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Will Google’s new Play Pass subscription service benefit developers?

While Play Pass subscribers get access to a combination of games and premium apps, what’s in it for local developers?

Google on February 28 launched its Play Pass subscription service in India, giving Android users access to over 1000 plus apps and games without ads or in-app purchases. The service will cost Rs. 99 per month after a one-month free trial or Rs. 889 for the year and can be shared with up to five other family members.

The collection of apps that are part of Play Pass includes games such as Jungle Adventures, World Cricket Battle 2, and Monument Valley, and utility apps like Utter, Unit Converter, and AudioLab. “We will continue to work with global and local developers to add great new games and apps every month so that there is always something new to discover on Play Pass,” Google said.

Google said that apart from providing value to users, Play Pass will also help developers expand their global user base and unlock new revenue streams. Developers in India haven’t been happy with Google’s Play Store policies ever since the company in 2020 announced that it is mandating the use of Google’s billing system for all in-app purchases, which takes anywhere between 10-30 percent cut on all transactions. Following this move, developers joined together to launch the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) and approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to launch an investigation into Play Store for antitrust violations. CCI in January indicated that it will complete its probe by March-end.

How will Play Pass benefit developers?

If developers choose to offer their apps as part of Play Pass they will be paid a royalty amount and the app will be available to subscribers for free and without ads. According to Google, Play Pass brings the following benefits to developers:

  1. New users: Play Pass will allow developers to attract new users who may not have discovered the app on their own
  2. Recurring revenue: Developers can earn recurring revenue from Play Pass users who engage with their app
  3. App curation: Developers will have the opportunity to highlight their app in a curated section of the Play Store
  4. Play Pass badge: Developers can indicate their app quality to users with the Play Pass badge

“With the launch of Play Pass in India, we are excited to offer a robust collection of unlocked titles to our users and looking forward to partnering with more local developers to build amazing experiences users love.” – Aditya Swamy, Director, Play Partnerships, Google India

But, how will developers make money?

According to Google:

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Developers earn a royalty that is based on algorithmic methods that incorporate signals which capture how users value all types of content (from weather apps to narrative driven indie games). Our goal is for all types of content to succeed on Play Pass and we know that means going beyond paying out only on time spent. We plan to continuously refine the model to make sure it fairly rewards titles that bring awesome experiences to users.” (emphasis ours)

Google further states that:

“On average, developers have more than doubled their Play revenue across participating titles in markets where Play Pass is live.” (emphasis ours)

And:

“Most participating developers have not seen any decrease in sales from normal Play channels. Additionally, they have seen a new revenue stream from Play Pass.

While Google is portraying Play Pass as financially beneficial to developers, its statements do not offer any concrete examples or numbers to go by and we will likely have to wait for feedback from the developer community to get a better idea.

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