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Earlier this year, Google said it was exploring changes to its Google Play Store policies that would give developers clear guidelines to add NFTs to their Android games. Now, the tech giant has unveiled new rules that permit and regulate blockchain games and apps, slated to fully roll out by the end of the year.
“As part of the policy update, we’re requiring that apps be transparent with users about tokenized digital assets,” Google said in a blog post announcing the news Wednesday.
The new policy will require blockchain game developers to disclose a game’s status as a blockchain game on its content page on the Google Play Store—similar to how Epic Games offers a boilerplate blockchain game disclaimer on the download page for every crypto-enabled game hosted on its platform.
If any in-app products in Android games have corresponding NFTs, developers must make that clear to users, Google’s rules read. A Google rep told Decrypt via email that Google will allow NFTs to unlock in-app content regardless of where the user purchased the NFT. Notably, Google’s primary mobile competitor Apple does not allow this.
The tech firm’s measured but open-minded approach to blockchain gaming will allow developers to implement NFTs and other crypto integrations—provided developers don’t violate Google’s Real-Money Gambling, Games, and Contests policy. Developers will not be allowed to “promote or glamorize” any crypto or NFT trading activities.
While Google will allow game developers to offer in-game NFTs to players, NFTs cannot be wagered, and sweepstakes will also not be allowed. Any wagering or betting mechanics will require the developer to meet Google’s gambling eligibility requirements.
“NFTs bought by users should be consumed or used in the game to enhance a user’s experience or aid users in advancing the game,” Google’s rules read. “NFTs must not be used to wager or stake in exchange for the opportunity to win prizes of real-world monetary value (including other NFTs).”
A Google representative clarified to Decrypt that the "stake" reference pertains specifically in a gambling context, not the typical crypto and NFT act of staking, which lets users “lock up” their NFTs in exchange for token rewards. That functionality will not be prohibited, it appears.
Developers will not be allowed to sell NFT “bundles” that do not specifically disclose bundle contents and value, according to the new policy.
Google also prohibits any apps that mine crypto on users’ devices, an older policy it will continue to enforce. Google will continue to allow apps that enable users to remotely manage crypto mining activities on other devices, however, such as computer graphics cards.
Google’s blockchain game rules will manifest as a gradual rollout. The changes are expected to visibly take effect “later this summer,” the Google spokesperson told Decrypt.
For now, Google will be working with select game developers to “test and iterate the new user experience” for blockchain games, the spokesperson added. According to the blog post, NFL Rivals developer Mythical Games and message board giant Reddit are two firms working with Google to refine and iterate its policies on NFTs.
“We partnered with Google to help update their policy, aimed at creating a level playing field that promotes user trust, and responsible usage of blockchain technology,” Reddit Senior Engineering Manager Matt Williamson said in the post.
While Google is choosing to work with select developers for now, all developers will be able to build games in accordance with Google’s new crypto gaming policies later this year.
The Play Store’s biggest mobile app competitor is the Apple App Store, which has historically taken a more restrictive approach to NFTs and crypto.
Developers may use NFTs within iOS games and apps, but Apple still takes its 30% cut. The developer of move-to-earn game Stepn offers NFTs via its iOS app, for example, but at higher prices than via the web marketplace to cover Apple’s fees.
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication with clarification from Google regarding staking.