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Apple cracking down on browser-based user acquisition

Apple cracking down on browser-based user acquisition

November 12, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Apple is cracking down on services like Tapjoy that incentivize app downloads to help developers acquire users, and at least one company is already starting to feel the impact on its revenues.

Networks like Tapjoy enable their partners to offer virtual currency in their games for free by encouraging players to download and install other apps. It's a popular user acquisition practice that all participants benefit from -- players get free currency, the advertised app increases installs and shoots up the App Store's download charts, and the network and its partners make some money for facilitating the process.

Apple targeted this practice for unspecified reasons (some speculate that the company doesn't appreciate others exploiting its download rankings) last year by rejecting apps that offered incentivized app downloads. Services like Tapjoy responded by having apps direct players to web pages that display these offers in a browser, but it appears that Apple is coming down on that practice now, too.

It's not clear yet how Apple is tracking these apps down, but developers are already starting to take a hit, according to TechCrunch. Glu Mobile, one of Tapjoy's biggest partners, said in its earnings call last week that it "recently experienced degradation and iOS advertising revenues as Apple has extended it prohibition of incentivize advertising to include any linkage to external HTML 5 sites."

As a result, Glu Mobile is expecting reduced revenue from its Tapjoy channel, which makes up 13 percent of its overall sales. The mobile game publisher has lowered expectations for its fourh quarter substantially due to the crackdown and other factors. Developers who use these services to acquire users will also likely have to turn to other methods for increasing installs in their games.

Tapjoy, or Offerpal Media as it was previously known, has come under fire before for questionable virtual curency sales. Several years ago, the company and other services were criticized for their ads inside social games, which featured offers from questionable partners. The controversy resulted in Tapjoy replacing its CEO and overhauling its ad network.

Gamasutra has reached out to Tapjoy for its reaction to Apple's crackdown on incentivized app downloads, and will update this story with the company's comments.

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