A tale of 2 platforms: Google Play and Apple’s NFT policies

Joseph Cooper is the CEO and founder of Earn Alliance, a web3 game aggregator and discoverability platform.

In the rapidly evolving world of web3, NFTs have emerged as a game-changer, revolutionizing the way we buy, sell, and collect digital assets. As the popularity of NFTs continues to soar, tech giants are vying for a piece of the action. 

So let’s take a look at the updates to the NFT policies of Google Play and Apple’s App Store, and delve into the implications of these changes for web3 gaming developers and users alike.

Google Play’s NFT policy

Google announced a major policy update in August 2023 for its mobile app store, Google Play. The update allows application developers to integrate digital assets like NFTs into their games and apps, opening up new possibilities for user experiences and monetization. Google emphasized the importance of transparency in this new policy, stating that apps must be clear with users about the presence of tokenized digital assets.

Under the updated policy, developers are prohibited from promoting or glamorizing any potential earnings from playing or trading activities related to NFTs. This move aims to protect users from misleading marketing tactics that promise massive gains from buying tokenized assets. Additionally, apps that do not comply with Google Play’s Real-Money Gambling, Games, and Contests policy are not allowed to accept money for chances to win assets, including NFTs.

Apple’s approach to NFT integration

According to App Store Review Guidelines, Apple allows apps to list, mint, transfer, and let users view their existing NFTs. However, the ownership of NFTs cannot unlock additional features within the app, and apps are prevented from showing external links, buttons, or calls to action for purchasing NFTs. Users can only buy NFTs through Apple’s in-app payment system, ensuring Apple can monetize off of the value NFTs provide.

Developers looking to list NFTs on the App Store need to go through a rigorous verification process. They have to provide detailed information about the NFT, including its origin, ownership, and provenance. This approach aims to protect users from potential scams or fraudulent activities in the NFT space. 

Comparison of Google Play and Apple’s rules

When comparing Google Play and Apple’s NFT rules, it becomes clear that each platform has its own strengths and limitations. Google Play’s more relaxed approach allows for a wider variety of NFTs and a greater number of existing and new creators to participate in the marketplace. On the other hand, Apple’s stricter guidelines ensure a higher level of quality and security for users but block existing NFT collections that should unlock utility within the app from being possible. This causes confusion to web3 developers, as most NFT utilities, known as token gating, are supposed to unlock functionality to software for all holders of an NFT collection.

One key difference between Google Play and Apple’s approach to NFT integration is the fee structure. Google Play applies its existing web2 monetization structure, taking a 30% cut from app developers who make over $1 million annually, and 15% from those making less. On the other hand, Apple enforces a 30% commission on the sale of NFTs through in-app purchases. This fee structure has sparked criticism from developers and industry experts, who argue that it may hinder the growth of startups in the web3 space.

In the third quarter of 2022, the Google Play store reported a gross app revenue of $10 billion globally. In contrast, the Apple App Store generated $21 billion in consumer spending from in-app purchases, subscriptions, and premium apps during the same period.

Despite the competitive nature of fees, Apple’s brand attracts a wealthier demographic to the platform. Requiring a credit card to be entered into the App Store, even for downloading free apps, has driven more revenue not only to the store but also to its developers. 

The impact on developers and users

The new policies from Google Play and Apple have significant implications for both developers and users in the NFT ecosystem. Developers now have the opportunity to leverage NFTs to enhance user experiences, boost user loyalty, and provide the concept of owning digital assets which can be sold on secondary free markets via the blockchain. By integrating user-owned content and offering unique NFT rewards, apps and games on Google Play can tap into the growing demand for personalized and immersive experiences.

For game developers, Google Play provides more flexibility in terms of in-app monetization through NFTs and allows existing NFTs to unlock value in their ecosystem. They can design gameplay mechanics that revolve around the acquisition, trading, and utilization of NFTs, creating immersive and engaging experiences for players. On the other hand, Apple’s rules require developers to navigate the complexities of external transactions, potentially leading to a more fragmented user experience.

From a player’s perspective, the rules set by Apple may introduce additional steps and barriers to utilizing existing NFTs. Google Play’s approach, on the other hand, allows players to seamlessly interact with NFTs within the game, fostering a more integrated and accessible experience.

Hurdles and solutions in navigating NFT rules

For developers on Google Play, one of the challenges lies in creating a balanced and fair gameplay experience for players engaging with NFTs. It is worth noting that, in the evolving web3 space, the emphasis has shifted. Developers now aim to highlight the intrinsic value of NFTs, rather than relying solely on discounts and potential profit as primary incentives, as was common in the last few years.

On the other hand, developers creating apps for Apple’s platform encounter the unique challenge of designing an environment where NFT transactions are restricted to Apple’s payment system. This limitation means the app doesn’t unlock additional value for NFT holders outside Apple’s ecosystem. To align with this, developers must ensure a seamless user experience while strictly adhering to Apple’s guidelines on in-app transactions. Moreover, they must communicate this exclusivity clearly to users and guarantee a secure environment for engaging with NFTs within the Apple ecosystem.

The future of NFT integration in mobile apps

At Earn Alliance, we already see hundreds of games flocking to mobile app stores due to these changes. No one expected these changes to come so soon after web3 gaming had its first peak in 2021. Mobile App stores are responsible for the distribution of games to billions of players, which is more powerful than any other game store in existence. Distribution and user acquisition, in general, is expensive, but outside of the app stores, they are horrifically pricey and not easy to attract a smaller audience to enjoy entertaining games on PCs, Mac, VR headsets and consoles.

As the NFT market continues to expand and evolve, we can expect further developments in the integration of NFTs into mobile apps. Both Google Play and Apple will likely refine their policies based on user feedback and market trends. The success of NFT integration in mobile apps will depend on striking the right balance between user experience, monetization, and regulatory compliance.

Developers will play a crucial role in shaping the future of NFT integration by creating innovative and engaging experiences for users. They will need to navigate the evolving policies and guidelines of Google Play and Apple, while also considering the broader regulatory landscape surrounding NFTs. The ability to offer customized, enduring experiences will be key in attracting and retaining users in this competitive and rapidly evolving space.

As the web3 gaming industry continues to grow, it is essential for all stakeholders to collaborate and adapt to the evolving landscape. By understanding and embracing the rules set by Google Play and Apple, developers can leverage NFTs to create innovative and immersive gaming experiences that captivate players in the exciting world of web3 games.

Earn Alliance aggregates over 2,400 web3 game social and content feeds. It aims to be the first self-serviceable NFT launch platform and marketplace aggregator exclusively for games, allowing for a seamless minting experience across the web browsers, Apple App Store, and Google Play Store.

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