Apple has updated its app review guidelines to address the increasing use of crypto and NFT tech on the App Store. And web3 game developers aren’t happy.
Under the new guidance, Apple will allow NFT sales and related services, but only through in-app purchase, meaning it gets that juicy 30% cut. And Apple will not approve any game that links added functionality or content to NFT ownership.
The updated guidance is therefore likely to cause a lot of headaches for developers working in the space.
“Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency wallets, etc,” the new guidance reads.
Another new clause states: “Apps may use in-app purchase to sell and sell services related to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), such as minting, listing, and transferring. Apps may allow users to view their own NFTs, provided that NFT ownership does not unlock features or functionality within the app. Apps may allow users to browse NFT collections owned by others, provided that the apps may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.”
Industry response to the news was swift and damning. Apple fanboy and Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney tweeted: “To cryptocurrency enthusiasts, this means Apple is now adding a 30% tax on your so-called “true ownership” of digital goods. To crytocurrency detractors, this shows Apple’s motivations are only money. For digital items, they support NFTs they tax, and ban NFTs they don’t tax.”
He later added: “It’s quite shocking that, in the presence of antitrust lawsuits and greatly increased legislative and regulatory scrutiny, Apple’s doubling down on brazen monopoly rent seeking.”
Ric Moore, CEO of Oxalis Games, one of Supercell’s first investments in web3, said on LinkedIn: “Apple have effectively banned NFTs from games. [The new guidelines imply that] any NFT that ‘unlocks’ gameplay is not allowed. Like if you had a Spiderman card (NFT) that lets you ‘unlock’ and play as Spiderman in some Marvel fighting game; that’s not allowed, but you are allowed to look at how pretty the card is in your library.”
Kenrick Drijkoningen, partner at Play Ventures’ crypto-focused Future Fund, tweeted: “Overall not great but what you’d expect from a monopolistic player like Apple and a prime example of how these players suffocate innovation. An opportunity for Google Play to do better. Long term the market should eventually force their hand.”
CEO of game economy platform Metanomic Theo Priestley said: “Apple has updated their NFT policy for the App Store, prohibiting NFTs as a means to bypass Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism. They support NFTs and web3 where they can tax it, and won’t support it where they can’t – so token gating via iOS is out the window and making any money from NFTs or selling digital assets via Apple nets barely anything over time.”
“And of course, as NFTs and other web3 mechanisms feature heavily with metaverse initiatives, this means that Apple’s own idea of what the metaverse is will be tightly under their control – in effect, another part of their walled garden only if they comply. ‘The house always wins’ as they say.”
You can, however, rely on former Machine Zone boss Gabe Leydon to be bullish on the matter. His new outfit Limit Break is built on the idea of giving away NFTs to players for free to speed up adoption.
“This outcome was way better than I expected,” he tweeted. “We were building cross platform with the expectation there would be no NFTs allowed on iOS. We never assumed mobile only was possible anyways and now we’re in a very good spot. NO ONE should be building mobile only!”