Tapjoy gets around Apple's incentivised download ban for iOS with new web-based platform
And there's an app for Android users
Back in April, Apple got very annoyed with mobile advertising and monetisation outfit Tapjoy.
The reason was it was impacting the App Store free charts through its enormously successful incentivised download scheme by which publishers got people to download their apps as Tapjoy's system offered them virtual currency for the games they were already playing.
The publishers would pay Tapjoy for each install gained, with a cut going to the companies who hosted the system in the games and offered the virtual currency deals. It was win-win all round.
What's my motivation?
However, the problem, it was argued, was that people were downloading apps just to get the currency, but the number of downloads was so large these games were catapulted into the top of the free charts, where they then hooked up with the normal free organic traffic that top charting games receive because of their visibility.
In this way, critics of the scheme said Tapjoy (and similar companies) were 'gaming the charts', enabling publishers with cash to buy their way to freemium success.
The result was Apple banned the practice for all iOS apps and games - it's still happening on Android, of course - while also tweaking the maths behind the charts to lessen the importance of downloads compared to player activity within the apps.
Of course, Apple didn't actually say it was doing this publicly, but it's what everyone assumed.
Back to square one
Now it looks like Apple may have to revisit the situation as Tapjoy has pulled a very neat trick to get around Apple's ban.
Instead of getting developers to integrate its SDK into their games - the act Apple banned - Tapjoy's just launched a web app that iOS consumers sign up for once on device, and which gives them an offer wall of apps and games they can download if they want to earn virtual currency, just as before.
Of course, this doesn't require developers to add anything to their code as all the action happens on the web; something Apple has no control over.
The clever bit is like app distribution platform Testflight, consumers sign up once and install a piece of code (or provisioning profile) onto their iOS device. There's an app for Android users to download (Android Market link), which acts in a similar manner.
This means Tapjoy can check what apps and games people have installed.
Hence it can provide a dedicated offer wall of apps and games they can download to gain virtual currency. Alternatively, if they don't have any supported apps installed, it has a list of suggestions from its advertisers for them to download.
Of course, with Apple tweaking its chart algorithm, it's unlikely this scheme will have the same impact as at the start of the year, when it was massive.
Nevertheless, for big publishers releasing freemium games on iOS and Android, this is a great opportunity to spend money in such a way that they know they will be driving large numbers of downloads. Similarly, it's great for companies who are brave enough to host such offers as they will generate a cut of the marketing money following into the system.
Companies involved include key names in the freemium market such as Glu Mobile, Zynga, Pocket Gems, Capcom Mobile, Funzio and Team Lava as well as brands such as Groupon, Netflix, and AOL.
It will be fascinating to see how Apple reacts this time, especially as Tapjoy - which is thought to be planning for an IPO, and recently hired PlayStation marketeer Peter Dille to push its consumer branding - is clearly up for a fight.
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