Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, Here Again?: Kongregate CEO on Disappearing Android App

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It’s been an interesting couple of days for Jim Greer, CEO of Kongregate. The web portal destination for independently-developed, browser-based games launched  the Kongregate Arcade app on Android Market earlier this week. Bringing 300 of the site’s best games to the millions of Android devices out in the world meant that users got a new infusion of fun games for their gadgets and the game developers suddenly got a whole new level of exposure. Win-win, right?

For some reason, the powers that be at Google decided otherwise and removed Kongregate from the Android Market. It can still be had via direct download at kongregate.com/android but Greer and the team at Kongregate are still working at getting the app back onto Google’s official distribution hub. I spoke with Greer to hear his side of how a beloved app ran afoul of the very people who approved it.

First off, can you describe Kongregate for people who may not know about it?

We’re a Web destination that has 36,000 games for browsers–PC, desktop, laptops, et cetera. And those are coming from about 9,000 developers, and we reach about 13 million monthly unique players. So we distribute games from indie developers and then we make them social through achievements, high scores, comments, ratings, forums. You level up as you play the games. So really, kind of like an Xbox Live type experience around browser-based games.

And so our mobile app is really a pretty complete expression of that, but adapted for a four-inch screen. Actually, it works great on larger tablets as well. The initial release has over 300 games and we’ll be adding new games weekly. And those, like the web-based games, will have achievements and you’ll be able to rate, comment, share them, and so forth. So, yeah, I think it’s a really slick experience of playing Flash games.

What was the reception when Google first saw it?

We showed it to several people at Google and they said, “Wow. This is great. This is something that iOS devices really can’t do, and it’s much better than playing in a regular browser.” At first, the main thing for us is that we launched the app and quickly got a really great response, I think. Our rating in the market is 4.6, which is very high, and lots of really positive reviews and attention.

And then it got pulled from the Market. How quickly did that happen? How long was the timeframe between the release and being pulled? Was it a matter of hours? Was it a day after going live?

Yeah, it was the same morning. So, it was same day. It had tens of thousands of downloads in a very short period of time. So, I imagine that it came to their attention fairly quickly. We’re actually quite optimistic now, more so than I was in some of my statements yesterday, is that we’re going to be able to get that re-enabled in the Google App Store. We’re working with them. And hoping to get specific guidelines.

Generally, there’s a lot of apps that allow you to download and browse content from the Kindle app to things like the Slacker Music App, to Google Reader. And our app is in that same category. I think Google is just kind of trying to define what the line of demarcation is there. And we’re hopeful that we can work with them and have a released version that falls on the right side of that line.

Evan: Two things occur to me: One, you showed it to Google before submitting it for approval. You said you showed it to representatives of Google who were impressed by the interface and the smoothness. And two, it doesn’t sound to me right now like you have a sense of what the offending characteristic of the Kongregate app was that caused it to be pulled.

Yeah. Yeah, I can address both of those. First off, I think we showed it to people at Google. But Google is a large company, and they weren’t necessarily the decision makers who had all the information about the guidelines for the Google market. Those guidelines certainly are evolving as well. So we understand that.

We haven’t had a direct conversation, but Google did make a statement that if the caching functionality were modified, that would probably allow us to be re-enabled. So, we haven’t spoken with them directly about that yet, and we want to get that clarified. It’s our hope that either through that or through another method we can find a way to release a version for them that will be acceptable. In the meantime, of course, one very nice thing about Android is that the app continues to be available.

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