"The reason for the removal," Greer recounted, "and we didn't find out until after it was already gone, was that they claim you can't use their app store to distribute another app store -- which is a reasonable restriction. But to us, what's really bizarre, to call [Kongregate Arcade] an 'app store' seems like a pretty extreme stretch."
The Arcade app is essentially a portal to Kongregate's Flash site, with access to more than 300 games formatted for mobile display and wrapped in a native layer of social features. "Literally, you can go to m.kongregate.com and play any of the games," Greer insisted. "And the experience will be -- once you've got the game on your phone -- just the same," minus the "rich presentation layer" added by the app.
Through the Kongregate Arcade, games can also be played online or offline. "If you download them," Greer explained, "it's essentially caching the file, and then when you play the game it actually uses a browser. It's a browser -- you can't see the address bar – but it's a regular Android browser using WebKit. And WebKit loads the Flash file from the cache and you play the game in the browser, then you head back and you can play another game."
"We were just shocked. I'm not ready to say it's a philosophical shift from Google; you could misinterpret our app and think those are all native experiences, but right now I'm just confused." - Jim Greer
"So, it's all essentially cached content delivered in a browser, which to me is just bizarre that that would be considered an 'app store,'" Greer reiterated. "It's just browser-based content."
As mentioned, Kongregate had shown the app to "multiple people at Google," who, according to Greer, reacted along the lines of: "Wow. That's an awesome experience. It's so cool that you can play Flash games on Android and you can't on iPhone. This is great." Greer added, "But they weren't the decision makers, unfortunately."
"Every other removal that Google's done previously has been, you know, fraudelent banking apps and other stuff that was just clearly over the line," Greer said. "We were just shocked. I'm not ready to say it's a philosophical shift from Google; you could misinterpret our app and think those are all native experiences, but right now I'm just confused." Greer pointed to the existence of "Game Boy emulators with hundreds of ROMs and things like that" on the Android Marketplace, which have "thousands or hundreds of thousands of downloads." So why was Kongregate Arcade removed?
"I just think they're misinterpreting this," Greer said of Google. "I think the people making this decision weren't necessarily engineers. My background is as an engineer, so I'm hoping we can sort of have an engineer to engineer discussion where we say, 'Hey, we're playing content in the browser. This is crazy. We're not distributing apps.'"
"I think the people making this decision weren't necessarily engineers. My background is as an engineer, so I'm hoping we can sort of have an engineer to engineer discussion." - Jim Greer
Greer pointed us towards the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement, which stipulates "You may not use the Market to distribute or make available any Product whose primary purpose is to facilitate the distribution of Products outside of the Market." A "Product" is defined as "Software, content and digital materials created for Devices in accordance with the Android SDK and distributed via the Market." If you're thinking of other apps that fall well within this limitation – like Amazon's popular Kindle app – then you're not alone.
After the years-long battle Apple's had with developers over screening apps for its App Store, this scenario challenges Google's perceived role as the antithesis of that model. We've asked Google to comment on Kongregate's situation but, until we hear back, we'll let Greer have the last word. "Our understanding is that this wasn't even a gray area; that it was totally fine. And that's why we're so surprised."