Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
July 23, 2014
arrowPress Releases
July 23, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


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

October 1, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
Comments
    26 comments
More:



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."]


Related Jobs

2K
2K — Novato, California, United States
[07.22.14]

Level Architect
Cloud Imperium Games
Cloud Imperium Games — Santa Monica, California, United States
[07.22.14]

Art Outsourcing Manager
Respawn Entertainment
Respawn Entertainment — San Fernando Valley, California, United States
[07.22.14]

Senior Systems Designer
Petroglyph Games
Petroglyph Games — Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
[07.22.14]

Senior Unity Artist










Comments


Steven Stadnicki
profile image
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
profile image
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
profile image
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
profile image
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
profile image
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.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
@august,

"Apple has their own "Featured Apps" section, that unless I am mistaken, developers can pay to have their app featured in."

You are mistaken. Apple does feature apps, but you cannot pay for a slot there, or even consideration. (Which is not to say it's unbiased, just that it's not a billboard for rent.)

Ryan Christensen
profile image
>> 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
profile image
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
profile image
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
profile image
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.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
"Part of the Apple strategy and ideology that only Apple IP and content is worth consuming."

What? Apple's strategy has *always* been to make money on hardware, and make that hardware attractive by being the best (or only) place to buy other people's content.

Apple records and/or produces essentially 0% of the music in the iTunes Store. They will sell you computers and some (relatively cheap) software to mix it and plenty of devices to play it on, but they are not a record label.

Apple writes essentially 0% of the books in the iBooks store. They will sell you software to lay out your book, and devices to read it on.

Apple develops essentially 0% of the apps in the App Store. They will sell you a dev program subscription and tools, tons of computers and devices, and take a 30% cut of your revenue, but they don't really care who writes the software.

Everything Apple does is to sell more hardware. That's where the vast majority of their money comes from, and that's their core competency. It's also one of the reasons this move doesn't make any sense to me.

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

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
@Doug,

If these were alternate app stores, I'd agree. But they're not. They all work by linking to the app store, where you view and pay directly in accordance with the Official Party Line.

See my other speculation below, though. I think more realistically we're just witnessing the first end-user-visible escalation of the UDID war that's been going on for a while.

Robert Schmidt
profile image
"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
profile image
Well, I hope it just means, don't show dialogs similar to app store dialogs, and means nothing about ad style cross promotion.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
This is pretty bizarre for a couple reasons.

As I said above, this isn't something that cuts into Apple's revenue stream. The opposite, rather - if other people are (sub-)curating good apps, it saves Apple time and money from having to improve their own discoverability interfaces. Apple's decisions on store policies are usually understandable from a context of "profit above all else" - from hardware first and software second, and this doesn't seem to fit that.

Second, usually app store policy changes come as the result of something perceived as "abusive" - something real users are complaining about directly or indirectly. Usually there are some waves in the development community before this happens, e.g. dropping the UDID. I haven't heard anything related to this, and I can't figure out what it might be in this case theoretically.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
And of course right after I wrote that comment I hit upon what this might be caused by, probably because I mentioned the UDID.

Game promotion services usually work by tracking and correlating installs. Click a link for app B in app A connects to the promotion service with some special device identifier, and then through to the App Store, user installs app B, and upon starting B it reports the same identifier A did back to the promotion service.

The problem is, this identifier is essentially a cross-app UDID, and it's got all the privacy problems associated with the old UDID.

Banning the whole class of services is pretty heavy-handed. On the other hand I've watched people go from UDID tracking until Apple banned that, to weird hacks like MAC tracking until banned that, and now OpenUDID. Apple's made it clear they don't want services that silently track people across multiple applications (and as a user I'd rather that not be possible). So as a final escalation Apple just tells Tapjoy et al. "nope, you're done" - but probably most developers using Tapjoy had no idea there were privacy issues in the first place.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
By limiting the app install tracking, you are eliminating the effectiveness of services like Tapjoy. If the service cannot create a user profile of the iPhone/Android user, then it cannot target said users with ads for games they would most likely download and install. Without that ability, you are shooting in the dark.

Of course, this might be a moot point if Apple itself had some kind of profile building within the App Store itself. If the App Store functioned more like Netflix and Amazon with their recommendation engines, then there would be little reason for services like Tapjoy to enter the market and no reason for this new policy.

So basically, Apple is banning the ability for 3rd parties to come in and fix what are glaring weaknesses in the App Store that Apple will not fix itself.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
"By limiting the app install tracking, you are eliminating the effectiveness of services like Tapjoy."

Yes. They're also making sure my purchase activity can't be tracked by anyone else. On the side of users vs. developers, Apple pretty much always comes down on the side of users (since they're the ones paying money). Like I said it's heavy-handed, but it's not surprising, nor inconsistent, nor do I think it's a wholly bad idea. Debatably when Apple doesn't take heavy-handed approaches to protecting user privacy they've ended up getting scrutinized by various trade groups, consumer advocacy organizations, and governments.

If I was such an advertiser I probably would've started exploring other options for recommendation as soon as Apple banned UDIDs - and by "other options" I mean some way to target ads with less individual user tracking, not "reinvent UDIDs and hope Apple doesn't notice." But then I'd lose my lucrative pay-per-install system and probably lose some perceived investor value because they won't be able to run off with my individualized mined data to their next advertising startup.

I think there's also some question about what "effectiveness" means here. Effective for users means "helps me find an app I like." Effective for developers means "gets my app installed." Effective for Tapjoy means "got lots of developers to pay us money" even if the developers paid for users who didn't like the app to install it. Each of those requires progressively more tracking and simultaneously abstracts and reduces the chances of the ideal user story - a user serendipitously tapping an ad for an app they end up loving.

"Of course, this might be a moot point if Apple itself had some kind of profile building within the App Store itself."

Apple does (and has for quite a while, and even overhauled parts of it for iOS 6). I don't think it's very good. But I also don't think any of the recommendation services are very good (90% of the time it's the same stuff at the top of the App Store in various categories anyway), so maybe comparatively Tapjoy is a lot better. They're all below my personal threshold of usefulness though.

"So basically, Apple is banning the ability for 3rd parties to come in and fix what are glaring weaknesses in the App Store that Apple will not fix itself."

This is a pretty one-sided view. (So is Apple's. But you and I are neither Apple nor Tapjoy.) Apple is banning a class of services that seem intent on misbehaving by engaging in questionable data harvesting techniques. I would like better recommendations. I don't want to trade privacy for them. Curation, which is the part I find useful as a user, can still happen on e.g. websites with little loss of convenience.

Thomas Bark
profile image
"So basically, Apple is banning the ability for 3rd parties to come in and fix what are glaring weaknesses in the App Store that Apple will not fix itself."

I haven't thought this through from end to end, but isn't this was apple is trying to achieve with its Genius option for the appstore?
Maybe they don't want any other people to stick their toe into the demographics pond.

Dennis Dunn
profile image
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
profile image
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
profile image
Websites seem to be perfectly fine places for recommending and promoting games.

Nooh Ha
profile image
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
profile image
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
profile image
I'm not sure whether this is good or bad yet...


none
 
Comment: