Apple Briefly Allows Developer To Offer Subscriptions For iOS Games [Updated]

BY Rounak Jain

Published 23 Nov 2011

Apple’s In-App Subscriptions, which launched along with News Corp’s “The Daily” app, can now be used for games as well. The first app to use the In-App Subscription API is Big Fish Games’ “Play Instantly!” for the iPad, which is sort of like Netflix for games. For a monthly subscription fee, users can play any game in Big Fish’s catalogue.

The subscription will initially cost $4.99 and increase to $6.99 early next year. Without subscriptions users would be limited to a playing time of 30 minutes per day.

Their catalogue includes games like Mahjong Towers, Mystery Case Files and many others, with the company promising addition of new games every week.

The app itself is nothing short of innovative, at least according to Big Fish’s press release (via MacRumors):

With Big Fish’s Play Instantly!, anyone with a Wi-Fi internet connection can launch and begin playing any game in the catalog within seconds. The service is free for a limited time each day, or available as an unlimited, full-screen experience with access to all of the games in the service via a monthly subscription. As these games run in the cloud, Play Instantly! users can play games immediately with no additional download or installation process. Each player’s progress for each game is saved in the cloud, allowing them to pick up where they left off regardless of the device they are using. Players can jump into any game, exit out and later pick up where they left off on the same device they started on, or on any other supported device.

Play Instantly!

According to the founder of Big Fish, Paul Thelen, it took them a while to convince Apple to expand their In-App Subscriptions policy to games:

“It took longer than usual to be approved. They needed to be convinced there’s a reason to charge customers every month.”

The cloud based gaming platform would eventually expand to other devices like the iPhone, PCs, Macs and Android devices.

The “Play Instantly!” app, although available on the U.S. App Store (iTunes link) for the iPad, isn’t open to all. A section of the app’s description reads:

The exclusive first look of Play Instantly! is available to a limited number of customers. Due to a high level of interest we are currently full, but sign-up within the app and we will notify you via email as soon as we have room. 

It would be interesting to see how other major game companies on the App Store incorporate subscriptions into their app. What do you expect?


It looks like Apple has removed the app from the App Store. Bloomberg reports:

[Big Fish Games founder Paul] Thelen said he was surprised by the move because Big Fish had worked with Apple for several weeks to ensure that it met the requirements for recurring monthly charges made through the App Store, a method most commonly used by magazines and newspaper publishers. 

“It was officially approved,” Thelen said. Apple had even seen the app’s press release before it went out earlier today, he said.

Apple has declined to comment about the removal of the app. It remains to be seen if Apple will offer subscription for games in the App Store in the future as it did sound like a good idea. But as John Gruber of Daring Fireball pointed out, it seemed strange that Apple wouldn’t make any noise while introducing something like this.

Thanks Cooper for the heads up!

[via Bloomberg]