As a software developer, I hear a lot of news these days surrounding the iPhone App Store. Most of it is centered on the horrible approval process. Yet, no matter how many sob stories I read, I never find them that shocking. What I do find surprising is that no one seems to be acknowledging the analogue between the App Store approval process and the requirements and testing required by game console manufacturers.
[Redacted], [Redacted], and [Redacted] all have guidelines for games that are released for their consoles. In every case there are strict requirements and testing for any piece of software intended for commercial release. I’ve worked at three game companies so far in my short career as a developer, and while I’ve never worked directly on meeting the certification requirements for a game, I’ve both seen and heard many struggles that make App Store approval seem like a walk in the park.
Submission of a title is in most cases accompanied by a fee. Failure to meet specifications (some of which may be undocumented) or pass manufacturer testing usually requires resubmission and repayment of the aforementioned fee. Requirements seem to change at the whim of the manufacturer, and it is not uncommon for games to fail multiple times. Not to mention that when a game goes to manufacture there is a per unit cost that is no trivial percentage of the retail price to add to whatever percentage your contract awards to the publisher.
I think what is really behind the complaints about the App Store is that most of its developers are transitioning from open application environments like PC, Mac, and the web, all of which have very few barriers between development and release. I can say that from a game development perspective, having worked on closed platforms, Apple’s offering with the App Store seems to be a favorable platform in terms of the app certification process.
Full disclosure: I’m a total Apple fanboy.