A comment made by an EA executive has sparked controversy about whether or not there's was a secret deal to keep Plants vs. Zombies 2 away from Android.
Releasing apps on Apple's iOS first is certainly not unheard of, especially given that developers only have specific hardware sets – iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPad 3, iPad 4 and so on – to target. Android is similar to the Windows platform in that one operating system covers a plethora of hardware configurations. Thus launching an Android app behind the iOS version is both understandable and expected in some cases.
In the case on Plants Vs. Zombies, PopCap Games launched the now highly-popular title on Windows and OS X first in May 2009, Apple's mobile iOS platform in February 2010, and various consoles between September 2010 and May 2011. The game didn't arrive on Android until May 31, 2011 as an Amazon AppStore exclusive, followed by the Google Play release on December 14, 2011.
For Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time, Electronic Arts released the highly-anticipated game for iOS on August 15, 2013. The Android version was presumably following the same development schedule as the first installment, but the Plants vs. Zombies sequel for Android has already launched in China, reportedly outselling the iPhone version six-to-one in that market. As it stands now, the North American release is merely listed as Fall 2013.
So what gives? Why the delay? EA Labels head Frank Gibeau claims that Apple supposedly paid the publisher to postpone the Android release in territories outside China.
"Apple gave us a truckload of money to delay the Android version [of Plants vs. Zombies 2]," Gibeau supposedly said (opens in new tab) during an internal town hall meeting held for Electronic Arts. He didn't elaborate on the "truckload" description, but that clearly indicates the publisher received more than a pat on the back and an iTunes gift card.
Naturally, Apple is denying the claims, telling source author Giant Bomb that the comments are "not true," (opens in new tab) that no money was exchanged. The company also refused to disclose information about its relationships with publishers when asked about a possible iOS exclusivity agreement. Plants vs. Zombies developer PopCap Games even added that it doesn't comment on internal meetings.
Exclusivity deals are common practice in the games industry, as the original Plants vs. Zombies release for Android shows. Not only did the app gain prominent placing on Amazon's new Android storefront, but spearheaded the company's new Free App of the Day campaign. PopCap obviously didn't generate revenue each time the game was downloaded, but the move paid off big time in advertising.
In the case of Apple, there's speculation that EA likely struck a deal that had the sequel landing prominent placement on the App Store in exchange for launching on iOS first. Yet given the importance of this release, the sequel would have landed proper advertising anyway. We already know that Apple is determined to undercut the Android platform any way possible, so paying EA for exclusivity wouldn't be surprising – just look at the great lengths the company took to undercut Amazon in the ebook market.
MacRumors points out that if Apple did indeed pay EA for exclusivity, this would be the first known reported case of Apple making payments to developers outside the App Store 70/30 envelope, and a sign that the fruity company is taking a more console-like approach with developers. Garter reports that games make up nearly two-thirds of Apple's App Store sales whether it's outright app purchases or in-game payments.