You might have heard of the fun physics/Rube Goldberg machine game Apparatus. It's actually pretty popular, and quite well-loved - over 800 reviews on the Android Market putting it at an average score of 4.5. For a game, especially, that's a very difficult feat to accomplish. It goes without saying then, that the developer of Apparatus is very concerned with customer feedback and providing support for his application.
Recently, he decided to distribute Apparatus through the Amazon Appstore. Today, he decided to remove it.
Initially, Apparatus was rejected by the Appstore for an extremely minor (even insignificant) mis-step: it used HTTP rather than HTTPS for a cookie when the app was accessing the community forums. This was after waiting 2 weeks for the review process to complete. Their fix wasn't exactly consequence-free.
So we added literally 1 character (an 's') to the code and resubmitted. This also meant our tired server would from this point and on have to struggle with SSL-encrypted binary data for every single level that was downloaded or published by a user.
Subsequent updates to the app were also slow to be reviewed. It was another week before the app was approved. When the app was finally published in the store, the developer noted Apparatus was nowhere to be found in the "New Releases" section of the Appstore, which basically just listed popular titles.
Filter Fail / Communication Breakdown
The developer of Apparatus really makes a good case for Amazon having hurt, rather than helped, his efforts to popularize his product. The developer was approached by Amazon to participate in the "Free App of the Day" promotion and to appear in the 'hand-picked' "Popular Games" list of the Appstore. He accepted this offer - but little did he know of the repercussions that decision would have.
Unfortunately, Amazon didn't enforce device filters during the Free App of the Day campaign (for whatever reason), resulting in the game being downloaded by large numbers of users whose phones couldn't even run the application. This concern is obviously astronomically higher when it comes to games, which have much stricter device compatibility requirements. This resulted in the game getting scores of 1-star reviews from owners who spent time downloading it only to be thwarted by a force-close due to device incompatibility. Over 180,000 users downloaded Apparatus during the promotional period.
The developer couldn't even respond to the complaints of customers - because he's from Sweden. No, I'm not talking about a language barrier, I'm talking about the Appstore's requirement that you purchase the app to comment on its page. This, apparently, includes the developer. Not that this makes any sense and is clearly just a poorly thought-out implementation of the commenting system. But, only US consumers can buy apps on the Amazon Appstore - leaving foreign developers without a voice.
There's also the fact that Amazon makes reporting bugs and contacting the developer a non-possibility in the Amazon Appstore, unless the developer explicitly includes that information in the app description. This means fewer bug reports, less feedback, and more angry customers.
To top it all off, the developer wasn't able to refund any purchases of his app. Why? Because the Amazon Appstore has no refund mechanism. But still, even after this, the game was selling.
The Last Straw
Then, the inevitable happened - a crazy commenter. Because the app has a built-in community feature for player discussions, it requires internet access permissions. Someone failed to understand that.
I love physics game and this one looks like it has a lot of potential, but it has a severe coding flaw. For some reason before the game will even start it has to connect to some ad server. When I first tried to play the game it would always just sit at a black screen and do nothing. Then the fact I use Adfree occurred to me so I disabled that and then it worked fine. So, then I tried putting my phone in Airplane mode and once again it would not start. So, basically this game is completely unplayable unless it is able to contact some ad server which requires that you always have an internet connection to play it and there is no way to play it in an area with bad signal or on an airplane. And, not to mention that it is tracking you every time you do play it. Fail.
That comment became the "Most Helpful" comment on the game's page. It's clearly wrong, and written by somebody with nothing better to do than critique app permissions without any legitimate basis for his assertions whatsoever. When the developer contacted Amazon, wanting to respond to this review, he received no help. In fact, after the "Free App Of The Day" campaign, Amazon Appstore support was all but unavailable to Bithack.
Sales of the application, in the words of the developer, were hit hard. Apparatus made a precipitous drop from the peak of its popularity on the Appstore, when it occupied the #3 position on Amazon's top apps, into obscurity.
Oh, and to add insult to injury, Amazon suddenly decided to lower the price of Apparatus without any consent or authorization from Bithack, down to 25% of the original price (it was selling at half price, previously).
So, it's clear the Appstore has some issues to work out, and Amazon has some answering to do in regards to its customer service. We've contacted Amazon and are awaiting comment on all of this. We're as eager to hear what they have to say as the folks over at Bithack.