I have a multiplatform game (web/iOS/Android) in the making. In the free version the core game is still fully playable but people who choose to pay will get more social features (and no ads, of course).

I was thinking that rather than having a free and a paid version for all the platforms I may release the apps just for free and if the users want more, they have to register and pay a one-time fee (through a payment gateway or PayPal). The extra content would then be available in all the clients they have access to. Theoretically, this means a better value for the players and less maintenance and headache for me (obviously I have to handle all the payment troubles myself).

Does it fit into the business model of Apple/Google? Or will they still claim their share of the registration fee?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure Apple won't allow such an app on their AppStore... (relevant question on SO) \$\endgroup\$
    – bummzack
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Having the player to use a third party payment (esp. PayPal) does not actually provide better value for the player... \$\endgroup\$
    – 5ound
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 15:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @5ound I don't think it was for the convenience of the player he wanted to use PayPal, he want's to get around Apples 30% cut. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @hustlerinc Oh I knew that. I guess my main point is he would lose way more potential buyers than the 30% he wanted to save. If the product was good, I'd easily purchase an IAP since Apple makes it quick and easy. If I got presented another website where I had to enter my payment info, I would probably delete the app. If everyone thinks like me, and I believe most do, he would lose alot of sales \$\endgroup\$
    – 5ound
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @5ound That's true but people are getting comfortable with using VISA online, if done right and integrated in the game it wont cause much trouble. And there are services providing solutions to charging the phone bill without the big cuts apple take. It depends more on how much work you're willing to do yourself. Apple's API is easy but expensive. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 16:46

4 Answers 4


Google recently made their policy clearer so both Apple and Google are taking the 30 cut of any transaction made as in-app purchase. They don't allow any other form of payment inside the app and will simply remove your app from the marketplace if you hassle with it.

The only exceptions both of them allow are:

  • Selling of virtual goods in the game - they do allow the app to charge using paypal or other payment gateway.
  • Unlocking elements purchased elsewhere - If you set up a website where you sell your virtual goods you can unlock them in the app for those users - note that the app is not allowed to link to the website.

Unlocking extra content for paying users is not a problem for either Apple or Google (I assume you mean the Google Play app-store, there are different Android app-stores with different requirements).

However, your app will be rejected by Apple since they require you to use their In-App-Purchase service. It costs 30% for each transaction, but it is a payment flow that users are used to, so why not go with it?

For Google Play it is a bit unclear if it will be allowed in the future to use any other payment service than Google's IAP, so I think you would want to offer that as an alternative at least. Google can't take a share of the payment if it is not done through their IAP service.

  • \$\begingroup\$ the in app-purchase system by Apple was recently hacked weeks ago and still today i don't think they have fixed this issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – user827992
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ It will be fixed in iOS 6, and in the meantime Apple has added a stopgap solution involving including unique IDs in purchase receipts to developers (see here). \$\endgroup\$
    – user1430
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ hacked or not, you don't have much choice when it comes to iOS :) \$\endgroup\$
    – johlo
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 15:41

As johlo said Apple only allow the use of their own API. I think Google do too.

However, if your game is HTML5 and you host it yourself, you're free to charge anyway you want. You can also instruct your players on how to save the game as an app and take advantage of caching to make the game act as close to any other app as possible (if you want offline playing).

This has it's downsides though, since it's so much harder to build a player base if you choose this solution, (but with all the games on the appstore and google play the chances of not being noticed is rather high anyway).

You will have to figure out a good marketing campaign.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That's exactly my case. Without marketing, I'm done. That's why I thought I reverse the flow: showcasing the iOS/Android versions for free on AppStore/Google Play to players who would then become aware of my site and become customers, eventually. I know it might be against business ethics but I really just want to make it easier for the players and me (the developer). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 9:00

With regards to the unlocking functionality (probably more relevant to your scenario) you will be required to set all goods as 'consumable' in Apple and 'unmanaged' in Google. This means that you need to set up a server to manage the entitlement of all goods on your side. Practically, every client will authenticate the user with the server and will inquire about the balance of different goods.


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