Jun

14

What Do Apple’s New App Guidelines Mean to Social Gamers and Developers?

Mark Stephens

Someone upset the applecart again! There has been plenty of ‘noise’ this week about changes made by Apple to the app guidelines and what these could mean for the future of developers and social gamers on the App Store. Let’s take a look at what these changes are and what Apple are trying to achieve from them…

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What are the changes?

2.25: 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, unless designed for a specific approved need (e.g. health management, aviation, accessibility, etc.) or to provide significant added value for a targeted group of customers.

3.10: Developers who attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods will be removed from the iOS Developer Program.

Fresh from the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2014, which was held in the first week of June, a set of re-vamped app policies for the iOS 8 App Store was announced. The sections causing the stir are quoted directly above.

These changes essentially mean that three monetisation strategies employed frequently by game developers have been outlawed:

1. Providing users incentives (like game hints) for sharing on social networks like Facebook
2. Providing free in-game credits for watching videos
3. Promoting other apps in-game via discovery tools

Anecdotal evidence of the effects of these changes has already zipped around the web, with several developers reporting that their apps have been rejected because of the new regulations. Quite worryingly, even some previously-approved apps seem to have been rejected, when resubmitted with only minor changes (no changes to code).

Nobody yet is sure whether the guidelines apply only to new submissions or whether it will be rolled out retroactively too.

What and who is being targeted… and why?

There is no telling how many developers and apps these new guidelines will affect but the banned strategies are common ways of monetising, even in some of the big games. For instance, the use of the Tapjoy platform, which allows players to install an application in place of making an in-game payment, will no longer be able to be part of apps in the App Store.

Sarah Perez at Techcrunch says:

‘The move will have a significant impact on the app industry as a whole, and will serve as something of a “reset” in terms of how apps can achieve growth and scale.’

Some of the biggest games on the planet like Candy Crush and Temple Run use in-app rewards of the type targeted by the latest Apple changes. Candy Crush gives extra lives if players share their score or invite other friends on Facebook for example.

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Presumably these changes are not just to pee off developers (though they may have that side effect) – the same as Google doesn’t change its algorithms to pee off webmasters (though they still throw a fit when their website deranks).

Most commonly the reason is to change direction and make things cleaner and fairer, or to protect ‘core’ business.

To give Google the benefit of the doubt, when it makes changes it’s generally to stop websites abusing or ‘gaming’ the system; Google lives and dies by returning accurate search results so it protects itself by devaluing sites that are just trying to trick it into ranking their site first. Fair enough if you ask me.

Apple’s approach could be along the same lines. The clue is partly in the cited guidelines above – in the section about manipulating or cheating the ranking system. The company is not targeting games and developers for the hell of it, but trying to weed out apps that are trying to gain an unfair advantage. In doing so it is protecting its core business, which is keeping its customers happy, so they want to stamp out this perceived devaluation of their product.

If Apple hindered promotion and monetisation opportunities for developers too stringently it would drive developers away and thereby diminish its own product offering. So the shockwaves from Apple’s changes should soon subside.

For most of us, it’s a case of simply working around the regulations with the other promotional, advertising and monetisation strategies aimed at the few percent of social gamers who spend money on games.