Game dev rejection sparks debate on in-app purchases

Be careful what you say, the App Store police is onto you

Game developer Terry Cavanagh had his game, Don’t Look Back, rejected from the App Store for a potentially unique reason: the game’s accompanying text carried negative opinion about in-app purchases.

The 8-bit platform game was submitted to various app stores with the following description from Cavanagh: “A game about fantasy, Don’t Look Back is short game I made in 2009.

“This is a completely free game, not “free to play”; there are no in-app purchases or any of that nonsense”.

It ensured his position was fairly clear, and also ensured the game got bounced out of the App Store.

Under the ‘Apps with placeholder text will be rejected’ clause, Apple (below) advised Cavanagh: “Specifically, your app marketing text contains the following: ‘there are no in-app purchases or any of that nonsense’. It would be appropriate to remove or revise this content”.

It’s not the end of the world when your app gets rejected from the App Store, and perhaps there’s a moment’s contemplation when one wonders what could have been done better, and why the app was turned down.

But would anyone have expected this? Happily, the situation has since been resolved and Don’t Look Back is freely downloadable from the App Store.

Yet this story, if anything, may add further fire to the in-app purchase debate, something which was discussed enthusiastically at Apps World on 2 October.

Will Luton, game consultant, noted the ‘four Cs’ you could always charge for:

  • Competitive Advantage – within the game to give advantage over another user
  • Content – the “hardest thing to sell”, according to Luton
  • Customisation – changing the physical appearance, but “only works when backed up with social proof”, according to Luton
  • Convenience – making things easier for the user

Oscar Clark, evangelist at Papaya Mobile, noted both sides of the argument.

He said: “The in-game purchase is definitely where the revenues are coming from,” however he also called paying for levels ‘painful’ and warned: “If they stop participating then you’ve broken the experience and they don’t come back”.

But what do you think about in-app purchases? Are they a useful revenue generation tool for developers, a scourge on the industry, or something in between?

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