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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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Daniel Burke
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Team Apple, world police.

Alex Boccia
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Jeremy Alessi
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I hate to say it, but at this point Apple needs to step aside and let capitalism take its course. We're in a state of limbo right now between a linear chart system that encourages free games and Apple attempting to destroy the only way to make money with it.

Alex Nichiporchik
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Or create a better discoverability algorithm

Jeremy Alessi
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At this point it doesn't matter, players are already conditioned to want everything for free. The damage has been done.

Jonathan Chan
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First off, Apple has two charts - Paid and Free, so the idea that there's a single Linear Chart System that encourages free games doesn't really hold. I think Apple worries that games that aren't actually enjoyed my players will see presence on the charts due to other titles ... which really, isn't right.

So I support that. Let the games with true merit rise to the top.

Jeremy Alessi
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I never said single...

The linear charts and flexible pricing initiated the race to the 99 cents and finally free once IAP came around in 2009. All the additional schemes were mutations from that root cause. Paid games no longer hold a candle to f2p games in the top grossing chart and when you consider the fact that services like TapJoy can possibly double revenue for f2p games, old school game design merit has very little to do with anything.

I wish things were still based on old school game design merit but that was a different day. Now, it is what it is and people will literally 1 star you just because you're charging for new content. People want everything for free and developers want money. Apple should just buy TapJoy.

Last thing ... bottom line, people aren't going to play a game they really don't like. I think this whole issue is more a matter of old school gamers (in power) not agreeing with what's popular on the charts. Oh and the fact that TapJoy is walking away with a lot of revenue that Apple would probably like to have.

Justin Sawchuk
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I certainly am in favor of it considering I will launching a new app relatively soon and never such a service.

Israel Lazo
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Maurício Gomes
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Kick more Tapjoy!


Yes seriously, I make children apps, I have no desire to scam users or be part of that scamming thing, the more Tapjoy (and similar almost-scammy services) fail, the better.