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Apple yanks 'first' subscription-based game app

The iPad app that made waves yesterday after claiming to be the first to utilize a subscription-based service has been pulled by Apple.

App Store logo

Despite considerable fanfare from Big Fish Games as having the first subscription-based game on the App Store, it turns out the company was breaking Apple's rules, and has since paid the price.

As picked up on by iLounge earlier, Big Fish's software called Play Instantly! was pulled down by Apple today, shortly after its introduction.

A source familiar with the situation said the app should not have made it through Apple's app review process for its use of a monthly subscription to unlock gameplay, something Apple does not allow, and has not announced plans to offer to developers. Despite that, the app went out--albeit briefly--with just such a feature intact.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment, and Big Fish Games did not respond to e-mails and phone calls.

Talking to Bloomberg on the pulldown, Big Fish founder Paul Thelen said the company was "trying to follow up with Apple to try to figure out what happened," while noting that Apple had, in fact, seen its press release prior to it going out, and did not raise the issue.

Big Fish originally pitched the title as a rental service of sorts, offering users "dozens" of game titles within the single piece of software that could be played for a limited time with ads, or add-free for $6.99 a month. That's distinctly different from the publisher coding each title as its own application and submitting it to the App Store, or offering an app with other games in it that could be purchased with one time in-app purchases.

Apple launched its App Store subscription service in February, targeting publishers of magazines, video, and music. No mention was made for games, of which developers have relied on a mix of upfront pricing and in-app purchase for revenue.