Google Plays Its Monetization Card

Mobile game developers have been breaking their heads over the lack of revenue on Android. Some developers even took drastic measures and quit developing for the platform entirely. But were they right in doing so? The scenery is changing and Google Play is starting to generate revenue. It’s still not close to the amount of money spent on iOS but every journey starts with a single step. And that step has been taken.

Google’s Ace

Google has played their next card and it is called carrier billing – a seamless method of payment, surpassing the ease of paying on iOS. Alas, I myself can’t use it yet. For now it’s only available in several countries and in those countries only for people who use certain providers. You can view the list of countries and providers here.

What is carrier billing?


Carrier billing is not even innovative. Before the dawn of the smartphones we now own I had a Sony Ericsson K700i. A great phone with which I was able to browse the internet at ridiculous prices and it also had a market where I could buy games and wallpapers. I paid for these using carrier billing. Meaning I would just select whatever I wanted to buy using some of those old fashioned keys you may remember, you know, with numbers on them and such. Thanks to carrier billing it just downloaded whatever I selected, not asking for a credit card number or anything. The purchase would just show up on my monthly phone bill. That’s carrier billing.

No credit card!

That’s right, no credit card! Finally! In Europe and Japan, credit cards aren’t quite as popular as in the USA and not owning one made the purchasing of games on Google Play complicated. I’m a 22 year old European. Why would I need a credit card? The only reason I can come up with is for Google Play. But not anymore. I can’t wait till carrier billing hits my country and my provider. I will clean out the Google Play store :-). I do realize though that this method is not ideal for everyone. Parents, for instance, may not be so thrilled about this. Specifically parents with children that are old enough to operate their father or mother’s smartphone and yet too young to realize the value of money. That might be problematic. For numerous other users though, it really lowers the threshold of paying. A lot.

“But developing for Android is hard and more expensive”

This is an argument my co-worker Yorick offered, showing me this TechCrunch article. A fair argument. I, however, read a different TechCrunch article stating that the problem is not that big of a problem at all. Sure, there’s a lot of Android devices. But most of them are hardly being used. “A subset of roughly 20 devices makes up about 80 percent of the volume for Android, so the problem is more manageable than one might suspect. Similarly, more than 90 percent of Android devices are addressed by supporting OS version 2.2 and later.” That’s what my TechCrunch article says. Sure, it’s not 100% and you’ll still piss some people off because they won’t be able to run your game. But this is only a small percentage of Android users. If these people happen to download your game just reimburse them (provided that they paid for your game). It’s as simple as that. I also introduced Yorick to this man, who raises a fair counterargument as well. So, stop whining and get cracking. There’s demand for high-end mobile games on Google Play as well. More on this in the next paragraph.

Talk is cheap

And right you are. How about some numbers then? There’s this brilliant blog post called ‘Treat Android as a first-class citizen… It’ll pay off!‘ by TinyCo. They developed a game called Tiny Village and shared their experiences about releasing it on 3 different app stores (iOS, Google Play and Amazon). Over all devices TinyCo made 65 cents on Google Play for every dollar they made on iTunes and they expect this gap to shrink.

In this article there’s another example of TripleTown that made 67 cents on Google Play for every dollar it made on iTunes. You may already have connected the dots: These are both freemium games. This isn’t surprising as 68 of the top 100 grossing UK Android apps are freemium games. Not only on Android though. Freemium games have been taking over in general for a while now. As you can see in the image below, it’s also become a more and more popular way of driving revenue on iOS.


Google Pay

It’s time we get rid of the outdated notion that Android-users are unwilling to pay for games. If you want to drive revenue on Google Play, get on board now! And the best way to do this is with a freemium game of high quality. Unfortunately Paladin’s new game, Momonga, is not going to be a freemium game. But I guess we’ll see how it will fare on the new and improved Google Play. It is to be expected that the gap between total revenue generated on iOS and the total revenue generated on Google Play will be shrinking. And you don’t want to be late to that party, do you?

What do you think? Are you jumping on the Android bandwagon or will you keep focusing on iOS?


– Peter

P.S. After having Yorick proofread this blog post he told me carrier billing was going to hit the Netherlands soon as well. He was right, on May 26th 1 provider announced they would soon allow carrier billing. And lucky me… that’s my provider :-).

  • David Goemans
    Posted at 13:04h, 06 June

    Completely agreed!

    I’ve also found with my own dev ( 2 games and a widget ) that supporting multiple devices isn’t very difficult. Using Unity as an engine also deals with most of the issues for you, and as long as you deal with UI properly, there’s no problem. This is exactly the same as on iOS.

  • Lukas
    Posted at 14:37h, 06 June

    I’m with Yorick on this one Peter.

    “..Sure, it’s not 100% and you’ll still piss some people off because they won’t be able to run your game.”
    You do realise that those people will throw one star reviews, money back claims and hatemail at you?

    Thats bad for your reputation and sales.
    Have you read this blog by MikaMobile: btw? They did high quality android games but its just not maintainable for small developers.

    • Tijmen
      Posted at 10:03h, 11 June

      Hate to admit it, but im with Peter on this one. Yes, if people pay for a product that doesnt run on their device they will not be happy, and leave bad ratings/comments. However you can apply filters* to your app, so they wont even be able to purchase it. You could just develop and test with 3 devices, low mid and high range. Then make a rough estimate what kind of hardware is required, and only target anything above that.

      You actually do not have to test your app on all 400 devices, its silly to do so. The PC market is a great example of this; there are so many combinations of hardware setup that it is actually impossible to test all of them. Yet developers still seem to be releasing software 🙂 Just give a rough estimate, and let your customers know what to expect.


  • Peter
    Posted at 17:15h, 06 June

    Haters are always going to hate Lukas, no matter why. If your game is good the 5-star reviews will weigh out those 1-star reviews. Reimburse them and let them hate while you monetize on people who do have proper devices.

    I can see your point though. It’s still a risk you’re taking. I’m just trying to state that it is getting safer and safer to take that risk.

  • Richard Kastelein
    Posted at 08:55h, 10 June

    Dutch company GlobalCollect recently acquired

    Direct Carrier Billing globally. One touch payment via carriers. No I don’t work for them, but know Derk so thought I would share!

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