Just a few days after approving an iPad app that would allow users to pay a subscription fee to get access to dozens of games, Apple has pulled that app from the iTunes App Store.
The move was a surprise to the developers at Big Fish Games, the company behind the app that used the same model that Apple affords to newspaper and magazine publishers for subscription-based content. According to Bloomberg’s story on the matter, Big Fish founder Paul Thelen said the company had worked closely with Apple to make sure the subscription gaming app met the iOS creator’s app requirements. Big Fish wasn’t sure why Apple had bounced the app from the App Store, and an Apple spokesperson declined to comment.
Since Apple isn’t talking, nobody knows just why the Big Fish Games app got the boot, or whether it will be able to return to the App Store with some kind of tweaking – which is often the case with apps that are pulled. But the possibilities with Big Fish’s app for changing up the way things get done in the App Store were definitely interesting. Traditionally, games have been sold in the App Store as single pieces of software: one purchase, one game. Occasionally, you can buy an app that includes several games as a bundle, but this doesn’t seem to happen very often.
Big Fish’s app would have been different. It would have allowed users to pay a $6.99 monthly subscription fee to have access to several games, which Big Fish would have streamed over an Internet connection when players wanted to use them. It’s similar to the subscription model employed by Netflix’s iOS apps, and would have afforded Apple its 30-percent cut of all subscriptions that go through its apps.
Subscription-based gaming models are still pretty new, but they’re starting to see some popularity in the larger sphere of video games. A company called OnLive allows users to stream PC games to their computers, allowing players with even modestly powerful computers to play some of the latest titles because the power of their machine isn’t what’s used to play the game, and it plans to bring that functionality to the iPad and Android tablets this year. Gaming retailer GameStop is also exploring creating a streaming service, although it’s not up and running yet.
Thelen said it was tough to convince Apple that games could be a subscription service, and one wonders if that was part of the reason the app was the removed. But while Apple might possibly have cooled on subscription-based gaming, that doesn’t mean the book is closed in the mobile sphere: Big Fish Games says it’ll be bringing its subscription app to Google’s Android operating system early next year.