Sometimes, it’s difficult to judge whether or not an unfamiliar app is worth a download. But it’s even harder to justify a daily, monthly, or weekly subscription, and harder still to fork over cash for an especially pricey service that you may end up using only once or twice. That’s why Google is introducing new developer-facing settings that bring flexibility to subscriptions on the Play Store, the company’s app store for its Android mobile operating system.
Google announced the new features at its Playtime developer event in San Francisco. Promotional pricing will allow publishers to roll discounted subscription rates to users who haven’t previously signed up for service. New users might might get cut a $1 per month deal before the normal price kicks in, for example.
The Mountain View, California-based company said the change, aimed at addressing recent growth in subscription apps, aligns with consumer trends: Users spend more than 10 times on subscriptions than they did three years ago. “We know how important subscriptions are in helping you to monetize, and we’re continuing to invest in features to support your subscription business,” Larissa Fontain, director of Google Play app business development, wrote in a blog post. “Along with local/custom pricing and free trials already offered, introductory pricing will help you acquire more subscribers and grow your subscription base.”
Other new features include preregistration, or the ability to signal interest in an app before it’s publicly available, and Early Access, a beta-testing feature that lets game and app developers solicit feedback from a core group of users. Preregistration, which Fontain said has driven 30 million downloads, remains limited to high-profile titles like Supercell’s Clash Royale and King’s Candy Crush Jelly Saga. But that’s no longer the case for Early Access — starting Thursday, developers can nominate their app or game to be a part of that process. “Demand is growing,” said Fontain. “In only a few short months, more developers have been leveraging the ‘Early Access’ open beta program to build a user base, interact with early-adopter users and get invaluable feedback before an official launch.”
Google also took the opportunity on Thursday to announce a new beta developer tool intended to bring “fairness” to games with in-app purchases. It helps developers identify which users have requested refunds, Fontain said, so that in-game economies won’t be unduly affected by users who bail.
The new developer tools dovetail with Google’s platform announcements earlier this year. The Play Store launched on Chromebook devices over the summer, and debuts on Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform on November 10. And later this year, it’ll come to smartwatches in the form of native Android Wear 2.0 integration. “We live in a multiscreen world, and people want to enjoy their devices,” Fontain said. “That’s why we have been extending Google Play to go beyond the smartphone, enabling new app and gaming experiences while on the go … [which] makes it much easier to discover and install great apps that work directly on the watch.”
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