Apple and EA are both categorically denying a report that surfaced late yesterday that money exchanged hands to keep Popcap hit Plants Vs. Zombies 2 an exclusive to iOS. Reached for comment on the matter, both EA and Apple told us that “it’s simply not true.”
The report, from gaming site Giant Bomb, had quoted EA Labels head Frank Gibeau as telling employees at a closed meeting that “Apple gave us a truckload of money to delay the Android version [of Plants vs Zombies 2].”
Since the meeting was a closed session, EA would not comment on what was said there, but our sources are telling us that Gibeau did indeed make a statement similar to that. But we’re also hearing that it was intended as an off-the-cuff joke of sorts, and was taken out of context by either the report or the source used for the quote.
But both EA and Apple absolutely denied that any payments were made to EA by Apple in exchange for iOS exclusivity on PvZ 2.
Since the game is not out for Android devices outside of China and launched on iOS several weeks ago, the reports were quick to garner attention and credibility. But whatever Gibeau said in the meeting, both companies are flat out saying that there was no agreement to pay EA.
Here’s the major catch to most of these arguments about Apple and exclusivity: It really does not need to pay developers cash to launch on iOS first, they do it anyway. The marketing power of the App Store is tremendous, and on a per-customer basis, iOS users spend more money and buy more apps than Android users. That’s also true on the whole for now, but could change as the sheer volume of Android devices neutralizes the smaller ‘per-device’ spend on the platform.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some effort by Apple to make sure that its platform is the most welcoming for marquee titles. Apple has a long history of working with publishers that it sees as doing good or high-profile work to promote their apps via large banners and editorial recommendations on the App Store. And I’m sure that the App Store division is doing its best to make sure that the top apps and games land on iOS first, if not only. If you want to call offers of promotion and praise in the App Store incentive to hold off releasing for Android, that’s fine. But it’s still not cash, and it’s not clear if that happened in this case, regardless.
Those recommendations are worth big money to many developers, but they’re also not limited to big-name companies. We’ve seen one or two-man operations featured by Apple in many sections, including the big valuable top banners in its App Stores on Mac, iPhone and iPad.
In the games industry — and this is where it becomes easier to see why the gaming press would see this as reasonable — it’s all too common for platforms to pay publishers for exclusivity. Both Microsoft and Sony have their own studios that produce games, but also draft agreements with external publishers to juice the desirability of their consoles by paying to keep games exclusive for a period of time.
But we’ve yet to hear any confirmed reports of Apple doing the same for the App Store. As Android grows in addressable market, perhaps it will ‘go there’ at some point. But in this case, both companies deny anything like that is taking place.