Google requires Android games to use Play in-app billing for virtual goods sales

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is updating its Google Play Developer Program Policies to require developers selling virtual goods or currencies within Android games to leverage the digital storefront's in-app billing service to process all transactions.

Developers charging for applications and downloads from Google Play must do so using the store's payment system. Moving forward, any Android game installed from Google Play cannot rely on third-party payment processing services to offer in-app sales; the only exceptions to the rule are payments for physical goods or services (e.g., movie tickets or publications where the purchase price includes a hard copy subscription) and payments for digital content or goods that may be consumed outside of the app itself (like songs that can be played on non-Google music players).

Google is also streamlining the Play store's advertising policy to require 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," Google states. "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."

A new System Interference provision prohibits apps downloaded from Google Play from making changes to the user's Android device outside of the app without the consumer's knowledge and consent. "This includes behavior such as replacing or reordering the default presentation of apps, widgets, or the settings on the device," Google explains. "If an app makes such changes with the user's knowledge and consent, it must be clear to the user which app has made the change and the user must be able to reverse the change easily, or by uninstalling the app altogether."

In addition, Android apps and their ads must not add homescreen shortcuts, browser bookmarks or icons as a service to third parties or for advertising purposes. Apps and their ads are also prohibited from displaying ads through system level notifications on the user's device, unless the notifications derive from an integral feature, like an airline app that alerts users to special deals.

Google is also cracking down on hate speech, rejecting "content advocating against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity." The store's Illegal Activities section now blocks "the sale of prescriptions drugs without a prescription," while the Gambling section prohibits "games of skill that offer prizes of cash or other value."

Android developers in non-compliance with the new rules have 30 calendar days to retool and republish their apps. "After this time period, applications discovered to be in violation may be subject to removal from Google Play. Any newly published applications must adhere to the latest version of the Content Policy for Google Play," Google said. 

Google Play app revenues surged 67 percent during the previous six months, far ahead of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store at 15 percent, analytics firm Distimo reported earlier this month. "The Apple App Store was still the larger market compared to Google Play in July 2013 in terms of total revenue. However, Google Play's cut has increased significantly over the past few months," Distimo said. "While only 25 percent of the combined revenue came from Google Play in February 2013, this share went up by 8 percentage points to 33 percent in July 2013. In revenue terms the Apple App Store was still twice as large as Google Play."

For more:
- read this Google Play policy update
- read this Next Web article

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