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Newly-Revealed App Store Guidelines Discourage 'Amateur Hour'
Newly-Revealed App Store Guidelines Discourage 'Amateur Hour'
September 9, 2010 | By Kris Graft

September 9, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Apple made two key moves on Thursday by freeing up restrictions on the use of third-party development tools on its iOS mobile devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) and also making its App Store review guidelines readily available to app developers for the first time.

By being more transparent with the review guidelines, Apple hopes to help developers potentially avoid frustration that comes when a game or app is rejected after a submission.

Among those review guidelines -- obtained by Gamasutra and subsequently posted by Engadget as a PDF -- are several notes about the newly-released Game Center, a networking service that links iOS gamers together by adding community features such as matchmaking and achievements.

The Game Center guidelines are generally common sense rules designed to protect users, the hardware and Apple's services. Games that utilize Game Center, for instance, cannot "send unsolicited messages, or [be used] for the purpose of phishing or spamming".

They also cannot "attempt to reverse lookup, trace, relate, associate, mine, harvest, or otherwise exploit Player IDs, alias, or other information obtained through the Game Center."

There are also a number of ground rules related to offensive material in apps and games. For example, "'Enemies' within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity."

Additionally, "realistic depictions of weapons" that encourage illegal activity could also lead to an app's rejection, and games and apps with "excessively objectionable or crude content" may be cut, as well as apps designed "primarily [to] upset or disgust users."

The company is vague in describing where exactly it draws the line between acceptable and objectionable content. The guidelines state, "We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, 'I'll know it when I see it.' And we think that you will also know it when you cross it."

Any apps that target an individual or group with "defamatory, offensive [and] mean-spirited" content are also susceptible to rejection -- although "Professional political satirists and humorists are exempt from the ban on offensive or mean-spirited commentary."

Apple also reminded developers that a lot of kids use apps, and their parents don't typically set content restriction parameters on their iOS devices, "So know that we're keeping an eye out for the kids," the company said.

And unfortunately for developers working on games and apps focusing on flatulence, Apple said plainly, "We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don't need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn't do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted."

With such a wide array of content available on the App Store, Apple is cautious of letting the quality apps become drowned out by poorly-made products. "If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you're trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don't want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour."

Apple said that its extensive 22-part laundry list of guidelines might make the company seem like a bunch of "control freaks," but the statement argued, "it's because we're so committed to our users and making sure they have a quality experience with our products. Just like almost all of you are too."

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Peter Christiansen
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Apple's talk of "serious developers" and "amateur hour" is a bit comical considering the fact that their Director of Applications Technology has his own side company making fart apps (which, not surprisingly, made it through Apple's tight quality control process).

I suppose the question is whether Apple's new policies will actually filter out low-quality apps or if someone like Phillip Shoemaker could still get his fart apps into the App Store. It's kind of sad that Shoemaker is distancing himself from Grey Noodle. I'd like to see how that would play out.

Chris Melby
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Awesome! Thanks for that insight Peter. I found some links:

Thomas Lo
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Apple could be sitting on a gold-mine if it properly brands and develops its game apps. As it is, this release is not especially encouraging.

Neal Trotter
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The move makes sense, honestly. Apple Inc. is simplying pulling a standard CYA maneuver. The company just wants to minimize opportunities for law suits to the best of their ability.

And in terms of rejecting apps for what they feel is "low quality", it goes along the same lines as Nintendo's "Official Seal of Quality". The company just wants to ensure costumers that they have a "supposedly" high standard for their apps. The idea is to make the customer feel that chances are, for any app, that you'll be buying a good quality one rather than a bad quality one.

These are standard PR moves. I actually know many developers that are seeing the trend of high selling Apple devices and just want to make a quick app that can make them a quick buck. The quality of the app isn't the primary concern for them. Moves like these take steps to filter a lot of those guys and gals out.

Ian Uniacke
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unfortunately it might also filter out the small guy who has been the iPods bread and butter up until now. I'm not entirely against the idea but I'm not totally convinced it's a smart move either. I always thought the appeal of the iPod was the wide range of low cost games...if apple becomes to restrictive prices will have to go up and they will risk losing their competitive edge.

Jason Johnson
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I wonder if Enviro-Bear would have got through.

Carl Chavez
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"'Enemies' within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity."

We can't fight South American drug dealers while in South America? No German or Japanese soldiers allowed in World War II games anymore? I guess there could be a World War II-era game featuring a multi-cultural enemy from a fictional country...?

Timo Heinapurola
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"And we think that you will also know it when you cross it." Keep that in mind. It's all about context. What I think is meant is that you can not get a game that is all about shooting innocent African Americans approved.

Dan Rosenthal
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Who gets to make that decision? Who gets to decide that it's OK to shoot innocent Arabs, but not OK to shoot innocent Americans?

And what's with that ridiculous "realistic depictions of weapons" nonsense? Does that mean no tactical simulation games? Guess we can't have Splinter Cell games on iPhone anymore, since the Five-Seven that Sam Fisher uses is a realistic depiction of the actual FN Herstal weapon.

Paul Lazenby
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The company makes that decision, the same way any company makes a decision about games they either develop, license, or otherwise distribute. Think about it: What is the difference between MW2 and MOH? One is a ficitional war against a ficitional enemy, the other is not (not entirely, that is).

I don't see the big deal here, and I agree that this is an interpretive CYA move from Apple. I, for one, am glad that they are at least taking this step - even if there is some double standard going on.