Apple today took two welcome steps to improve the company’s iOS App Store, first by increasing the maximum size of apps from 2GB to 4GB, and second by launching a new store section highlighting games that don’t involve in-app purchases.
The increased graphics power and capabilities of modern iDevices make them compelling for advanced gaming and complex applications, but the 2GB maximum size — a limit in place since the App Store’s launch in 2008 — has prevented some apps from coming to iOS. A notable example is Final Fantasy VII, with producer Takashi Tokita telling Shacknews in late 2013 that the game’s iOS release would likely be “years away” due to the App Store’s 2GB size limit.
With twice the space to work with, iOS developers will now be able to offer more advanced graphics, more game content, and the ability to better utilize the high resolution “Retina” displays found on modern iDevices.
Apple notes, however, that today’s increase only applies to the overall size of the app itself. The other major limiting factor is the maximum app size that users can download via a cellular data connection. That limit — currently 100MB — is unchanged by today’s increase, meaning that users who want to download larger apps in the future will need to do so via Wi-Fi.
Just Say No to In-App Purchases
The more surprising aspect of today’s announcements is the launch of a new App Store section highlighting games that don’t utilize the controversial in-app purchase model. Apple facilitated the current sorry state of “freemium” games with the introduction of in-app purchases, but takes an arguably pointed jab at the category with its new section called “Pay Once & Play,” with the description, “Enjoy hours of uninterrupted fun with complete experiences spanning the App Store’s most beloved genres.”
The maligned “freemium” game industry has reached new heights of both publicity — thanks to multiple high profile commercials — and controversy. Apple was forced to settle a lawsuit in 2013 over unauthorized in-app purchases and is still facing scrutiny over the practice in the EU.
Apple’s response to the concerns, which include new protections that help prevent children (and careless adults) from making unintentional purchases, changing the word “free” to “get” when listing in-app-purchase-based titles in the App Store, and the way the company promotes its new “Pay Once & Play” category suggests that executives in Cupertino aren’t entirely pleased with the way that developers have abused the in-app purchase model.
The “Pay Once & Play” section is now available in most international App Stores, but it will likely take a while for developers to introduce apps that take advantage of the new size limit.