Loot Boxes and App Store Optimization

May 31st, 2019

Loot Boxes and App Store Optimization
David Bell

by David Bell

CEO at Gummicube, Inc.

There is a legal debate over the fate of microtransactions, particularly loot boxes. A proposed bill could impact the sale of randomized in-game items, including loot boxes or summons in “gacha” games. At the same time, Google has added a new Play Store policy wherein developers must disclose the odds of receiving items in loot boxes. Apps and mobile with loot boxes or similar systems should look at the new requirements and think about how to utilize them for their App Store Optimization strategy.

Loot Box Regulations

Google’s new policy states that “Apps offering mechanisms to receive randomized virtual items from a purchase (i.e. “loot boxes”) must clearly disclose the odds of receiving these items in advance of purchase.” The Apple App Store has an identical policy, utilizing the same language. Adding this requirement to Play Store apps is connected to Google’s recent updates to provide a more child-safe environment.

Users and parents have raised complaints about the amount spent on loot boxes and summons, and the possibility of spending large amounts of money for a chance to win a rare item has been likened to gambling. This has led to the proposed bill regulating loot boxes and similar microtransactions, which could have a large impact on mobile games. (It may be worth noting that a similar case was raised against baseball cards in the past. In that case, the court ruled that, as the purchasers are still obtaining items of value, it does not constitute gambling.)

This does not necessarily require the odds be displayed directly on the app’s description or on the main screen. Many games, for instance, include a section that users can select to show them the odds of obtaining an item of varying rarities.

However, developers can still use this ruling to enhance their App Store Optimization by utilizing the information as part of their keyword optimization.

App Store Optimization

Apps that offer in-app purchases such as “gacha” summons or loot boxes can include those in their descriptions to optimize their apps while remaining compliant. Since Google Play draws an app’s keywords from its description, including these terms can help the app index for them even when describing the odds.

For instance, an app can update its description to say: “Loot box sale: legendary items have double the drop rate for the next week!” This would help the app index for “loot box” and “legendary items” while mentioning the sale and drop rate. Even if the rate is increased from 1% to 2%, users can still see that the odds are increased.

An app can also boast higher chances of obtaining rare units than the competition. A game with a “gacha” summoning system could say: “Gacha game: guaranteed 4-star units with every spin.” The app could provide more information about the odds of getting specific units but providing information about guaranteed unlocks can help draw in users while improving the app’s indexation for “Gacha game.”

Keep in mind that Google Play’s new ruling does not require the summon odds are placed in the description itself; including them in the app where users can access them before making the purchase is the only requirement. However, utilizing them in the app description can be beneficial for both compliance and improving indexation.

Google Play app developers with loot boxes or similar randomized purchases should check to ensure that their apps are compliant by September 1st. If an app does not provide the odds of receiving certain items, it could be found in violation of the Play Store policies and face removal. Once an app is removed, it will have to rebuild all its keywords and rankings while its competition leaves it behind. While updating the app, you can update its Play Store information to improve its App Store Optimization and use this change as a chance to improve.

Want more information regarding App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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