The first one's free: EA tries luring mobile gamers with free currency

Credit: Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts has become one of the first iOS game publishers to test a new promotional code system for in-app purchases.

The company is offering 10 pieces of in-game gold for Real Racing 3—usually worth $1.99 in actual money—for free until August 1. EA sends a code by email, which users can then redeem through the App Store on an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

While the idea of offering free in-game currency in a video game is not new, until now there hasn't been a way for iOS developers to broadly distribute in-app purchase promo codes. Developers were only able to distribute codes for entire apps, which doesn't really help with games that are free to play.

As Jeff Scott of 148Apps pointed out on Twitter, EA's promotion appears to be the first example of a publisher using in-app purchase promo codes. Re/code's Eric Johnson speculates that this could be just a trial before Apple makes the promo system available to more developers.

The EA promotion seems to work well, as it doesn't require users to manually type in a code. After receiving the code via email, users just tap a button within the email from an iOS device. This takes them straight to the App Store and enters the code automatically. The game itself also downloads automatically if the user doesn't have it installed already.

Free in-game currency could be one way for app developers to stand out from the pack and make their way up Apple's top charts. It could also be the carrot that players need to start spending some of their own money. We'll see how well the strategy works if or when the promo system becomes more widely available.

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