What does it take to get an App approved?
Written by Alex Kidman Thursday, 20 May 2010 23:39
The modern gold rush, it seems, is in App development. Everyone's jumping on the App Store bandwagon, and it seems I can't go a week without one company or another launching a new app store for a given device. They're all trying to get in on the rich seam of gold that Apple's mined with the iTunes App Store. And the way for us ordinary folk to glean off a few choice nuggets is to develop Apps ourselves.
For me, this does present a few key problems. First, I can't actually code. But, so I'm told, iPhone/iPod/iPad development is "easy" and "any idiot could do it". I certainly qualify on one of those scores — I'll leave it up to you to work out which it is. Right at this moment, I can't say that I've got a particularly original idea for an App, but that hasn't held anyone back.
What has held a lot of App developers back, however, is Apple.
Take, for example, Mobigame. You may not have heard of Mobigame, a company (arguably) most famous for a game called Edge. You may have been able to buy Edge from the App store over the past year, but generally only if you were fast. It's available as I type this (here's a link) but might not be by the time you read this. By my count, it's been removed from the App Store at least four times so far.
Is it violent? Does it depict acts likely to incite racial tension, destabilise governments, expose youngsters to the facts of life or show that unfortunate (alleged) incident with Steve Jobs, the toasting fork and the family of ducklings?
No, none of those things. Edge — the game itself — is best described as a Marble Madness derivative featuring cubes. Hence the name "Edge" you see. I rather like it, for what that's worth.
Now Edge — the name of the game — is a contested issue. I've got to tread a little carefully here, as it's an issue that's contested at a legal level, and I've no real passion to get sued any time soon. The short, even-I-can-understand-it-version of events is that a chap called Tim Langdell reckons (by whatever means) that he's got a trademark on the word "Edge" as it pertains to video games. And, it seems, a number of other things from videogame magazines to flash drives to baseball caps. The Edge trademark is the subject of a protracted legal battle (because you can never have a short legal battle) with (at first) Mobigame and (later) Electronic Arts, due to EA putting out a game called "Mirror's Edge". The Wikipedia article on Edge Games provides some background and, if you've got an afternoon to spare, an interesting rebuttal to just about everything Langdell's done can be found here.
Anyway, when Edge first hit the App store in May last year, Langdell contacted Apple regarding trademark infringement, and Edge (the game) was pulled. Sucks a bit if you're a developer, but I guess Apple does have to respect actual trademarks. Where it gets a bit dodgier, in my not-legal-advice-just-shooting-the-breeze opinion is that Mobigame wanted to shift the name to "Edgy", and Langdell (after discussions with Mobigame) apparently went and registered "Edgy" as well.
Statements about the relative freshness of undisclosed items in certain Scandinavian regions come to mind here, but again, I have no particular desire to go toe-to-toe with any lawyers any time soon.
(Which reminds me. Apple Lawyerbots? That whole comment about Steve Jobs and the ducklings? Not serious. I'm sure it's never happened.)
Where I do think it's interesting from a consumer and developer point of view is that it shows the level of power that any developer creating applications places directly into Apple's hands. I've seen no shortage of Apps that much more deliberately flout either copyright or trademark go through the App store without so much as a glance. The rules should have some flexibility to an extent but, at the same time, shouldn't there be a solid base that all developers can at least work from?
I mean, some of the things that do get released are equally baffling. Take, for example, Trucker's Delight. It's based off a crude and deliberately offensive YouTube video. Here's a link, but be warned — it's not safe for work, rather (to put it mildly) misogynistic and almost completely tasteless. In other words, the kind of thing the internet loves.
And now there's an iPhone game of it. This isn't a review — I'm not quite willing to plunk down $3.99 of my hard earned on it right now — but just an observation. How is it that a game featuring an entirely non-violent cube can have such trouble getting a firm place in the App Store, and a game featuring a violent, crude, lecherous and deliberately offensive trucker can make it in?
Makes you think that Mobigame, the developer of Edge, should talk to the folks who developed Trucker's Delight, right? I mean, those developers must know exactly how to present an App so that anything goes, right?
Let me check who that was. I could be doing Mobigame a service by putting it in touch with folks who can get something really controversial up on iTunes.
Checking the iTunes store, I find that Truckers Delight was developed by ...
Perhaps it's playing a deliberate game of chicken with Apple, waiting to see which game will be yanked from the App store first?
What do you think? Should App development and deployment on iTunes be open slather? Should the rules be more obvious, or just better implemented?
Discuss it with me at MacTheForum!