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In-app subscriptions arrive for App Store games [u]

Apple has approved the first game developer to begin using the in-app subscription model for a gaming service, though the company took some convincing [updated].

Update: Bloomberg now reports that Apple has surprised Big Fish Games by quietly removing its subscription gaming app. The publisher said it is "trying to figure out what happened," as it had worked closely with Apple to gain official approval last week.

Big Fish Games will now be able to offer a $6.99 a month gaming subscription that allows players to switch between games within one App Store app, Bloomberg reports. The game publisher is now offering an "all-you-can-eat" service that provides unlimited access to its game catalogue from within a centralized app.

Apple announced in-app subscription for the App Store in February, but the new feature appeared to be initially aimed at publishers of newspapers, magazines, video and music. Periodical publishers have increasingly taken to the service, especially since Apple introduced a native Newsstand app for iOS 5.

But, when it came to subscription gaming, Apple was skeptical at first. “It took longer than usual to be approved,” Big Fish Games founder Paul Thelen said. “They needed to be convinced there’s a reason to charge customers every month.”

Subscription gaming services have had varied success in the past, but Thelen believes that the Apple's ecosystem now makes a thriving service possible. “This is the first time that the technology has matched the business model,” he said, adding that an Android version is scheduled to arrive in the first quarter of next year.

Big Fish Games

According to the report, the publisher will also offer a free version of its service, but play will be limited to 30 minutes a day and will include advertising. The paid version will cost $4.99 initially, before rising to $6.99 as more games arrive. For now, a Wi-Fi connection will be required to play, as the games are streamed from the company's servers.

With the rise of the App Store, Apple has come into its own as a significant player in the gaming industry. According to one analytics firm, iOS and Android together took in 58 percent of mobile gaming revenue in the U.S. this year, posing a substantial threat to rival Nintendo's profits. A recent profile of the typical iPad user by a marketing firm found that consumers who buy video games are "highly likely" to also purchase Apple's touchscreen tablet.