Online games company Kongregate temporarily had its Kongregate Arcade app pulled from Android Market by Google, following allegations that it was “illicitly installing applications.” However, what the app actually does is enable customers to play online Flash games on their device, even using the Android web browser for rendering – “though it does cache games for faster loading.” The issue is that the Android Market terms and conditions prevent its use to promote alternative app stores – which is how Kongregate Arcade may appear, even if it is not. According to Gamasutra, the app was reinstated to the store this week, with Kongregate having made modifications which “make it very clear that the app is for playing browser-based games and it’s not going to install anything on the phone.”
With the increasing use of technologies such as HTML5, the barriers between an app and a web site have blurred, creating the situation that Kongregate encountered. What the company is actually offering is a set of links to a set of online games, which are then cached on the device to improve performance. However, while these use Flash and the Android browser for rendering, this is done without the presence of the familiar browser tools (such as address bar and navigation buttons), making them look like native apps – and therefore making Kongregate Arcade appear like an alternative app distribution channel. The app now features a browser bar when loading games, before switching to full screen, to highlight the process that is taking place.
VentureBeat reported that Kongregate had argued that if its app was removed for installing additional content, then the same rule could be applied to Amazon’s Kindle app or various music store products. The rule could also apply to the niche (but significant) market for games emulators, for example enabling users to play games written for early home computer platforms. It was also suggested by some observers that the decision may have been motivated by Google’s own casual gaming aspirations.
Previously, Android Market has been criticised for lacking the same types of controls that Apple has on products available via its App Store – although on the flip side, Apple’s App Store submission process has been criticised for being opaque. Due to the more open nature of the Android ecosystem, Kongregate was also able to find alternative distribution channels for Kongregate Arcade, such as through its own app store and via GetJar.
Kongregate Arcade provides access to more than 300 games, and includes social gaming features such as app rating, high-score sharing and comment posting. It is available for devices running Android 2.2 or higher, with Flash Player 10.1.