The Lack of App Store Content Equality

Every Developer faces a different set of challenges and frustrations when creating content for any platform. The App Store has been a particularly frustrating experience for Developers in a variety of different ways.

Some are concerned about the price of Apps, others are upset about the inability to create software that competes with Apple’s own Applications.

For me, the problem lies with “Content Equality”.

I have been working with many comic book companies to bring their titles to the iPhone and iPod touch for the last several months. In that time we’ve seen PG to PG-13 rated comic books rejected from the store out right. Sometimes it’s for having content that Apple deems “pornographic or obscene” (keep in mind we’re not talking about anything here that cannot be seen on network television). Once it was because they felt we “ridiculed a public figure”.

This is an extremely frustrating situation to be in for a variety of reasons. For one, the comic book industry WANTS to be on the iPhone – and we seem to have to kick and punch for every book we have. If Apple felt this way across the board in iTunes that would be one thing – but they don’t.

In the App Store itself you can get games where zombies eat human flesh, People can shoot aliens that squirt blood like a water hose, and you can even perform amateur surgery on unsuspecting patients. These game, of course, have a content ratings system that keeps them from being rejected.

For whatever reason Apple has refused, thus far, to enable that same ratings systems for non-gaming applications in the App store. That’s incredibly frustrating, because several times now we have worked very hard on a title, only to find that it’s rejected because Apple has arbitrarily decided that one Monster with a battle axe can’t fight another one with a sword because that’s somehow “obscene”.

When you move out from the App Store itself into other areas of iTunes it becomes even more upsetting. The Saw films are available for download. “Unrated” editions of several movies (including the incredibly gross and over the top “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”) are there with no problem.

Apple has even gone so far as to promote horribly “offensive” shows like “Children’s Hospital” which proudly states that it’s about the staff of a Children’s Hospital behaving inappropriately (including performing sex acts) in front of terminally ill children.

The Music section is, of course, filled with explicit material, as is the podcast section (both of which can be directly downloaded onto your iPod touch or iPhone). Even the audio book section is filled with adult and mature content — and there isn’t even a ratings system there.

What this has ultimately lead us to do, is look for other options for delivering our content to consumers. When I started working on iVerse, it was strictly to provide digital comics for the iPhone and iPod touch. Now we’ve been forced by Apple to look at other options. We’re currently developing an Application for Google’s Android platform, and we hope to not have the same crushing restrictions there that we do on the iPhone and iPod touch.

The lack of a fair and equal set of rules among the App sections, and the store itself is slowly driving us down other paths, and it may drive some developers away completely. There is a simple solution to this on Apple’s part, but anytime we’ve provided feedback we’ve been met with “that’s great feedback, I’ll pass it along to my superiors” – that’s the EXACT thing we’ve been told by different reps both in person, and on the phone. It’s a “party line” that comes off more as “we’re not listening to you, and we don’t care” more than anything else.

We want to be a part of the App Store economy, and we have some great content to offer. It would be nice if we could get a fair shake at delivering it to consumers.

Comments

  1. Hi Michael,
    This very much echos our experiences from back in September with Apple and the App Store. I am, however, convinced this will work itself out as Apple tries to deal with ‘change’ in terms of what is permissible and what should be permissible. As you have said, the inconsistency across the store is what gives you most pause – as it did with our first release, MURDERDROME, It’s what leads us to build a comics distribution platform separate from the App Store as a major component.

    It might be in our interest to work together on some of these issues and attempt to lobby support. One company is easily ignored. Two less so. Ten? More?

    And maybe we should talk about what we’re doing with Android?

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