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About that ‘Amazon Appstore is Rotten to the Core’ Story…

As our inbox indicates, many of you have read the story from Shifty Jelly (SJ) about their rotten experience with the Amazon Appstore and how they feel completely ripped off after joining the Free App of the Day program.  If you haven’t, I’ll try and recap in the briefest of ways.  (I tried to make it brief, but it’s turned into a book.)

Shift Jelly decided to inquire about Amazon’s Free App of the Day program, hoping to launch their app into the spotlight.  When they heard back from Amazon, everything was lining up, except for a single line in a return email that made it more-than-clear that they would not be receiving any money on the day that their app was featured as free.  In fact, in bold it said, “The current price of this placement is at 0% rev share for that one day you are placed.”  So for that one day, Shift Jelly’s app would not make any money no matter how many copies were downloaded.  You all with me?

Wondering why they would not receive the 20% that was included in the original developer agreement, SJ responded back asking to receive what they had originally agreed to.  Amazon fired back saying that since they would not receive money, neither would SJ, but that with the “highly valuable” front page placement for the following 14 days, they would certainly make a ton of money.

So to recap quickly, we have the following:   1.  Amazon told them in bold (more than once) that they would receive nothing.  2.  SJ asked for 20% and Amazon responded again telling them that they would receive nothing except prime placement on their front page for 14 days.

What did SJ decide?  To go forward with it, knowing that they would make nothing on the day that their app was free.  

When the day came that their app was featured, 101,491 people downloaded their app. And just as they agreed to, received nothing in exchange except a prime spot on Amazon’s page for the next two weeks.  So what’s all this “rotten” fuss about?  We’re still trying to figure that out.

We’re thinking the shock of seeing that his app normally would have made $54,805 had he been paid for those 101K downloads was what got this all started.  Sure, that number is jaw-dropping as hell, but when you agree to not receive anything, how can you get that mad?  In a world of sales that’s built on negotiations, I’m just wondering what the hell this guy was thinking.

And alongside this revelation that he would not receive any amount of that $54K, he also now had to invest money into more servers for his app since he now had over 100,000 people using it.  So not only did he receive nothing but a bunch of downloads, he also now has extra costs thanks to this promo.

But what about his 14-day prime placement?  Didn’t that kick start the money-making engine and even all of this out?  Apparently not.  Since his day as the free app, his download numbers haven’t been impressive, leading again, to this “rotten” post that is making its way all over the internet.

I’ll just end this with a couple of thoughts.  Anyone ever heard of Groupon?  They do something in a similar fashion.  When you are featured as their deal of the day, they initially try to get you to absorb all of the cost of whatever the deal is.  What I mean by that is, let’s say they sell coupons for $10 worth of goods at your store, but only charge $5 for it.  Ok, so Groupon will approach you asking for all $5 (or 100%, or 0% rev share to you), but tell you that with all of the new customers headed your way, along with the fact that people normally spend more than the $10, you will come out on top in the end.  Smart business owners examine the heck out of that deal and then re-negotiate at least some sort of revenue sharing because they realize that they can’t absorb that huge of a hit.

So in the case of Shift Jelly, I’m just wondering again, what the hell were they thinking?  Sure, the developer’s agreement stated 20%, but when Amazon insisted that they were going to receive 0%, why not turn the deal down?  Wouldn’t you already know that you would be taking a huge hit and also putting your server structure under a lot of stress?  If you couldn’t at least get 5-10% and have Amazon meet you in the middle, why not walk away?

Now, with that rant over, I’ll just say that this isn’t the first time we have heard bad things about the Amazon Appstore.  They price your apps however they want, won’t let you remove them, update them slower than molasses, and basically own you if you have an app placed with them.  So while I feel bad that SJ feels like they got ripped off, we can at least use this as an educational piece for future developers who are looking to be the Free App of the Day.  Just like Groupon and other coupon sites, giving your products away for nothing isn’t always a winning situation.

You can read the entire story from this developer at their  Shift Jelly blog.

Cheers to everyone who sent this in!

  • No matter what the free app of the day is I get it & iff I feel the need to pay for one I use the convienace of the android market!

  • William Holmes

    I have to admit, when it comes to the free app of the day, I’ll download it just because it is free. I must have a dozen apps that I have never installed simply because they are offered for free.

    If I ever do take a trip out of town, I have at least 6 brand new games to download and play on the road. Sure 101k downloads sounds awsome, but how many other people do as I do, and download them just because they can?

    Big difference between downloading and using. . .

  • Anonymous

     If you get an app on amazon  it’s shows up in the market place ..  can you get the update that way senses it seems amazon is a little slow  with updates ??

  • xxfooln

    Everyone is missing the real point.  Amazon told SJ it would make lots of additional sales as a result of participating.  The data for others isn’t public as far as I know, but Amazon certainly has a good idea whether SJ’s experience is common.  It’s reasonable to suspect that most have a similar experience to SJ, large companies perhaps excepted.  Amazon is entitled to “puff” the virtues of its service, but not to misrepresent facts.  Of course, there is no clear line between the two, and the initial contract between Amazon and SJ probably disclaims any reliance on such representations.  On the other hand, the Free App of the Day transaction seems to be outside the scope the initial contract with Amazon and may be limited to whatever was agreed in the exchange of emails between Amazon and SJ.  Since the facts aren’t known, it’s hard to say much definite about SJ’s situation.

    The point for developers is that they need to have data so they can judge whether there is any substantial prospect of generating future sales and should be pressing Amazon to disclose data to developers.  Otherwise, the Free App of the Day may simply be a way for Amazon to increase its web traffic and Android presence – with developers bearing most of the cost for Amazon and getting little in return. 

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t read the comments, but my take is bad app.  If it was good enough, the free downloads would lead to good word of mouth, would lead to $$.  If it’s too good to be free, they would not have asked to be the ‘free app.’

  • lilmike109

    SJ’s math is a little shaky seeing as that hardly anyone would’ve downloaded his app if it wasn’t the Free App of the Day.  Besides, 20% of $0 is $0.  Perhaps instead of complaining, SJ could’ve generated revenue from other streams due to the increased traffic (ad revenue?)…  Doesn’t sound like a raw deal at all to me.  Sounds like free publicity.

  • Im confused… isnt 20% of $0 still nothing? 

    If you dont want to sell your app for nothing dont expect amazon to subsidize your  “loss”- they didn’t make anything either, and clearly the app was not the next angry birds.  

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  • Rizzidy

    Maybe they should hire someone with a little actual experience to handle the business decisions.  These idiots should have known exactly what they were getting into.  They get no sympathy from me.

  • I use the AMZ AppStore and have absolutely no issues with it

  • AndroFan

    It’s amazing what an apologist and mouthpiece you’ve become for the big institutional names in Android.  The fact that you find it ludicrous that he’d be critical of this, and still be outraged even after agreeing to it is pretty telling.  Displeasure, discourse, and venting frustration over getting screwed in a bad deal are not bad words, and you mince no words in lambasting Apple for screwing over its developers/users when it occurs, but you won’t think a second thought about defending Android big guns for doing the same.  Methinks your repuation as a hypebeast is well deserved.