The new breed of mobile messaging apps — Japan’s Line and China’s WeChat, to name two — are already siphoning off social energy by adding features traditionally associated with full-fat social networking such as in-app walls where their users can post status updates and photos. Line has also been pushing to become an entertainment hub in its own right, by adding richer content such as apps that extend its brand into areas like gaming. Today, it’s pushing its Android app ecosystem even further by adding an incentivised third party app discovery feature.
The new feature is called Line Free Coin, and is aimed at allowing Line to promote third party apps to its 170 million+ user-base — with downloads incentivised by virtual currency which users get when they install one of these apps. The virtual currency can then be used within Line’s ecosystem to pay for other goods, like its paid for stickers (“stamps”), thereby keeping them even more engaged within its ecosystem.
Here’s how Line describes the workings of the new feature:
Users will be introduced to sponsored apps carefully selected by LINE, and given “LINE Coin” virtual currency upon install. Using “LINE Coin”, users are able to exchange the virtual currency for paid stamps.
Line is partnering with Japanese ad network startup Metaps, which raised an $11 million Series B back in March, for the initiative. Metaps provides an SDK to Android developers so they can incorporate offers into their apps designed to increase engagement and improve app monetisation. Today the pair said they will become “global sales partners”, with Metaps providing the apps that will be listed on Line’s platform as part of the Line Free Coin push.
It’s unlikely this feature will be coming to Line’s iOS app. Last month Line pulled a feature from that app that had allowed users to gift paid-stickers to other users by purchasing virtual currency to pay for the stickers. The virtual currency component had evidently fallen foul of Apple’s in-app payment rules which require transactions to be conducted through its store, allowing it to take a cut.
On Android, of course, there’s no barrier to Line expanding its empire with virtual currency incentivised downloads — as it is now doing.