From a consumer standpoint, Amazon's Appstore has been pretty great with its Free App of the Day being the biggest highlight of the service to most HTC EVO users who have downloaded apps from the store. Not having to pay anything for an app is great but most people might not think about what happens to the developer who agrees to have his/her app placed on the main Amazon Appstore page.
Shifty Jelly has taken on the duty to inform people about what really goes on when someone's app becomes the Free App of the Day. When joining Amazon, it is publicly stated that the company pays developers 20% of the asking price of an app. Shifty Jelly claims that Amazon promises to pay the same 20% even when giving away the app for free, a claim I personally could not verify. Shifty Jelly says the dirty secret is that Amazon does not want customers to know that when an app becomes the Free App of the Day, they will actually pay you absolutely no money.
When a dev's app is about to be featured, Amazon send out this email:
As you may already know, the Free App of the Day offer placement is one of the most visible and valuable spaces on the Amazon Appstore. We would like to include your app "[name removed]" in our Free App of the Day calendar. We have seen tremendous results from this promotion spot and believe it will bring you a great deal of positive reviews and traffic. It is an opportunity to build your brand especially in association with a brand like Amazon's. The current price of this placement is at 0% rev share for that one day you are placed.
One item of their argument that seems to show how that exposure can be a double edge sword is their data of how sales went. As you can see in the table at right, their app was not really doing the ground breaking sales that you might expect and obviously you can see why they might have thought agreeing to the Free App of the Day would help exposure. Of note is that despite showing that they would earn $54,805.14, they actually earned $0.00 as stipulated in the email agreement, which they feel tricks customers who might think that downloading the app would help them in some way.
Shifty Jelly's featured app requires them to maintain and provide a server side presence, which actually is now costing them more since they have to support all the new people who downloaded the app while it was free.
In addition to this back and forth, there is laundry list of other complaints and Shifty Jelly is now removing its apps from the Amazon Appstore. And they are not the only ones. It seems another developer, Bithack, who created the game Apparatus is joining the cause as well.
So I leave you to make your own judgement. I feel Shifty Jelly knew what they were getting into, but that does not completely absolve Amazon of some potentially shady practices. What do you think? Will you download another Amazon Free App of the Day?[Shifty Jelly Blog]