Google updates Play Store policies on gamified loyalty programs following confusion in India

Google has updated and broadened its Play Store policy on gaming loyalty programs to help developers better understand the practices that are permitted, months after confusion about the guidance prompted some backlash in India, the biggest Android market by users.

The company said on Thursday that it now specifies guidance on gamified loyalty programs that are based on a qualified monetary transaction in an app and offer prizes of cash or other real-world cash equivalent perks.

Scores of apps run gamified loyalty programs in their apps to appease and win users. Last year, the company sent notices to several Indian startups including Paytm, Zomato, and Swiggy whose in-app gamifying techniques, the company said at the time, resembled gambling. The new policy covers developers worldwide, the company said.

“App developers in India are actively building uniquely Indian features and services. One example is the use of mini games, quizzes and other gamification techniques to delight users and convert them into loyal customers. These experiences are often launched during important festivals and sporting events, and getting it right within the specific time window is critically important,” wrote Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy, in a blog post.

The company still does not permit real gambling apps in India, but said developers globally now will have better clarity on rules so they can inform their strategies.

“This is one of the things we discussed when we spoke to several startup CEOs in India and around the world in the past few months. And, as part of the very first policy update of 2021 we are clarifying and simplifying the policies around loyalty programs and features,” wrote Frey.

A Google spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company will be outlining the full guidelines later today.

As part of the update, the company said it is also launching How Google Play Works, a repository of useful information and best practices to help developers. “It also contains India-specific details on programs that local developers can leverage to find success and scale. For users, this site helps to demystify key aspects of the Google Play platform, and explains how user security and protection remains at the heart of everything we do,” wrote Frey.

This is a developing story. More to follow…