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Tapjoy criticises "terrible" Apple policy change

CEO argues banning pay per install apps restricts consumer choice and dev revenue

Mihir Shah, CEO of app distribution company Tapjoy, has criticised Apple's policies regarding pay per install promotions.

Speaking at VentureBeat's MobileBeat conference yesterday, Shah explained that Apple is diminishing the amount of revenue his developers can make with iOS applications, and reducing options available to consumers.

Pay per install apps offer the user incentives to install other applications, usually in the form of virtual currency, with the revenue shared between the developers. However, Apple banned the pratice in March over fears that it offered those developers an unfair advantage in breaking into the top 25 apps.

Shah argued that pay per install promotions are a valid way of bringing new content to consumers. Of the 25 billion "user sessions" Tapjoy delivered in the first six months of this year, around 141 million resulted in a "conversion" - the user installed an app or clicked on an advert.

More importantly, Shah claimed, 30 percent of those users were still engaging with their chosen app 30 days later.

The number of ads available to consumers on iOS has dropped significantly since Apple's policy change. Shah believes this does the consumer a "disservice", and makes the freedom offered by Android an increasingly attractive proposition.

"As you squeeze user choice, those users have less choice to engage in great content. The good news is when you have a really open platform like Android, and you can give more high-quality choices, your transaction volumes go up."

According to Shah, the average Tapjoy user spends nearly five times more on Android than iOS, which means more revenue for developers.

"It's terrible what Apple has done. We will play nice within their rules, because we have to - but I disagree with them strongly."

Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry

8th July 2021

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Latest comments (8)

Doug McFarlane Co-Owner, KodeSource9 years ago
I can see both sides.

As a developer, I want to take any advantage to get my new games in the hands of the players.

But Apple's top 25 is skewed by the fact the this list no longer represents the top 25 apps as chosen on equal grounds. Eventually, the entire list could be filled with these promotional games.

As a player, I want a fair, unbiased list of what is currently the hottest games.
And not a list of games people were coerced into downloading.

Why not either exclude those offending games from the top 25, openly, or offer more lists or list options?
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Manoel Balbino Programmer, Playlore9 years ago
The banning of a shady practice to artificially push an app up into the top will reduce revenue? Oh, don't tell me so.

In some countries this same practice is actually illegal (tying one product to the purchase of another) with physical goods.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Manoel Balbino on 14th July 2011 8:21pm

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Todd Templeman President, Logic Factory9 years ago
We, as a developer and publisher, become concerned when we are offered certain marketing tools that dovetail with customers receiving offers involving convoluted free bonuses, all presented in a kind of euphemistic prose that would make Orwell weep.

The results of this kind of approach are many, and mostly the opposite of good business. We see:

Increasingly desperate in-game advertisements that make us, as lifelong gamers, cringe.

Fan review pages that are stacked to overflowing with 5-star ratings, obviously posted by young customers in our industry who have been sucked into acting as paid shills.

Publishers hulking their way into the top 25 regardless of whether their product actually sells. One can do that through good old fashioned advertising and creative promotion. Backdooring your way in by effectively buying your own game is the act of a snake eating itself.

And, very much related, a new model of micro-transaction that usually has nothing to do with game design.

This should not only cause us as an industry to experience that uncomfortably sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs, because we all do in fact have souls, but also lead us to the conclusion that anything causing such an emotion will inevitably harm our long term business interests.

I have no problem with violent games, or games that many would describe as shocking or offensive. Some of the world's greatest literature details scenes that can still make our edgiest developers have fresh new nightmares. But when an entire industry turns in a direction that disrespects its customers, failure is inevitable even though it will come in unpredictable ways. The current attitude seems too often to be approaching, "Our customers are too cheap to pay us what we're worth, so we will behave as street thug drug dealers and try to suck them in with a free taste, then start selling them a small fix at a time."

