Game Over For Kongregate On Android? Not So Fast

Perhaps because Android was built on open-source code, and is free to license, people often assume that it is the more “open” of the smartphone operating systems. A new scuffle, however, has highlighted how this might not always be the case: Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has removed a new app from the social gaming portal Kongregate from its Android Market app store, saying that it violated Google’s terms of service policy. But far from being a problem, the ejection might net Kongregate its highest score yet.

It all started when Kongregate, a games portal the retailer GameStop bought in July 2010, launched a new Android app this week for devices running the 2.2 or higher version of Android.

The free app allowed users to access all of Kongregate’s flash games — it serves as a portal for some 300 of these created by different developers. The app initially launched on the Market but was then removed less than a day later for violating Google’s terms of service, which include a non-compete clause.

There is still a question mark over why Google did this.

Is it, as VentureBeat conjectures, because Google itself is looking to do more in mobile social gaming itself and the success of another service might hinder that effort? Kongregate has 13 million users of its online portal, so it’s already a very strong brand in the space.

But Google lets other apps into the Market that compete with existing products (eg mapping apps), so that shouldn’t be the case. Yet given how many apps get approved (some have said much more quickly than on Apple’s app platform) why would one get singled out?

Regardless of what was behind Google’s reasoning, the whole situation might be a blessing in disguise for Kongregate.

First of all, Kongregate has its own retail vehicle to promote the site. Kongregate prominently features the Android app on its own web site, which can either download and then transfer to their phones, or access the download directly via a browser on their handsets. It will also be promoted via Kongregate’s owner, GameStop, both online and in its retail stores, says VentureBeat.

Second of all, Kongregate will be offering the app via GetJar. That’s not such a bad thing. Last year’s major app success story, Rovio’s Angry Birds (another game), took the GetJar route when it expanded into Android. By the end of December, Rovio had 15 million+ downloads on the platform.

On top of all that, getting ejected from the app store may well have generated a lot more viral coverage than joining it in the first place. Android’s app store appears to be in an arms race to catch up to Apple’s App Store. Current estimates are that there are 160,000 apps in Market already and everyone knows how hard it is to be heard in a crowd.