Windows 8 version of Animals Ahoy stuck in approval hell

I mentioned in a previous post that I was in the process of developing Animals Ahoy for Windows 8. I am beginning to think that this was a mistake. Up until now, I’ve been pretty happy with my strategic decisions – most have achieved the targets I set out for myself. But developing for Windows 8 has been nothing but a pain in the ass. Let me outline my list of woes:

 

  1. ‘Can’t register billing method’ bug. This bug plagued me for almost a month late last year and caused a significant artificial delay of even getting the app to Microsoft reviewers. No explanation or ETA was offered by Microsoft about this bug, except that it was affecting a small amount of developers globally. This means we missed the target of getting Animals Ahoy out for the Windows 8 launch, and we even missed the ‘drop dead’ target of Christmas 2012.
  2. Ridiculously strict approval process. There’s a reason the Windows Store has barely cracked 10k apps while Apple and Google have more than 600k each. It may have a little bit to do with developers’ lack of interest (see below point), but of the developers who did take the risk of developing for this platform, the approval process is the main culprit. Animals Ahoy, a game which has been successfully released on iTunes and Google Play has been rejected by Microsoft at every step of the way. I am provided with little explanation as to why, except that the game ‘sometimes crashes’. Guess what? It’s fucking Windows – apps crash all the time, including Microsoft ones. From our testing, Animals Ahoy crashes no more frequently than the Apple/Google versions (which is to say, not much at all). But what really galls me about this is that I’m a genuine developer – not a crapware developer from some skanky outfit out to make whatever piss-poor revenue they can from scam apps and ‘tricked’ ad clicks. The fact that my game has been rejected while hundreds, if not thousands of these crapware apps fill the Windows 8 store points to Microsoft’s hypocrisy and is really pissing me off.
  3. Windows 8 sales not meeting expectations. This is the big one for me. Do you know the only reason a company won’t release sales figures? Because they suck! Windows 8 clearly isn’t being bought by most consumers. Windows 7 is a great OS, and Windows XP before it is still a viable alternative. I’ll pretend to forget Vista ever existed. There is absolutely no good reason to upgrade to Windows 8 on a PC, unless you’ve just bought one and had no choice in the matter. In fact, the only reason I did it was because I was hoping to develop for the platform and because the offer of Windows 8 Pro + Media Centre for AUD$15 before 21 January 2013 was simply too good to pass up. I even balked at the ‘regular’ promo price of AUD$40 – it just wasn’t compelling enough. Think Windows 8 sales are bad now? Just wait until it goes to ‘full price’ in February 2013.

Why did I choose to develop for Windows 8 in the first place? I had 3 main reasons:

 

  1. Incorporation of payment system. I’ve installed payment systems for numerous large companies (gaming and non-gaming alike) such as America Online and Evony. Trust me, it’s a pain in the ass. Anytime a company offers to do it for you, just snap it up – even at 30% commission. Particularly when they offer you more, such as a publishing platform, global market etc.
  2. Another publishing platform. With the might of Microsoft’s marketing muscle behind it, Windows 8 is sure to gain traction. Right? Hello? Anyone there….?
  3. Run it on a real computer. This is a big one for me. My next game in development will be an MMO. While it will be designed for mobiles and tablets, there should be nothing stopping someone from playing it on a real computer. But how? A standalone client means my own payment system (see above – no thanks). A web distributor is too fragmented and potentially exposes the code – say hello to hackers and copyers. Facebook’s API changes too rapidly and besides, I have no use for most of its ‘social’ features. Which left me with the Windows 8 Store…

But here is where I think I made a mistake. I was banking on Microsoft’s marketing muscle and a huge installed base on PCs meaning hundreds of millions of Windows 8 installs this year – something that could rival Apple and Google. Also, I could get in on the ground floor and get my apps ‘discovered’ more easily when you don’t have hundreds of thousands of competitors. But there is no way Microsoft will get anywhere near the combined install base of iPhones, iPads, android phones and android tablets.

 

So how do I get Animals Ahoy and my new game on computers? I think there may be another solution: the Google Chrome store. At last count Google’s browser runs on over 300 million computers – and growing. It also runs on almost any OS. Finally, I’m already a Google developer and it doesn’t take anything extra to develop apps for Google Chrome.

 

We’re going to check it out in the next week or so and see how easy it will be to port Animals Ahoy to Chrome. Fingers crossed, I could be saying goodbye to Microsoft forever…

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