There are reports that applications (and games) are waiting an increasingly long amount of time to be approved by Apple.
As can be seen in the above graph created by Shiny Development, the average application review time has been rapidly increasing over the past few months. At the beginning of the year the review process was taking under a week, but has seen a steady rise and developers are now facing a month-long review process. Although their data collection methods are by no means foolproof, there seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence from independent developers to back this up. Compared to iOS, which has actually seen a decline in review periods (currently at 7 days on average), this seems to be significant.
I’m not going to speculate as to what the cause of the increase might be, as there are many viable possibilities, but I will say this: this is bad news for everyone.
First of all, the users. Not only does this mean that we have to wait longer for new releases, it also means we have to wait longer for fixes. This alone is simply unacceptable, and the whole point of the review process is to ensure the stability of games running on the platform. I have personally had to put at least one review on hold whilst waiting for a patch, which has been released on other platforms already.
It hurts the developers themselves. It becomes very difficult to market a game if there’s a question mark hanging over the possible release date. It hurts them a lot more if there’s a critical bug that’s been fixed but needs to be approved. Independent developers in particular, having completed a new release, have to wait out the 30 day period before they’ll start to see any income. This means an additional 30 days of eating through their existing capital whilst they wait it out. That means less money to market the game when it’s finally out. In terms of updates, that’s an additional 30 days of negative reviews concerning a bug that’s already been fixed.
It’s bad for Mac gamers. Publishers will look at the data and may decide to boycott the platform entirely. In conversations I’ve had with some publishers, they view the Mac App Store as their most viable distribution channel for Mac games. Delays like this are certainly not going to help. Unity and other development frameworks allow creation of Mac and Linux games as easily as Windows ones, and they’re a big part of the reason we’ve seen such an increase in games available for the Mac. Increasingly we’re seeing simultaneous release on Mac the same day as Windows, but these sort of delays won’t help. If you can’t release you game on the Mac App Store the same day as on Steam, then there’s little incentive to bother. As we know, many Mac gamers will also run Windows via Boot Camp or an additional PC, and so the choice of platform to use becomes a non-issue if there isn’t a viable choice.
It’s bad for the Mac App Store platform as a whole. When you can get the same game on Steam first, with a much faster turnaround for fixes, why bother getting the App Store version? Let me be clear about this, even if you never use it, Mac gaming will live or die by the success of the Mac App Store. That’s what the publishers look at when deciding to produce a Mac version or not. Microsoft can (and by all accounts, does) use some fairly shady practices on it’s Xbox platform, such as price-fixing, intentional delays, charging for patches and so on, and more importantly, get away with it because of its sheer mass. The Mac App Store is to insignificant right now to even attempt such things.
Whether this is a deliberate move on Apple’s part or not, this is something that clearly needs to be addressed, and we urge Apple to commit more resources to ensuring that this gets resolved.
We’ve contacted Apple for comment, and will update you if we receive any further information.