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Games have been something of a standard-bearer for mobile app stores, dominating downloads and revenue on both iOS and Google Play and presaging the emergence of freemium as the preferred business model for the platform.
Now one game, EA’s Real Racing 3, appears to be the first to test a new means of getting the word out: A promotional giveaway built around the game’s virtual currency.
Strictly speaking, EA isn’t really giving anything tangible away. It’s disseminating a special iOS code that rewards the player with a “Handful of Gold,” the game’s virtual currency. As this tweet shows, players who don’t already have the game (and who would therefore not be able to use the “free gold”) will see it download automatically.
Someone who downloaded the free app normally, without the code, would pay $2 for the same amount of gold.
Real Racing 3 has been a top-100 grossing app on iOS for most of its 14 months on the App Store, but both downloads and in-app purchases have gently trended downward over time, as is often the case with free-to-play apps.
As Carter Dotson at 148Apps points out, “this is one of the first uses of promo codes for in-app purchases, which typically have been for obtaining paid apps.”
An EA spokesperson did not respond to a request for more information about the promo. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a trial balloon for more such promos on the App Store, as Apple and EA have a tight-knit promotional relationship.