Our Apple-focused affiliate, MacWorld, discovered earlier today that an update to the iPhone Developer Program has allowed the use of in-app transactions in free apps, a practice that was previously limited to paid apps. With iPhone game developers dealing with dramatic price shifts and major difficulty selling titles for anything but the lowest prices, this may present an opportunity to developer a more stable way to make money from their apps.
A positive that all gamers may receive, if MacWorld's prognostications turn out to come to pass, is the death of "Lite" versions of games, which currently serve as nothing more than demos that take up extra hard drive space, constantly pitch the paid version to users, and rarely let gamers transfer data to the full version when they purchase them.
The first confirmed game to take full advantage of this new functionality is ngmoco's highly anticipated multiplayer first person shooter Eliminate. In a Twitter post earlier this evening, company CEO Neil Young stated "Apple announces in-app purchase for free games, and so do we. Eliminate will be free-to-play. Details coming soon!" Young had previously confirmed that the company was working with Apple on the possibility of in-game microtransactions for the purchase of resources in the game, but it now seems clear that the game will be one of the first on the iPhone to follow the same payment structure as many Korean browser-based multiplayer games, or indeed many of the growing number of Facebook games.
UPDATE: Wasting absolutely no time at all, ngmoco also released a new version of the popular tilt-controlled premium platform game Rolando 2 tonight. The new version is called Rolando 2: Chapter 1 (iTunes link). As the name suggests, the game features the first of the game's six chapters, and then further levels can be unlocked by buying them. Chapters two through four cost $0.99 each, and then the last two chapters are bundled for $1.99. Rolando 2 is available as a full title for $5.99, but under the new system and by downloading the free version, the entire game can be purchased for $4.98.
We'll have more details on Eliminate and other iPhone games that make use of the new system soon, and in the meantime you can read MacWorld's story here.