Apple Removes Big Fish Game Subscription Plan From App Store

Apple Inc. (AAPL) removed Big Fish Games Inc.’s subscription service from its App Store, reversing a move that would have given iPad users access to dozens of video games for a monthly fee.

“We were notified that the app was removed,” said Paul Thelen, founder of Big Fish, a game publisher in Seattle. The app had been available since Nov. 18, he said. “We’re trying to follow up with Apple to try to figure out what happened.”

Thelen said he was surprised by the move because Big Fish had worked with Apple for several weeks to ensure that it met the requirements for recurring monthly charges made through the App Store, a method most commonly used by magazines and newspaper publishers.

“It was officially approved,” Thelen said. Apple had even seen the app's press release before it went out earlier today, he said.

Tom Neumayr, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment.

The App Store, introduced in 2008, has more than 500,000 applications available for download. Apple, which approves all the software before it becomes available, has faced criticism from developers and rivals such as Google Inc. for the review process. Apple has said the vetting ensures quality. By contrast, applications for Google’s Android operations system don’t go through a screening.

Netflix Model

Big Fish had won approval from Apple to become the first to offer users access to dozens of titles for $6.99 a month. Games have traditionally only been available one at a time, requiring users to download individual applications.

The setup was similar to Netflix Inc. (NFLX)’s streaming application for the iPad. The “Play Instantly” service would give subscribers unlimited access to games such as “Mystery Case Files” and the “Mahjong Towers” series from inside the Big Fish app. The games would be streamed via Wi-Fi to a user’s iPad from Big Fish’s data centers.

In an interview yesterday, Thelen said Apple wasn’t quickly convinced that a monthly fee would work for games.

“It took longer than usual to be approved,” Thelen said yesterday. “They needed to be convinced there’s a reason to charge customers every month.”

Big Fish, founded in 2002, generated $140 million in sales last year, mostly from games downloaded to a personal computer or mobile device. About 75 percent of its players are women over the age of 30, Thelen said.

The company designed the iPad app so it can be easily modified to work on smartphones or tablets running Android, as well as Internet-connected televisions, Thelen said. An Android version should be ready by the first quarter, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Satariano in San Francisco at asatariano1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.