Apple Updates App Store Guidelines to Ban Apps From Using NFTs to Unlock Token-gated Content

Apple is also doubling down on taking a 30% cut of in-app NFT transactions.
Image source: Apple

Quick take:

  • Apple is not allowing NFT ownership to unlock features within apps on App Store.
  • Users may browse NFT collections but the apps cannot contain calls to action directing customers to external purchasing mechanisms.
  • These updates could be seen as Apple’s official stance on Web3.

Apple updated its App Store Review Guidelines following the rollout of new software updates, OS 16.1, iPad OS 16.1, and macOS Ventura on Monday. 

The updated guidelines contain rules limiting certain features on NFT-related apps. It states that apps are allowed to mint, list, and transfer NFTs, and may allow users to view their own NFTs and collections by others. However, NFT ownership cannot unlock features or functionality within the app, essentially banning the use of non-fungible tokens to unlock token-gated features on iOS apps.

The NFT-related apps also cannot include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to external purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchases, thus ensuring that NFT platforms cannot circumvent the 30% cut – widely known as the Apple tax – that the tech giant takes for in-app NFT transactions.

In September, The Information reported that Apple told startups that they must sell NFTs through in-app purchases, prompting Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney to respond: “Now Apple is killing all NFT app businesses it can’t tax, crushing another nascent technology that could rival its grotesquely overpriced in-app payment service. Apple must be stopped.”

However, the new guidelines do not apply to crypto trading on exchange apps like FTX, Coinbase or Binance, which don’t have to pay the “Apple tax.”

The new guidelines have drawn the ire of NFT and Web3 enthusiasts, who now see Apple as the largest threat to the space. These updates could also be seen as Apple’s official stance on Web3.

According to Jason L. Baptiste, Web3 influencer and CEO of sweat-to-earn platform YDY, the technology behind in-app purchases is not built to handle the dynamic pricing of NFTs.

“What does that mean?  You can’t just use IAP to offer something for let’s say $54.20 or $69.69.  You have to use pre-set prices such as .99 or 14.99.  Each price point is its own “items”, requiring its own approval.  The tech literally cannot work for NFTs/marketplaces,” he explained.

Citing gold bars in Candy Crush as an example, Baptiste went on to say that Apple is targeting NFTs as it wants to create a closed system that’s regulated by the company when it comes to mobile games, where in-game currency is purchased in-app using fiat.

“Who does this hurt the most? Game developers embracing Web3, NFTs, crypto, etc.  Why would Apple focus on this?  Follow the money. 60-70% of Apple’s App Store revenue comes from gaming. Web3 threatens that,” he continued.

However, Limit Break’s Gabriel Leydon remained unfazed by the new guidelines and what they would mean for the Digidaigaku NFT collection and the role the NFTs would play in Limit Break’s free-to-own blockchain games. He said in a tweet that “modern games are not mobile only” and to “watch Android respond”. 

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