of communication by Apple over what technology was or was not involved in the ban was more damaging to Unity and its development community than early clarification either way would have been.
There was a similar situation with Flurry and other analytics and advertising companies, with Apple deciding that they had too much information about individual users, citing personal privacy issues as it limited what data could be tracked and recorded. The irony that iPhones have been automatically tracking their users’ every movement, and backing up that activity onto desktops, hasn’t been lost on those companies who were publicly berated by Jobs.
Finally, there’s been Apple’s collusion with large publishers as they – in their own way – have been Gaming the App Store with seasonal sales. The most notable example was EA Mobile’s Christmas sale which saw the vast majority of its iOS catalog heavily discounted. Backed by featured spots on the App Store, it led to EA titles taking the many of the top 25 paid chart positions over the key holiday season.
The road ahead
As any probation officer will tell you, a single example of anti-social behaviour can be justified in terms of individual circumstance. A pattern of consistent bad behaviour is more worrying. Of course, let’s not get overly dramatic. For one thing, Apple is the main game in town for most publishers and developers in terms of generating revenues. That’s not going to change any time soon. No matter what Apple does, it will be the primary platform for most companies.
But the rise of Android, and the aggressive future activity of RIM and Nokia-Microsoft means that won’t always be the case; Apple could easily be the largest single platform but a minority for many companies within 12 months. And that will be a much more healthy situation for everyone in the mobile content ecosystem. Absolute power corrupts and there are few things more absolute than Apple’s control of the App Store business. (Source: Pocket Gamer)