‘Clash of Clans’ Developer Doubles Down on Bypassing Apple and Google Tax
Supercell, a Finland-based game developer owned in large part by China’s Tencent, launched an external store for in-app purchases back in June to circumvent Apple’s and Google’s infamous 30% commission on all transactions made through the App Store or Play Store, respectively.
The Supercell Store launched with digital items for the popular mobile strategy game Clash of Clans. Now, the external Supercell Store is also selling in-game currency (diamonds and gold) and monthly “Farm Passes” for another of the Finnish developer’s mobile games, Hay Day, outside the App Store (via the Foss Patents blog).
Hay Day is a widely favoured farming simulator and a spiritual successor to Farmville. Items players purchase from the Supercell Store can be used on both the iOS and Android versions of Hay Day, and all of them cost 10% less than inside the app.
Essentially, Supercell is able to save money for both itself and its players by enabling transactions outside the App Store and skirting Apple’s App Store tax.
On any transaction made through the Supercell Store, the company does not have to pay Apple a 30% commission. In fact, according to a recent report from Foss Patents, Apple’s App Store commission effectively ends up being 33% in South Korea and even higher in other countries like Turkey because of local value-added tax.
By foregoing Apple’s commissions, Supercell and other developers are also able to give users an attractive discount on purchases. Hay Day players can buy items on the Supercell Store for approximately 10% less than in-game.
However, setting up an external store and offering discounts is the easy part. Getting the word out about these external stores is much harder.
Under Apple’s App Store rules, developers like Supercell can’t even tell users about any external stores they operate, let alone directly link to them. Apple last year agreed to let some apps link to their own websites and stores, but this relaxation only applies to some ‘reader’ apps like Netflix and Spotify.
That said, both Apple and Google have recently made concessions in allowing developers to send promotional emails to registered users, informing them about alternative purchasing options such as web stores outside their apps.
Authorities the world over are working to bring reform to how app stores like Apple’s and Google’s operate. Chief among these efforts is the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which covers everything from gatekeeping hardware access to in-app purchases and app sideloading.