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Google Play Pass expands outside the US, adds more titles and annual pricing

Google Play Pass, the Android alternative to subscription-based game store Apple Arcade, is expanding. Launched in September 2019 with more than 350 apps and games, Play Pass today announced it has added 150 new titles, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Golf Peaks and kid-friendly content like apps from Sesame Workshop, for example. In addition, the service will be offered in a range of new non-U.S. markets for the first time and is adding an annual subscription option.
Unlike Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass at launch offered a combination of games and premium apps, like AccuWeather, Facetune and Pic Stitch, for example. (Facetune and AccuWeather have since been removed). It also included a notable list of launch titles, like Stardew Valley, Risk, Terraria, Monument Valley, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Reigns: Game of Thrones, Titan Quest and Wayward Souls.
The company has been steadily growing its lineup since its debut. Google says that over the past few months, it has added more than 150 titles and is preparing to roll out even more. A series of new titles will also premiere on Google Play Pass this year at launch, starting with the newly released The Almost Gone from Playdigious, available now. This will be followed by The Gardens Between and Kingdom Rush, then new releases like Bright Paw from Rogue and Line Weight from The Label coming later this year.
With the expansion, Google Play Pass now includes more than 500 apps and games.

The company is also offering a different way to pay for the subscription. Play Pass first offered users a $1.99 per month promotional subscription for the first year, which would increase to $4.99 per month afterwards. As early adopters are nearing the price change, Google is instead giving them a chance to save by paying for a year’s subscription upfront. The new annual subscription option brings the price down to $29.99 per year in the U.S., which works out to roughly $2.50 per month.
Existing subscribers will be able to make the change to an annual subscription from the Play Pass tab in the Play Store app for Android this week.

The service is also launching internationally with availability in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom, starting this week.
Because Play Pass didn’t rely as heavily on exclusives and included non-game apps, it was able to offer a larger catalog than Apple Arcade did at launch. Today, Apple touts that Arcade offers more than 100 games, while Google has added more apps than that in just the past several months.
Google also ties its payouts to developers based on Play Pass downloads, while Apple had offered upfront funding for Arcade titles, with more for exclusives. iOS developers are also under NDA about their agreements, but a revenue share is reportedly involved here, as well.
Both services cater to a growing audience interested in subscription-based entertainment, which is no longer limited to just streaming music and video. Outside of standard mobile game revenue, app subscriptions have been driving increases in consumer spend across the app stores for some time.
The Google Play Pass expansion to new markets and the annual subscription option are both rolling out this week.
Correction: Google initially described the annual subscription as U.S.-only. It will be offered elsewhere. The company updated its own announcement on the matter to clarify this.  

Google Play Pass expands outside the US, adds more titles and annual pricing

This Week in Apps: Coronavirus impacts app stores, Facebook sues mobile SDK maker, Apple kicks out a cloud gaming app

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.
The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads in 2019 and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie’s recently released “State of Mobile” annual report. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.
In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.
This week, we’ll look at the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on the App Store, China’s demand for App Store removals — and soon-to-be-removals, it seems. We’re also talking about Facebook’s lawsuit over a data-grabbing SDK, Tinder’s new video series, the TSA ban on TikTok, Instagram’s explanation for its lack of an iPad app and how Democratic presidential primary candidates are performing on mobile and social, among other things.
Headlines
Coronavirus concerns send Chinese ride-hailing apps crashing, games surging

One of the many economic fallouts related to COVID-19 coronavirus concerns is a significant decline in the usage of Chinese ride-hailing applications. According to Sensor Tower data, downloads of the three most popular apps — Hello, Didi and Dida — were down 75% year-over-year during the week of February 10 compared with the same time frame in 2019. Meanwhile, people staying home have been ordering food and groceries more often. Overall downloads of the top 10 apps in the food-ordering category increased by 68% from January 13 to the week of February 3.
Also on the rise are mobile games. According to a recent report by the FT, users in China downloaded a record number of games and apps as the virus outbreak confined people to their homes. More than 22 million downloads were registered in Apple’s App Store in China during the week of February 2, according to App Annie, and average weekly downloads during the first two weeks of February were up 40% over the same time last year.
Meanwhile, Chinese tech giants, including Alibaba and Tencent, have been deploying health-rating systems to help authorities track the movements of millions of Chinese. Alibaba had been tapped to explore the rollout of a rating app to help the government control who can travel into and around the city. Along with Ant Financial, it worked to develop a smartphone-based rating system in conjunction with the government of Hangzhou. Tencent created a program for Shenzhen, reported The WSJ.
Top mobile game Plague Inc. pulled from China’s App Store amid coronavirus outbreak
Plague Inc., a simulation game with more than 130 million players, was pulled from the Chinese App Store this week, a move that appears to be linked to the coronavirus outbreak. The company behind the game, Ndemic, posted a statement announcing that the game’s content is now considered “illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.” Ndemic says it’s trying to reach out to find out what, specifically, it could change in order to get the game back in China.

This Week in Apps: Coronavirus impacts app stores, Facebook sues mobile SDK maker, Apple kicks out a cloud gaming app

Google Play pilot test in US introduces a ‘free app of the week’ section

 Apple began offering a “free app of the week” back in 2012 as a means of highlighting some of the App Store’s best titles and encouraging users to start downloading. Google, belatedly, is following in Apple’s footsteps with its own newly launched “free app of the week” section on Google Play. However, we understand that Google has not yet committed to… Read More

Google Play pilot test in US introduces a ‘free app of the week’ section

Google introduces Family Link, its own parental control software for Android

 Google has just one-upped Apple on mobile in a significant way: today the company today announced the launch of Family Link, an application for parents that lets them establish a child’s first Google account, as well as utilize a series of  parental controls to manage and track screen time, daily limits, device “bedtimes,” and which apps kids can use. While all the… Read More

Google introduces Family Link, its own parental control software for Android

Trump is causing a political app boom, data shows

 The growth of politically focused mobile apps has been booming since November, with the top five political apps receiving a combined 300,000 downloads across iOS and Android over the past three months, according to new data from App Annie. Anyone surprised by this? Read More

Trump is causing a political app boom, data shows