Google’s major developer conference, Google I/O, went down this week. Was it a bit of a letdown? Probably. Did cool stuff still come out of the event? Eh? Maybe? We discuss these topics and more this week on the TC Gadgets podcast. In fact, we even had Frederic Lardinois join as a guest, along with John Biggs, Matt Burns, Jordan Crook (that’s me!), Romain Dillet, and Darrell Etherington as Bob McKenzie.
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Intro Music by Rick Barr.
Google held a session today at I/O 2013 about how to make money on Android, and in the initial few minutes it shared some updated stats around Google Play revenues and how those are progressing. Not surprisingly, the big growth is coming with in-app purchases, though Google’s recently launched subscription model is also making headway.
Google said that its in-app revenues through Play are up 700 percent since the same time last year, which is reflected in the top apps as listed by highest grossing titles in the Play rankings. Subscriptions, which just launched around 12 months ago, is also making headway, doubling inbound revenue each quarter according to Google. Some apps which use subscription as their exclusive revenue model are now cracking the top grossing list, like Pandora.
The momentum is still clearly behind in-app purchase, and as a result Google suggested that there’s good reason to consider that as a revenue model when building apps. Session host and Google Play Product Manger for Commerce and Monetization Ibrahim Elbouchikhi said that while the team likes to play a game called “Where’s Minecraft?” where they spot the world simulation sim from Notch, which continues to sit high on the charts despite being a one-time purchase paid app, the trend is overwhelmingly favoring freemium experiences.
Other key trends identified include a higher propensity to buy things on tablets vs. phones. Google framed this in light of its attempts to get developers to build tablet-optimized experience, saying that there’s a 1.7x higher purchase rate on tablets than on phones for apps. Also, updated versions of apps that take advantage of recent platform additions like the new capabilities unveiled at I/O this year have a 2.2x advantage at monetization vs. older versions, on average.
For Google, spelling that out is a way of it being able to show devs that it makes financial sense to invest the resources and efforts needed to convert apps to tablet versions, or to make them available with as many new features as possible that show off Android’s system improvements. And it does look to be having an effect on Google’s efforts to improve Android user monetization; Elbouchikhi said that average revenue per user (ARPU) among the Android install base is up 2.5x versus the same time last year.
If you were among the select few that signed up for NVIDIA’s Shield newsletter then you’ve been able to pre-order the company’s curious handset for a few days now. The remainder of the gaming masses originally had to wait until Monday for their own turn, but that’s no longer the case — NVIDIA’s retail partners have jumped on the pre-order bandwagon too so you can now stake your claim on a Shield from Newegg, Gamestop, and Canada Computer starting today.
MicroCenter will also sell the Shield in June but it hasn’t yet gotten its pre-order page set up. Get yourself together, MicroCenter.
I’m still not convinced that the Shield will find a foothold outside of the geekiest mobile gamers, but our own Darrell Etherington recently took the thing for a spin and came away rather impressed. He even went as far as calling it “the way Android games should be played,” a sentiment I don’t completely disagree with — we’ve seen the quality of mobile games surge by leaps and bounds these past few years, to the point where they easily eclipse consoles of years past. While those mobile games have slowly come into their own, the control schemes that are forced upon us thanks to the advent of the touchscreen leave much to be desired. There’s still something limiting and unsatisfying about effetely pawing at a piece of glass (or worse, a resistive display — yuck), a sentiment that others have championed, too. Early reactions to the Shield are generally positive, at least where the hardware and control layout is concerned, so at least there’s that to look forward to.
But in the end, will the Shield sell? And what does NVIDIA hope to get out of it? As it happens, NVIDIA may not care all that much about pure sales volume anyway. Time’s Jared Newman spoke to NVIDIA GM of mobile games Bill Rehbock at I/O, who pointed out that the Shield was designed to highlight the sorts of high-end gaming experiences developers have crafted for Android, not to mention the power of the company’s Tegra 4 chipset. There’s little question that NVIDIA’s newest system-on-a-chip has got plenty of horsepower to play with, but it’s still hard to see the Shield as much more than an incredibly niche device that raises more questions than answers.