Google Play Updates Policy has recently revised its store policy to accommodate new methods of transacting blockchain-based digital content within mobile applications and games. This update reflects the increasing interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other tokenized digital assets that provide unique and captivating experiences for users. Joseph Mills, the group product manager for Google Play, stated that this move was anticipated and the company is now collaborating with Web3 game developers, including Mythical Games.
Unlocking Opportunities for Blockchain Games
While NFT games have been given a safe haven on the Epic Games Store, major platforms such as Apple, Google, and Steam have previously restricted developers from selling these games, unless they included a significant Web2 component. This meant that players could only access free-to-play games and make purchases using credit cards rather than cryptocurrency. However, with the recent policy change, Google Play will expose blockchain games to a wider audience. Previously, blockchain game companies had to rely on the open web for distribution, which posed significant challenges since app stores are where most players are found.
An Example of Success
In June, Mythical Games celebrated almost a million downloads of its NFL Rivals Web2/Web3 game. The integration of both Web2 and Web3 elements ensures that platform owners like Google Play can still collect their standard 30% fee on transactions.
Transparency and Responsible Usage
As part of the updated policy, developers are required to be transparent with users regarding tokenized digital assets, according to Mills. If an app or game involves the sale or earning of tokenized digital assets, developers must clearly disclose this information. Moreover, developers are prohibited from promoting or glamorizing potential earnings from playing or trading activities.
Shifting Focus to Enhanced Experiences
These changes will inevitably prompt developers to downplay the “play-to-earn” game descriptions that gained popularity in 2021 during the NFT boom when vast amounts of money poured into blockchain games. With the decline of the crypto market and incidents of NFT scams, the notion of making substantial profits as an NFT speculator has become less appealing in recent months. Consequently, many Web3 game companies have chosen to highlight other benefits, such as enjoyable gameplay, player ownership, and even voting rights. Google emphasized the potential for “creative in-app experiences” that innovative blockchain games can deliver.
Collaboration with Developers
Google emphasized that the policy update was formulated in close consultation with app and game developers, incorporating their valuable feedback on how Google Play can further support their businesses. The primary objective is to create a level playing field that encourages user trust and responsible usage of blockchain technology. John Linden, CEO of Mythical Games, expressed appreciation for Google’s partnership in this endeavor, highlighting the positive impact these new policies will have on players and developers alike, fostering the adoption of new technology while safeguarding consumers.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Matt Williamson, senior engineering manager at Reddit, who stated that Reddit believes in empowering users through transparency and a responsible approach to blockchain-based digital content. Williamson emphasized their collaboration with Google to update the policy, aimed at fostering user trust and responsible usage of blockchain technology. By establishing clear guidelines, informed decisions can be made by users while enjoying immersive experiences.
Testing and Implementation
Google Play anticipates that users will start witnessing these new in-app and game experiences later this summer as a select group of developers will assist in testing and refining the user experience. The complete policy will be rolled out to all developers on Google Play later this year. Notably, the ownership of NFTs can unlock additional in-app content, regardless of whether the user purchased the NFT through a Google Play app or already owned it.
The policy update represents only the initial step in Google Play’s commitment to supporting blockchain-based app experiences. The company is actively engaging in discussions with industry partners to enhance support in various areas, including secondary markets.
Overall, Google Play considers this policy update a significant advancement for developers aiming to create engaging and immersive experiences through blockchain technology. As technology continues to evolve, it is crucial for platforms like Google Play to promote innovation while upholding user trust and safety. Mills affirmed that Google will continue to collaborate with developers to understand their challenges and opportunities, providing optimal support for building sustainable businesses utilizing blockchain technology. The company is also exploring avenues to improve its support for blockchain-based app experiences, including secondary markets, in partnership with industry stakeholders.
Formalizing the Blockchain-Based Content Policy
Given the rapid evolution of blockchain technology, Google Play aims to provide developers with a platform that encourages innovation and facilitates the creation of enriched and immersive experiences for users. Under this policy, blockchain-based content refers to tokenized digital assets secured on a blockchain. If your app includes such content, you are required to adhere to the following guidelines.
Cryptocurrency Exchanges and Software Wallets
The purchase, holding, or exchange of cryptocurrencies should be conducted through certified services in regulated jurisdictions. Additionally, you must comply with all applicable regulations in the regions or countries targeted by your app and refrain from publishing your app where your products and services are prohibited. Google Play may request additional information or documentation to ensure compliance with any relevant regulatory or licensing requirements.
(Note: This section was relocated from the Financial Services category to the newly created Blockchain-Based Content Policy section)
Apps that mine cryptocurrency on devices are not permitted. However, apps that facilitate remote management of cryptocurrency mining are allowed.
Transparency Requirements for Distributing Tokenized Digital Assets
If your app sells or enables users to earn tokenized digital assets, you must declare this via the Financial Features declaration form on the App Content page. When creating an in-app product, you must clearly indicate that it represents a Tokenized Digital Asset. For further guidance, refer to the “Create an in-app product” section.
Promotion and Monetization of NFTs
According to Google Play’s Real-Money Gambling, Games, and Contests policy, Gambling Apps that integrate tokenized digital assets, including NFTs, must complete the application process.
For other apps that do not meet the eligibility requirements for gambling apps and are not included in “Other Real-Money Game Pilots,” accepting anything of monetary value in exchange for a chance to obtain an NFT of unknown value is not allowed. Users who purchase NFTs should be able to consume or use them within the game to enhance their experience or facilitate game progression. NFTs must not be utilized for wagering or staking in exchange for opportunities to win prizes of real-world monetary value, including other NFTs.