In-game advertising, micro-purchases of items and achievements that once were simply part of gameplay, converting young new customers in the burgeoning mobile business to becoming frantic shills so they can get another "free" game ... these are all terrible responses to the turbulence caused by change. And it all has the creepy feel of pyramid schemes pitched in gauzy vocabulary.

The solution is game design. If you're charging for a sword that the player by rights earned through tireless adventuring, BZZZZZZZT! But if you're charging for a unique bauble that one of your artists lovingly crafted, and that player gets to possess and show off the only one on her server, that may be a new kind of proposition that involves both an artist's time and work and the creation of something rare, even if virtual. There is enormous room for creative new ideas in games and the business models to sell them. We have more flexibility than ever. Hopefully we won't commit another collective industry suicide just as it gets good.

We as individuals and as an industry have all the success and upside of a multi-billion dollar sector before us, that is growing so fast it is the envy of the world. There is no doubt that some massively successful companies are right now enjoying mammoth fortune by pursuing these techniques. They may be in for a hell of a crash, too.
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Show all comments (8)
Tom Hunt Game Developer, neocade9 years ago
I agree with most of Todd's post. I'm still holding out some hope for micro transactions to become a more mature means of developer-player business relationships. So I won't go into my own personal diatribe on the various biz model craziness going on at the moment, because it will all likely be totally irrelevant (again) by next week :D

wrt Tapjoy's complaint - this is Apple's system they're using. Apple makes the rules of that system. Apple is operating that system for some type of profit, or they wouldn't be doing it. Whatever Tapjoy was doing must have been threatening that in some way. If they want to go off and build their own store and lace their games with all kinds of skeezy advertising/marketing bullshit, Android's a great place to do that (and has lots of users who love "free" stuff!).

Apple's got a hugely established brand that they care about, though. They have a bit of a party going, too, with the App Store. And as with any party, inevitably a bunch of assholes hear about it and show up with 30-packs of canned cheap beer and a funnel tube, ready to party (efficiently!). Sure, that can contribute to a really kicking party, but that also means you as the M.C. have to step up the crowd control too. If you're not prepared, the house could be in ruins by the next morning. Apple is just trying to keep their house in order. From the article, their actions don't seem particularly odious to me.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tom Hunt on 14th July 2011 11:19pm

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Peter Stirling Software Engineer, Firelight Technologies9 years ago
When you close a loop hole, the people who were exploiting it whinge... that ain't news.
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Nadia Sydorenko PR & Community manager, Tatem Games9 years ago
141 million out of 25 billion... Like, a percent (roughly) more than average conversion rate from in-game banners? These figures don't show incentivized installs as very successful and wanted by gamers as claimed, imho. Networks which offer rich media and highly targeted advertising boast of a higher conversion rate (haven't tried them to see a proof though).

It takes such a lot of money that in the end it may equal to paying a good game designer and coder to create a quality game which will bring moderate income without paying for installs each day. I talked to other developers about it and no-one said the cost was returned. In terms of increasing visibility, yeah.

Quite smart use of "PPI" is when a company having little experience in mobile prepares to go for IPO and needs to keep their titles in top paid to get a good valuation. Funny is how such top paid games are nowhere in top grossing.
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Jake Carvey director 9 years ago
In what way *by any standards* are Appstore customers being provided "limited choice"?!!! It's the most preposterous claim ever.

"As you squeeze user choice, those users have less choice to engage in great content. The good news is when you have a really open platform like Android, and you can give more high-quality choices, your transaction volumes go up."

It is as if they are saying: we want a system that has HALF A MILLION user choices to cater to our big money bullying, so that our 100 apps can live in the top. All of a sudden Apple is interfering with the consumer's choice by leveling the playing field so that companies can't just buy their way into the top 25?

I don't support Apple on everything, but Tapjoy's claims are hideously ludicrous.

Make good games people. If they don't sell, make better ones. If they sell, spend money on marketing to ensure they continue selling. Beware the bell curve, and know when to fold 'em. Know when to count your money, and know when to run.
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Jake Carvey director 9 years ago
@Peter Stirling: well said
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