TUAW is reporting that the introduction of age-based ratings has created an unexpected issue for developers. Developers are now unable to generate promo codes for apps that carry a mature (17+) rating.
Before age-based ratings, developers were allowed to generate up to 50 promo codes for their apps for any given release or update. Developers are able to do whatever they want with these codes. They can be used to send to media outlets for reviews or they can be given away as promotional prizes. This, of course, helps developers market their apps in a variety of ways. The promo codes do contain some restrictions, including a 28 day lifespan, they can’t be sold, and they can only be used once. Even with these restrictions, promo codes are a huge advantage over more tedious distribution methods like ad-hoc builds of apps.
Now, with age-based ratings, developers are no longer able to generate promo codes for apps rated 17+. The seemingly most obvious reason Apple has added a promo code restriction for apps rated 17+ is that there is no way to identify what the app is rated via a promo code. This is a logical step for Apple to take since children and teenagers could be given promo codes to apps that are well outside of their age range. They are simply covering their own hind-ends.
The issue that some developers are having with this new policy, specifically Marco Arment, the developer of Instapaper, is that many apps are being slapped with the mature rating even though their own content isn’t mature. Apparently Apple believes all apps that have access to mature content should be rated 17+:
And if you’re thinking this just applies to the massive number of adult-oriented apps that have recently poured into the App Store, you’re wrong. Apple specifies that any application that may contain high levels of offensive language, violence, sexual content, or references to drugs or alcohol receive a rating of 17+. But, according to Apple, apps that feature an embedded web browser or provide access to 3rd party content also automatically require the 17+ rating, regardless of the application’s content or intended audience.
So in theory, Twitter, instant messaging, ebook, and many other apps will fall under this category because they have access to mature content, which means the developers will no longer be able to generate promo codes.
Hopefully Apple has already noticed this issue and is working on a solution, otherwise we are going to start seeing even more developers lash out at Apple.
Thankfully all of the apps we are giving away for AppAwards week are not rated 17+. To win a download code for Adaptunes, simply leave a relevant comment about this post or about Adaptunes itself. The winner will be chosen randomly at the end of the day today (end of the day means 11:59 PM ET). Download codes are only redeemable through US iTunes accounts. Please remember to include a valid email address so we can contact the winner.