Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts and current CEO of Digital Chocolate, says mobile app developers will be forced to turn to publishers once again as app stores become too crowded. In a video interview with BigWorld Technology at GDC 2012, Hawkins explained that virtual shelf space on app stores is already at a premium.
"When Apple launched the iPhone, when Facebook launched their app API, when Android and Google Plus followed suit, you started to see all these offers where 'Hey, if you're a developer, just come to me. You don't need a publisher,'" said Hawkins in the interview.
"I think that honeymoon is ending now because if you have a million apps in an app store, just because your app is in an app store, it doesn't mean it's going to be discovered. So you've got issues about how you're going to bring traffic to it."
Discovery is becoming a problem for consumers and developers. In February of this year, Apple reminded developers that it would not tolerate the use of third-party marketing services to artificially boost App Store rankings. Hawkins explained that traditional publishers could solve the discovery problem for some developers in way that app store owners could not. In fact, Hawkins questioned whether app store owners really deserved the 30 percent cut they take on app revenue.
"I think for developers increasingly, they're going to have to try to then figure out, 'Well how do I get my discovery problem solved?' If they can't finance it themselves, then maybe they need to partner with a publisher that's good at it," he said.
"Retailers in the old days not only solved the distribution problem, they solved the discovery problem. In the very beginning with iPhone, with Android, with Facebook, they also solved the discovery problem because there wasn't much there. As you got up into the thousands and thousands of things that are there, they're no longer solving the discovery problem," he added.
"They don't really in fact deserve 30 percent of the value chain anymore. The 30 percent number is kind of arbitrary. That number makes no sense whatsoever anymore."