Five of the 20 best-selling casual game apps in Android's Marketplace involve illegal drugs. Virtual illegal drugs, of course! Guess how many are available for the iPhone? Yep, zero.
Franklin Brothers (not his real name), president of Grow Brothers, which developed Weed Farmer (it's like FarmVille, but with marijuana as the only crop), blames it on Apple's closed app market. Grow Brothers is thriving but still an upstart, and the company can't rationalise spending six months plus developing Weed Farmer for the iPhone when there's a good chance it might be rejected by Apple's screening process.
"We determined that we were going to do weed farmer, and we had seen some anecdotal evidence of people being rejected from Apple," Brothers says.
Weed Farmer is indeed not alone. Today it's number eight among casual game app downloads. Roll a Joint (you can actually smoke the joint through your phone's microphone) is number two, Smoke a Bowl is six, Nose Candy is 12, and Garden of Weeden is 19.
"Show iPhone users an app they can't get!" brag the download pages for Nose Candy, Roll a Joint and Smoke a Bowl, all by FDP Games.
Android app development is a essentially a free market. Developers create apps and customers decide with their downloads which are successful. Android developers sign a terms of service agreement, but there's no approval process. Google steps in or rejects an app mostly in cases of copyright infringement.
Brothers says the company didn't set out to make a marijuana game, but his market research showed the genre was popular. They marketed the game in chat rooms and forums, and it exploded — it's just six months old and has 43,000 downloads at $5 a pop.
He says if he could get some kind assurance from Apple that they'd judge the app on its technical merits and not on subject matter, he'd spend the resources on development. But that's not likely. "I've sent emails that went unanswered," he says.
"Cigarette" rolling apps are available in Apple's AppStore. If you use them to roll something other than tobacco, we won't tell.