Google this morning announced Play Pass, a subscription service that “unlocks” Android app and games. You can use and play without having to pay anything beyond the $4.99 per month fee. We spoke with Google ahead of the announcement and they shared their thinking behind Play Pass. It’s been in development for a “couple of years,” and Google hopes that it helps great content “reach more users at scale.”

For subscribers |

What are “unlocked” apps?

Android apps and games “unlocked” as part of Play Pass are free of ads, in-app purchases, and upfront payments. Paid content becomes free to download, while free-to-play apps have zero advertising and all levels, extra features, or bonuses accessible. You just have one monthly fee to play and use applications without restrictions.

What app and games are included in Play Pass?

There is an initial launch catalog of over 350 apps and games that Google curated. The inclusion of the latter category is very straightforward, and what Apple Arcade is also doing. Most people spend money on games and their in-app purchases. Play Pass includes well-known games, indie titles, and family-friendly content:

Google touts launch games like Terraria (normally $4.99), Monument Valley ($3.99), Risk (free with IAPs), and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ($9.99). Lesser known ones include: LIMBO ($4.99), Lichtspeer ($3.99), Mini Metro ($.99), and Old Man’s Journey ($4.99).

However, Google is differentiating itself from iOS by including regular, non-entertainment apps, like photo editors, weather clients, journaling apps, and livestreams. This broader selection was born out of Google wanting to bring “value for more users,” and making available what people use.

When are more titles coming?

Google will add more content to Play Pass every month, with the company already touting This War of Mine and Cytus as “coming soon.”

How to use Play Pass?

Besides adverts in Google Play, “Play Pass” will show up in the navigation drawer. Once subscribed, a new bottom bar section will appear in the Play Store ahead of tabs for “Games” and “Apps.” Carousels of content are displayed here with this feed personalized to each user. The Play Pass ticket icon will appear throughout Google Play — including in listings — to signal when something is included as part of the subscription.

Android TV support?

Google is targeting Android phones, tablets, and Chromebooks at launch. Android TV is supported with games included in Play Pass appearing as free to install on the platform’s Play Store, but there is no browsing experience just yet.

Can you buy apps?

When subscribed to Play Pass, you cannot buy apps separately. Google wants to streamline the launch experience so that there won’t be both an “Install” and “Buy” button next to apps.

What happens when apps leave Play Pass?

Developers can choose to remove apps from Play Pass, but subscribers will retain access for an “extended period” afterwards.

How much is Play Pass and what’s the intro offer?

Google Play Pass costs $4.99 per month and can be shared with up to five others as part of Family Sharing. It will be available at $1.99/month for the first year as part of an “intro offer.” This deal runs until October 10, 2019 or while supplies last. Behind-the-scenes, Google is “funding” the launch offer so that there will be no impact on developer revenue.

For developers |

How are developers getting paid?

Android developers will earn a royalty when their app is used. Google will be factoring how much time is spent in an app, along with other signals, to calculate what to pay devs. According to the company, this rewards immersive experiences.

What do developers have to do?

There is “minimal development work” in getting existing titles working with Play Pass. Developers can “keep one version of [their] title updated for all of [their] users.”

How is content added?

Play Pass is currently invitation-only, with Google being selective and curating for high-quality experiences. The subscription service will be open to more developers over time and a form to express interest is available today.

Choice for users and developers

Google emphasized that Play Pass provides “choice” to both users and developers alike. Broadly, this subscription model gives users one more way to play, and another method for developers to monetize alongside upfront payments or freemium with ads and IAPs.

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