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App Store rule change could kill game promotion services
App Store rule change could kill game promotion services
October 1, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

New changes to Apple's App Store Review Guidelines could eliminate the third-party app promotion services and affiliate programs that many developers depend on to acquire users and advertise their games.

Implemented last month, the new clause found by Pocket Gamer states that "Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected."

That description applies to a number of popular app promotion services like FreeAppADay, as well as the practice of cross-promotion and advertising other applications within a game. Companies that facilitate the latter practice, such as Tapjoy, and possibly even mobile social game networks like Gree could take a major hit if the rule is enforced.

A great number of developers rely on these services, paying to have their titles highlighted in them. This not only helps them acquire users, but also drives up the download count of their games, propelling releases to the top of the App Store charts, where increased visibility further multiplies game downloads.

Free apps that curate games or highlight deals without charging a fee to developers, helping alleviate some of the discovery problems that platform has suffered due to a flood of releases, could also be affected.

There haven't been any reports yet of Apple enforcing this clause, but the company has made it clear in the past that it disapproves of developers and services that try to manipulate its charts and user reviews.

Addressing complaints about services that explicitly promise a boost for releases on the App Store's charts for a fee, Apple advised developers to "avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts" back in February.

At the time, the company said in a statement posted on its developer site, "Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership."

[Update: A new addition to iOS's Developer Library suggests that Apple might not be completely against developers promoting other apps in their titles, and that the company is actually encouraging it in some cases.

The new developer feature, which was pointed out by TechCrunch, is outlined in Apple's SKStoreProductView Controller Class Reference page: "A SKStoreProductViewController object presents a store that allows the user to purchase other media from the App Store. For example, your app might display the store to allow the user to purchase another app."]

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Steven Stadnicki
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I think the key clause is the phrase "in a manner similar to [...] the App Store". Most of the game-to-game advertising I've seen doesn't seem like it would fall under this heading at all - there's no attempt made to look like the App Store. This clause sounds more like Apple trying to head off complaints from people who thought they were looking at the App Store rather than third-party services and wind up blaming Apple for their user experience; we'll have to see how they apply it.

Jonathan Chan
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Yeah, this is the first thing that jumped out at me as well. It's not that they're trying to prevent devs and publishers from promoting their other products, they're just trying to avoid anything that looks like being advertised directly from Apple.

It's like going a file hosting site, and seeing 10 different advertisements that read "CLICK HERE TO START YOUR DOWNLOAD"... it makes total sense that Apple would want to avoid that shit.

E Zachary Knight
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So Apple is bound and determined to make its app store as useless as possible for developers. How in the world did this thing become the success it is?

Doug Poston
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They're successful with developers because they have millions of users in the best target demographic for cheap games.

How they got these users, I'm not sure. But we can rule out an easy to use store.

august clark
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Apple has their own "Featured Apps" section, that unless I am mistaken, developers can pay to have their app featured in. My first thought when I saw this, was that Apple is just trying to funnel more attention on their own storefront from which they can sell add space.

Ryan Christensen
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>> How in the world did this thing become the success it is?

The underrated and ninja like iPod Touch. It is a pretty cheap handheld at the 8GB model. There hasn't been nor will be it seems, much competition to this. Maybe the Kindle Fire or Nexus Tablet but there is no product that competes with it. It was the majority of gamers on Apple devices for some time. It also hooked lots of people into iPhones and iPads later.

Talat Fakhri
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So, if I want a competitor to get banned, all I need to do is to aggressively and explicitly promote him right on the face of Apple?

Dave Ingram
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This is yet another example of the increasing poor decisions of post-Jobs Apple. I wonder how much of this unilateral, living-in-a-bubble kind of decision-making the brand can take before it begins to tarnish?

Robert Schmidt
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Part of the Apple strategy and ideology that only Apple IP and content is worth consuming. If Apple didn't create it or can't directly profit from it, it shouldn't exist. The ghost of Steve Jobs is still haunting Apple.

Doug Poston
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@Joe: True. But Apple is also very concerned about controlling the End User Experience. Which is why this move makes total sense.

Robert Schmidt
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"may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership" well at least this time Apple is giving you reason they banned your app. They never felt they had to do so when Steve Jobs was dictator and chief.

mike lynch
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Well, I hope it just means, don't show dialogs similar to app store dialogs, and means nothing about ad style cross promotion.

Dennis Dunn
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I think in reality all these promotions where we give our software away for nothing JUST to get noticed is obscene in its own right, and should be banned anyway. It monopolizes the strategy to no one winning except for the end user, who is now groomed into thinking games and applications cost nothing to make and should be free. Of course there's problems inherent in that system and I'm surprised its gone on this long.

If promotion means spending tons of cash on crappy deals that take half your profits and give away tens of thousands of your product, I'm surprised anyone is arguing about something as tiny as this. These methods are teaching the customer that they can just sit and wait for a rich company to drop everything to 99 cents so that the non rich devs have to give things away for free. That's obscene and its miserable and its a poor business model to foster a new platform...

I wish there were better methods and stronger backbones in this community, but instead we have a lot of giving in and giving free. It's going to kill every opportunity a new budding company wants to take.

When a fart application is at the top of the charts and a brilliant title is at the bottom because they asked for more than a dollar, then it's not just this little issue that's the problem. It's all of us, and we all won't/can't smarten up until the major companies back off and start pricing properly and letting the little companies foster into more stable players, creating a proper industry. But nope...that would mean more selection of quality titles, rather than every knob in the world dropping whatever crap app they want just to pad the catalogue to sell hardware.

There is a serious problem with support in this. And it shows that in the mobile world, no one cares about where things come from, nor do they think its worth the few bucks out of their pockets. That's utterly dispicable considering any other business would never run this way without imploding.

I say get rid of the promo apps, get rid of the sales monitoring apps, segregate the store into high level, mid level and indie/entry level pricing, police the user base for ignorant trolling, and try to create a sustainable platform so that when this goes further, you have a developer library that stands up against other consoles, rather than tiny mechanics that last for minutes and get thrown on the pile of dead apps within days of release.

Why is it so wrong for developers to get paid for their work? Why is it considered insulting to ask for more than a buck, or worse FREE, because you spent a year on a software title.

I don't understand why this continues to go on and on and get supported. Why not just give them your car and your clothes and pay for them to eat? At this point developers in the mobile industry are becoming the charity game givers, and that plain sucks. Way to teach a generation you never have to pay for anything as long as you're cheap and miserable enough to ignore what commercial worth really is.

Caio Lopez
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Well, there is this free-to-play business model thing. Some apps need the biggest exposure possible, while others need tapjoy as their only source of income. Not everyone is still doing premiums.

Bob Johnson
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Websites seem to be perfectly fine places for recommending and promoting games.

Nooh Ha
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Didn't they also ban premium virtual currencies at some point? I think they decided not to enforce it because of the sheer number of apps using them. Wonder whether this will be the same...

Robert Swift
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Well, the Apple brand is all about control. For my taste, the company controls too much and the user too little. For example, I hate that I don't seem to be able to ban all games and game related stuff from my App Store view and the OS (though I am new to the Mac).

Jeremy Alessi
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I'm not sure whether this is good or bad yet...