Asian messaging service Line, which has been a big success on iOS, turned over $58 million in revenue during the first quarter of 2013 with its new monetization model. But it’s just been dealt a massive blow by Apple.
The Cupertino company has unexplainably forced Line to remove its gift sharing feature, which allowed users to send stickers priced around $1.99 to their friends.
“We received a request directly from Apple who operates the App Store, that this sticker gifting function will have to be withdrawn from the app,” the company wrote on its blog, without indicating what the issue behind Apple’s request may be.
Line’s gifting feature allowed users to purchase stickers packs inside the app with virtual coins, which could be acquired with in-app purchases. Those in-app purchases were priced between $1.99 and $46.99, depending on how many virtual coins you wanted.
But they are no longer available. “Sorry. Coins cannot be purchased as the gifting feature is no longer available on the iOS version of LINE,” reads a notice inside the app. “You will of course still be able to use your remaining coins.”
Virtual coins are a huge part of Line’s business, with 30% of its revenue — that’s around $17 million — coming from those sticker packs during the first quarter. Apple’s ban could be a massive blow to the company, then.
But it’s unclear to Line users why Apple has asked the company to kill its gifting feature, which is hugely popular in Japan.
All of the app’s in-app purchases are made through iTunes, and Apple receives the 30% cut it demands from all iTunes purchases — so there appears to be no issue there. The feature must break another App Store regulation in some way, but only Apple and Line seem to know how.
For now, at least, it doesn’t look like gifting is coming back to Line on iOS.