Apple Now Allowing Kickstarters To Distribute Games For Free

Well, this is handy. If you're looking at doing a Kickstarter game for iOS and you want to distribute your games, for free, to your backers, Apple will now let you do this. All you need to do is ask!

Six To Start, creators of Zombies, Run! explain...

Here’s how we did it:

1. We developed two near-identical apps – Zombies, Run! and ZR Advance. Zombies, Run! is a paid app at $7.99; ZR Advance is free.

2. Before launch, we emailed all of our backers a link that allowed them to set a password for their ‘ZombieLink’ account.

3. They downloaded ZR Advance, entered their email and password, and were authenticated by our ZombieLink server; this then unlocked the appropriate content in the app.

But the most important step was telling Apple what we were going to do before we did it. We were pretty confident this plan would work and didn’t break their rules, but there was no way we were going to rely on it without getting some confirmation. Luckily, they reached out to us first because they thought the game sounded cool, so we took that opportunity to explain our issue and proposed solution. They were very helpful and in fact offered some other potential solutions, along with the advice that the free ZR Advance app must have at least some content for curious downloaders (in our case, we made some of our Codex available, plus people could look at the base).

It's a pretty cool system, and extremely useful for those trying to wrangle a way to reward backers for their support.

Six to Start is pretty careful to warn folks that it's not failsafe — Apple could decide to block this kind of behaviour on a whim, but it's good to see that, for now, it's allowing developers backed by Kickstarter to reward those who helped get their games off the ground.

Distributing 3000+ copies of an iOS game [Six to Start]

Thanks Tuaw!


    Not too shabby, I've spent the past hour reading through the Jane Jensen and the Tex Murphy kickstarters -- exciting time for the industry. Nail biting to see if they get funded, so it's good to see their channels of distribution are solid.

      I'm most excited for the Carmageddon kickstarter. So good that the rights are back in the hands of the original developers.

        Interesting to see how it'll play after the brave new world that was Grand Theft Auto 3.

    Sorry, I'm not a iThingy user, so I'm not too sure on this.

    Am I right in assuming that in general you can't distribute apps/games for free? What's the problem here that has been overcome?

      From what I understand, with Kickstarter, people have already laid out cash to help the project be completed with the reward of having access to the game afterwards. With a paid app, the supporter would need to pay for the game again, so the options are:
      1) Put the app up for free, but without gating like a registered account, anyone can download it, thus denying Six To Start any future sales post-Kickstart.
      2) Put up a paid app that supporters pay for and then get re-imbursed by Six To Start via an external payment system.

      Number 2 is very messy and complicated for all sorts of reasons, but number one has certain requirements by Apple along with rules about externally offered subscriptions, hence needing permission.

    No you can distribute free versions of Apps in iTunes. Typically with less "content" then full versions (obviously). I think the point here is that the developers are allowed to "enable" extra feature using their own authentication methods rather then relying on Apple to be the "have they paid or not?" decision maker. With Kickstarter being an external party in regards to the purchasing of applications done between iPhone and iTunes they'd have no ability to advise Apple that "they have paid for it". Hence, what they're saying is the production company funded by KickStarter will be responsible for confirming with Apple that users have paid for it. Apple is being nice here because they will effectively be distributing full paid (to Apple) and paid (to KickStarter) versions on the product on their store. Win win IMHO.

    I'm surprised Apple actually supported this model. Last year there was a big bruhaha by media companies when Apple changed the rules about paid subscriptions such that apps must offer the subscriptions at the same (or better) price as the site. Naturally with Apple taking a cut of subscriptions purchased via the app. I guess it depends on how the unlock works for the free app and whether they charge for it for non-kickstarter supporters. I guess because people technically aren't paying for the unlock, there's no disparity between online and app.

    It would be interesting to hear how many people buy the paid app and (if they offer unlocks from the free app) how many people convert from free to paid in the free app.

    I was trying to figure out what the big deal over a dev distributing free copies of their game was... Then I noticed the iOS.

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