Chinese rising star miHoYo has reportedly been trying to dodge Apple App Store fees, reluctant to give away the usual 30% share of in-app purchase revenues. As it turns out, the Genshin Impact creator tried twice in August to sidestep the expense by offering sales outside of the game in direct contravention of Apple's rules.
A fee to pay
miHoYo is far from the only developer directing its fans away from in-app purchases and towards its website. Niantic has the Pokémon Go Web Store and the new Monster Hunter Now Web Store, for example, where players can buy discounted items for their account instead of doing so in-game; a 10% discount, say, incentivises players to buy from a dev’s website instead and still ends up more profitable for the creator, dodging that 30% "Apple tax".
However, the tactic comes as somewhat of a surprise from miHoYo given the developer’s close relationship with Apple - earning its iPhone Game of the Year award in 2020 and receiving a special visit from Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this year.
Genshin Impact was among the first games to benefit from the 120 FPS mode on the iPhone 13 Pro, and multiple miHoYo titles featured in the reveal of Apple's new iPhone 15 - a phone made for gamers. In a mutually beneficial move, Apple showed off miHoYo’s games running on the iPhone 15 Pro to showcase its AAA capabilities.
Yet, even with this close relationship, clearly miHoYo is feels fellow devs' displeasure when it comes to the 'Apple tax'. 30% of in-app purchase revenue is a steep price to pay - steep enough to have triggered the years-long Apple vs Epic case that saw smash hit Fortnight removed from the Apple App Store.
Go forth and prosper…away from Apple
In miHoYo’s case, the dev has aimed to steer players away from in-app purchases subtly. Customer service staff on the company’s official community forum app Mǐyóushè were instructed to point players towards the website, The China Project reported, but miHoYo did not publicly advertise this as an alternative payment channel.
Despite only a small number of players becoming aware of this, Apple booted the Mǐyóushè app from its App Store on August 22, and though it returned on August 26, miHoYo had removed the web-based payment recommendation.
But miHoYo hadn’t given up yet. On August 30, the developer revealed a new payment method within Alipay, posting about it on Weibo while hoping to avoid Apple’s gaze. Once again, Apple became wise to the monetisation maneuvre and, on September 11, disabled this feature on its products.
One month on from miHoYo’s second attempt at diverting the fee, it is unknown whether the company will try for a third time. What is clear is that this Top 50 Game Maker is as discontented as most other devs by the tax, and with two global smash hits under its belt (Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail) has the power to push the point with Apple.