Peter Mares: Going Native… How Playtech is helping the industry stay ahead of the Apple curb

Peter Mares – Playtech Games

Apple’s June 2019 app guidelines update has thrown a spanner in the works for industry development teams, as the tech giant states that only ‘native IOS’ apps will be allowed to index on its App Store.

Peter Mares CTO of Playtech Games Innovation Labs details how the technology group has developed operating structures and functions to help its clients overcome Apple constraints and misunderstandings of gambling/betting app production. 

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In the online gaming industry, uttering the words “native” and “Apple” is now increasingly met with grimaced faces or begrudging moans, and for very good reason.

In June, Apple decided to target gaming operators by updating the notorious clause 4.7 in its guidelines to specifically include real money gambling, lottery, charitable donation and digital commerce apps.

This update prohibits any ‘non-native’ gambling apps in this category, meaning that hundreds of apps that are not specifically built for iOS devices will suffer a swift and brutal removal from the App Store on 3 September this year.

Yet another Apple-shaped hoop for operators to jump through, and another example of the enormous power that the company yields. Apple does sometimes make decisions with the best intentions, but it can frequently swing such a large ban-hammer that it catches innocent, unrelated apps in the process.

The reason for this change seemingly emerged in early July when Apple published its 2018 H2 Transparency Report*. This detailed how the majority of takedown requests, which are essentially legal violations, received by Apple were related to illegal and unlicensed gambling activities. The countries where most of the requests originated were China, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and Vietnam. It is likely that this barrage of government requests pushed Apple to update the clause that we are now dealing with.

However, many in the industry are sceptical that this was the true driver behind the change. Instead, they believe that Apple wanted to increase its revenues from the industry beyond just advertising dollars. It wanted app sales, in-app purchases and Apple Pay transactions.

The problem with Apple’s approach is that instead of understanding the fundamentals of how the industry works and which brands fell foul of the law, it is applying technological constraints on what is, fundamentally, a compliance and legal matter. If these guidelines were put in place to address the take-down requests from government bodies, Apple has failed to solve the issue.

Playtech has been “in the game” for a very long time and understands that in order to succeed, most saliently we need to provide a solution that is guaranteed to help our licensees continue operating as usual. We understand the importance of App Store Optimisation and our licensees’ abilities to target App store users with marketing.

To this end, Playtech is delivering a core, native-first product line to the market, including a selection of fully native gaming content and natively compiled games. This allows our customers to easily build native apps that are iOS compatible using a Software Development Kit (SDK) without the cost and struggle of extensive investment in additional software developers.

I am sure that I will not be the only person observing the Gambling category on the App Store from the 3rd of September in the hopes of getting a better understanding of exactly what Apple intended with its guidelines…

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Peter Mares  – CTO  – Playtech Games Innovation Labs

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