Microsoft finally announced they are launching their own iTunes-competitor for PC apps within its upcoming Windows 8 operating system (see related article: Gamasutra). The Windows App Store is slated to be released in beta in February 2012, and will allow users to buy games, apps, ebooks, digital magazines, within app, subscriptions, and in app purchases.
But is it a case of too little, too late? In the past, Microsoft was successful using its monopoly in the Windows OS to buy, copy, and cheat it’s way to win in new markets.
This worked until the Microsoft ran into Apple, Google and Facebook, two companies that are own monopolies of their own (digital media and devices, search and social networking) and run by CEO’s with vision and common sense.
Microsoft has scored a win in games with the Xbox and Kinnect (partly because, Sony is as poorly run as they are) and when they put their mind, time, and money into it, release awesome products (Bing and Windows Mobile are amazing). They wasted so much time kibitzing internally, however, that no matter how good the products are, they are doomed to fail.
Windows App Store may fall in this category. Whenever anyone asks me if PC Downloads are dead, I say two things: 1. Big Fish Games seems to be doing pretty well; 2. Wait until Microsoft releases their Windows App Store, this will change everything.
The problem is: I have been saying this for the past five years.
The question is: Why does it take Microsoft 5 years to release an App Store? Were they looking at iTunes, and wondering, gee, I wonder if this is going to work? Did they think, let’s try this on Zune, our music player knowing uses, instead of go after Apps within our operating system used by 90% of all computers in the world? Was it a business issue or did it really take this long to create an App Store.
Microsoft could be successful because the market for PC apps is huge and they own the operating system still. In the meantime, however, OnLive is getting traction with cloud based gaming on the PC, Mac market share is higher, Big Fish and Steam are growing like crazy, and Google is convincing developers and gamers that game apps should be played in the browser.
The other issue with Microsoft’s announcement is the bizarre revenue share plan – 80% revenue share if you sell more than $25,000 worth of apps. If they were trying to offer a better deal than Apple or Facebook at 70%, they should have just done 80% for everyone. And its still more than Google’s 5% (which admittedly, is so ridiculously low).
Other strange policies are that the lowest price for apps will be $1.49 (why do this when the average low price in iTunes, if not free, is $.99)? And it will offer free trials. This makes sense to the degree that many sites offer free trials of games. But as we have stated here at Gamezebo, the free trial doesn’t necessary make sense for PC games and apps anymore.
These are typical Microsoft non-sensible business decisions that are trying to solve problems that did not exist (or exist, only in Powerpoint presentations).
Perhaps if Microsoft spent less time thinking of stupid ways their business can be different, and more time actually getting an App Store out in less time than it takes for a US President to be elected and re-elected, this would be a much bigger deal for PC games than it really is.