Google Play announced a major shift in policy today, allowing developers to incorporate digital assets such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into their apps and games in the store. Companies that decide to offer the ability to buy, sell or earn tokenized assets will be required to make it clear in the Play Console that there are blockchain-based elements in the app.
In a blog post shared with CoinDesk, Joseph Mills, Google Play’s Group Product Manager, wrote that this will allow partners to reimagine “traditional games with user-owned content” and boost “user loyalty through unique NFT rewards.”
Reddit, which has seen enormous success with its Avatar NFTs, was one of the partners working with Google on the new policy. Matt Williamson, Reddit’s senior engineering manager, was quoted in the post as saying that the updated guidelines are “aimed at creating a level playing field that promotes user trust, and responsible usage of blockchain technology.”
The post by Mills stressed the importance of user trust, noting “while tokenized assets are meant to build more enriched, immersive experiences, as an added user protection, developers may not promote or glamorize any potential earning from playing or trading activities.” This maintains Google Plays’ Real-Money Gambling, Games, and Contests policy. In effect, this means apps that haven’t met gambling eligibility requirements can’t promote buying an in-game item like a “loot box” for a chance to win NFTs.
Previously, Google’s policy on blockchain-based apps had been characterized as a “black box” with games like “Bitcoin Blast” getting kicked out of the Play Store in 2021 without a clear explanation. In 2018, the store banned crypto mining apps, a rule which will not change with the new guidelines.
Overall, the company has signaled a shift in attitude towards Web3 recently, allowing ArDrive Mobile, an app for decentralized data storage, to appear in the store in 2022 as well as allowing Axie Infinity: Origins to be listed in select Google Play markets. In parallel, Google Cloud announced an initiative in April 2023 to help Web3 developers accelerate their startups.
A spokesperson from Google Play told CoinDesk that users may see the first tests of the new experiences in late summer as they work with an initial group of developers, and that the new policy will roll out in full later this year.