Apps offering rewards for social media sharing are being banned from the Apple app store (UPDATE: Or are they?)

Callum Tennent
June 25, 2014

The reveal of iOS 8 came demonstrating a lot of improvements  –  some expected, some less so. But here is something that we never thought we’d see: with the refreshing of the App Store in iOS 8, Apple is now banning games which reward users with in-game progression in exchange for sharing on social media.

You know what this means?  No more Farmville requests  from that girl you went to school with ten years ago. No more Candy Crush invites from your mum. No more clogging up of your Facebook newsfeed with news of your friend’s new high-score in Bejeweled. It sounds like paradise.

For those fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with any of these experiences, what these apps essentially do is offer you an in-game reward for sharing the game on social media. For example you might get another life or extra currency if you invite all of your friends to play the game on Facebook, or a special unlockable which can only be obtained by tweeting your progress.

It’s a royal pain for just about everyone involved, and the fact that this sort of thing only really occurs within freemium games which prey on people’s need to keep playing, but reluctancy to spend real money, only makes it more unpleasant.

That’s not all, though. Apps which ask you to  watch a short promotional video or download another app in exchange for in-game currency are also facing the chop. At What Mobile we often talk about how damaging freemium, or ‘free-to-play’, games are to the mobile gaming landscape as a whole, so to see Apple making such decisive strides to cut down on the industry’s more nefarious techniques  is extremely promising.

These laws are already being enforced by Apple, with apps that don’t comply to the new standards being rejected and even existing apps undergoing routine updates being rebuffed.

UPDATE:  Some more news has come to light on this issue, and it seems as if things aren’t as simple as we’d first thought. After an inevitably large amount of backlash from app developers attempting to protect their livelihoods, Apple has backtracked a touch.

It turns out that apps  are still allowed to incentivise sharing on social media. Similarly, they can also offer in-app rewards for watching videos of other apps. What’s  not allowed is anything which could manipulate an app’s ranking in the iOS App Store. So apps can’t ask you to download a game for a reward, nor can they offer you a reward in exchange for leaving a five star review.

It’s a pretty sensible revision, and one which certainly helps protect the integrity of the App Store. Hell, some people might not even mind being able to win a little extra in-game currency for a few seconds of their time.


About the Author

Callum Tennent

International playboy/tech journalist.

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