Mobile Mavens

Cracking the code: Will Apple's promo code push for IAPs help or hinder developers?

Our experts give their take

Cracking the code: Will Apple's promo code push for IAPs help or hinder developers?

Apple's decision to roll out promo codes for in-app purchases, though not yet available in full, could fundamentally change how developers both promote their games to the press and how they reach out to early adopters.

Or, it might prove to be little more than a subtle shift reserved only for major partners such as EA and Real Racing 3, or a clutch of games Apple considers “quality” releases.

Of course, rather than stumble around in the dark questioning just what Apple may be planning to do with its new promo tool, we turned to our experts – the Mobile Mavens – for their take.

So, we asked:

What impact do you think Apple's decision to allow developers to give away promo codes for in-app purchases will have, and do you consider it a positive move?


Alexey Sazonov CEO Panzerdog

It should be a good thing for all 'games as a service'. I wish we could use these codes to do promotions with various portals - for instance, giving away booster packs for our upcoming turn-based strategy Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf.

But it's only dreams, we'd rather wait for the official announcement from Apple.

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Alexey is absolutely right. This is an important behaviour which supports sustained development of a platform for testing, promotions and customer care.

It may not be sexy at first but really important. However, you could argue that it is was an obviously missing feature for too long.

Eli Hodapp VP of business development GameClub

Haven't most free to play developers worked around this problem by building their own account-based systems that they can credit users in-game currency?

I feel like these promo codes would've been super useful a couple years ago before everyone just said 'screw it' and figured out a work around. The only super solid use of them I can see is for folks who do episodic content (like the Telltales of the world) to be able to give episodes away.

This isn't to say it's not great that there might finally be promo codes for in-app-purchase items, it just seems really odd that they're just now kinda sorta fixing a problem that's existed since...Q3 2009? I guess that's Apple for ya'.

Will Luton Founder/CPO Village Studio Games Village Studio

Cereal box giveaways.

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

I don't want the cereal. I just want the toy at the bottom of the box.

The whole solution is late to the table. The promo codes are great for the rise of episodic games and large content updates for reviewers, but my teams have always built our own solutions in the past. These codes might save a half day of development.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

I'm actually really surprised at how lukewarm the responses have been so far, considering how much we all complain about the problems around discovery and app marketing.

In my opinion, the ability to generate promotional codes is something that has been holding back the effective marketing of mobile games since the days of Snake, and if implemented well, this could be a real game-changer.

The concept of a limited time offer is both powerful and extremely familiar to consumers globally; it's an innate part of our purchasing behaviour. So any marketer will now be able to apply proven and effective marketing techniques and campaigns to mobile games in a way that they've really not been able to do before.

The existing use of variable pricing is a far more blunt instrument than promotional codes, and it opens up many more creative outlets for brand building and discovery. The fact that the EA test shows that the promo code also automatically installs the app is a nice feature, that in itself could be really helpful: we know that there is a huge drop-off between installation and activation.

If there is a negative, it's that it gives more onus on devs to develop proper long-term marketing strategies, and to think from an early stage about how to get their games out to their target audience beyond the standard App Store listings. With great power comes great responsibility.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.