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Google updates Play policies to make it mandatory for games to use its in-app billing service, regulate interstitial ads and more

Google updates Play policies to make it mandatory for games to use its in-app billing service, regulate interstitial ads and more
Google has made changes to its Google Play Developer Program Policies regulating certain apps, payments within apps and advertising.

Google sent an email to developers registered with the program summarising the changes:

- Streamlined the ads policy, with guidance on interstitial ad behaviour, and a new "System Interference" provision, which prohibits ads in system notifications or home screen icons, and requires user consent when an app changes specified settings on a device.

- A revised hate speech policy that provides more comprehensive coverage, while recognising Google Play's role as a platform for free expression.

- Clarification that the gambling policy extends to all games that offer cash or other prizes; that virtual goods and currency in games are subject to the payment processor policy, that incentives should not be provided to users to rate an app; that artificially inflating an app's install count is prohibited, and that the Google Play Program Policy applies to all developer information or content made available on the Store.

The most significant change comes in the form of mandating use of Google Play's in-app billing service as the method of payment for games offering virtual goods or currencies within a game. For other apps offering additional content, services or functionality, using Google Play's in-app billing service is also mandatory except "where the payment is primarily for physical goods or services" or "where payment is for digital content or goods that may be consumed outside of the application itself."

This essentially means that offer virtual currency or coins through an in-app payment would only be able to accept payments for subscriptions through Google Play's in-app billing service and not through any other third-party payment provider(such as PayPal, Zong and others).

Google has also added "games of skill that offer prizes of cash or other value" under the gambling cause preventing any games that offer real money from being offered through the Play Store.

What does that mean for the developers and end users? Google has tightened its control on ads offered by apps that hamper the user experience of the Android devices. It clarifies that "Interstitial ads may only be displayed inside of the app they came with. Forcing the user to click on ads or submit personal information for advertising purposes in order to fully use an app is prohibited. A prominent and accessible target must be made available to users in any interstitial ad so they may dismiss the ad without penalty or inadvertent click-through." This means that some apps that pushed ads as notifications even when they were not running would not be allowed in the Play Store unless the developer makes changes to prevent the same.

Google has also clarified that it won't allow content that comes under hate speech in apps offered via the Play Store. It says, "We don't allow content advocating against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/ gender identity."

With the revised policy, it appears that Google intends to regulate the Play Store in favour of the user, reducing spammy apps and making the OS more secure. However, game developers would now have to give a30 percent cut to Google on in-app sales, similar to Apple, since all purchases must now be routed via Google's in-app billing service. On the up side, it means that game developers via users will be able to leverage carrier billing where it is available.

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