Is ‘App Store Editor’s Choice’ Really Chosen by the Editor, or Just a Promotion Agreement?

editors-choice-93e46af3Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article relating to mobile operating system makers striking exclusivity deals with game developers that push promotion of certain apps. While it is no surprise that Apple would try to attract game makers to iOS exclusively, it turns out that the “Editor’s Choice” award isn’t necessarily based on a title’s merits alone.

According to WSJ, both Apple and Google are trying to convince big game companies to launch titles exclusively on iOS or Android, for at least a few weeks, in exchange for “premium placement on their app stores’ home page and features list.”

The article mentioned Plants Vs. Zombies 2, which launched as the App Store Editor’s Choice in August. According to unnamed sources, Electronic Arts made a deal with Apple to promote the game prominently in the App Store. The game maker agreed to give Apple a two-month window of exclusivity in which the title was not available on Android.

Apparently ZeptoLab’s Cut the Rope 2 was given a similar spotlight in exchange for three months of exclusivity. Gameloft head of sales Gonzague de Vallios told WSJ that the company’s Asphalt racing series was discussed for a possible iOS exclusive agreement, but the company decided that it would be better to release the games on iOS and Android simultaneously.

In December, marketing professional Ben Thompson wrote an article about promotion in the App Store and its affect on independent game makers.

“The withdrawal of promotion can be threatened to retain exclusives. As an app store category manager for Windows in the runup to the launch of Windows 8, I heard this more than once: some marquee developers who were predisposed to support Windows 8 (again, this was pre-launch) ultimately didn’t for fear they would lose favorable treatment from Apple.”

When it comes to the Editor’s Choice award, it appears that Apple isn’t truly letting its editorial team have the freedom to choose. “Apple’s editorial team has been factoring in exclusivity to a greater degree after it deems an app to be attractive, according to people familiar with the process,” the WSJ wrote. “The editorial team also will give greater consideration to titles recommended by its developer-relations staff, they said.”

Promotion in the App Store is not a big deal. I receive weekly emails from Apple that spotlight new games. The “New and Noteworthy” section is a perfect forum for titles that Apple has agreements with.

However, the Editor’s Choice award implies that a game was picked solely on its merit, and not because Apple promised the spotlight. It definitely calls into question every app or game that Apple has promoted this way. Are these titles really the cream of the crop for the give week, or is there a better, independent title, that surpasses the winner in quality, but goes unnoticed because Apple isn’t interested in making an exclusivity deal?

About Lory: Writer of all things app related, traveler of the space-time continuum, baker of really great cookies. Follow me @appaholik