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Apple working to push iOS game prices higher?

Apple may be working behind the scenes to convince iOS game developers to raise their prices on certain titles, according to a Develop report. Speaking on stage at Edinburgh Interactive, Steve Ackerman, managing director of UK studio Somethin’ Else said, “Obviously Apple doesn’t promise anything in terms of promoting games, but before the release of Papa Sangre they said they were very interested in the game, and that they might promote it.” He continued, “They asked us how much we were going to sell it for, and we said maybe ₤1.99. They said ‘you must be joking, this is a premium app, this is worth more than the price of coffee.’” The game eventually launched at £3.99/$4.99, and has since sold more than 50,000 copies. It is unclear how common a practice this might be for Apple, or to how many developers it may offer pricing advice. [via Pocket Gamer]

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Comments

1

Of course Apple would want game developers to raise their prices, they get a percentage of the profits. As a consumer, I don’t buy several games because of the higher prices. Call me cheap, but paying more than a couple of dollars for a game I can master inside of a week is too high. Sorry Apple, you are already making enough money.

Posted by Danny Milton on August 12, 2011 at 1:53 PM (CDT)

2

@1: It’s not just greed for their percentage*, it’s also working toward changing consumer attitudes so devs who make games that aren’t strictly mobile aimed, “master them in a week” games will actually consider developing for the platform.

There’s way too many games I see released for $1 that should by all rights cost a lot more, but too many devs are afraid to challenge cheap skates, and as a result, too many devs don’t even consider the platform. Racing to the bottom isn’t helping anyone, and with so-called freemium titles now grossing more than the premium ones, the situation isn’t going to improve until the ecosystem evolves a bit.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on August 13, 2011 at 12:21 AM (CDT)

3

I would rather pay a bit more for a game than have it be cheaper up front and then rely on in-app purchases to improve it.

Posted by Dick Bacon on August 13, 2011 at 12:01 PM (CDT)

4

I agree with #2
If I would develop a game or application, I would need some sort of guideline in the price I would charge.  Of course I would review most similar apps out but I would welcome apple to give me some sort of price suggestion.  If you put a app to cheap then the community would not take it that serious, even if the word-of-mouth factor pushes the app in good rating.  In addition, if there are similar apps for a higher prize and I offer my app for a very low prize, this would bring the prize balance of this particular app group out of balance.  i think it is more for the good of the general app developer community.

Posted by dennis on August 15, 2011 at 8:23 AM (CDT)

5

A game at $0.99 I would buy and play and take the risk that it should be an ok game.  If its a great game I would tell my fiends.  A game at $5.00 I would not by and not take the risk,  I would wait until a friend says “you gotta play this”

I would rather sell a million games at $1.00 than 50,000 games at $5.00.

Look at some of the top games and why they were so successful.  Price is always a major factor and in our current economy everyone is looking for a bargain.  Angry Birds was like this.  It was a bargain, everyone got a great deal, an addictive game amongst adults and children.

For kids, its easier to persuade parents to spend a dollar than $5.00

Be smart.

Posted by Craig on August 15, 2011 at 9:56 AM (CDT)

6

@5: No matter how low the price point, a game can only sell so many copies even if it has perfect word of mouth depending on its genre, complexity, etc.. The vast majority of those $0.99 titles that do well took a handful of devs a couple of months from start to finish, and most are lucky to break even, and many just flat out lose money even with development costs that are in the basement.

It’s a developer lottery where only a handful of titles manage to hit on all cylinders, and even games that should be doing better too often just get lost in the sea of meh.

The few games I’ve purchased on iOS that are comparable to console/PC length and quality, not surprisingly, were all ports from PC games. And the handful of original titles that challenge/beat PC and consoles for quality and depth all cost a lot more than $1.

Just basic math tells you how wrong the assertion is: if every single person with a functioning, supported iOS title bought a game for $1, that still wouldn’t come close to the sort of budgets for development many games today have - 40 million is not at all out of place for modern console/PC games, and iOS devices are starting to reach that level of hardware. Unfortunately, Apple can push the hardware side all they want, but if everybody is whining about how even $5 is breaking their pockets, developers will NOT come.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on August 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM (CDT)

7

@#5:

Why does there need to be a risk involved? Aren’t most developers making free demos available? If the price of every game has to be so low that there’s essentially no investment required, then there’s no ability to charge a premium for depth or quality, and everything is priced as if it were garbage.


@#6:

I agree with you here, the iTunes app store is facilitating a culture of ultra-commoditization that has some very definite dangers to it. I think there really needs to be some more balance in game prices in general. Console game prices could stand to come down somewhat (even if that requires some scaling back in production values or the like) and some mobile download games should have their prices go up somewhat, or at the least hold their value better over time. If people are concerned the game they’re buying won’t be worth the investment, that’s what demos are for. What I don’t understand is why there aren’t more demos available for console and PC games these days.

Posted by Jerome on August 16, 2011 at 1:54 AM (CDT)

8

I have to agree with both #6 and #7 here.

At first glance, it does seem that Apple is trying to get greedy by pushing up the price of the games.  However, for the “really good” games, such as something like Gameloft’s Eternal Legacy (which is not a game you will solve in a matter of hours), I am willing to spend a bit more money.  It is not like $5 is going to kill my budget here.

However, with that being said, I also think paying anything more than $10 to $15 for an iOS game is also a bit to much.  It is not like there are disks or cartridges, along with the packaging and paper manuals to be produced and then marketed through the standard retail channels, thus there is no reason to charge $15 or so for a game (are you listening Square/Enix?).  Heck even paying $30 for a DS game is a bit much now-a-days, and don’t even get me started on the $60 games for the PS/3 game!  Yes, a game like Red Dead Redemption, of which there is no way we are going to see on something like the iPhone is awesome, but holy crap - at nearly $70??!?? 

At least on the iOS front, this how I see the break down in pricing of games.  The $1 to $2 range are the real basic casual games such as many of the simple puzzlers or many of the childrens games.  This could also include many of the old classic arcade retreads (i.e., the break-outs, the pac-mans, space invaders, the tetris, etc)  $3 to $5 are getting into the more advanced puzzlers or more advanced arcade style games as well as some of the basic action/adventure games such as 2D platformers.  $5 to $8 is now getting into many of the sports games (such as golf and tennis) and some of the arcade racers.  $8 and up and we are now getting into premium territory, such as many of the advanced strategy games, the big, epic RPGs, the more advanced simulations, such the realistic racing, the flight sims, as well as the more ambitious 3D action/adventure or platformers.  If you get up to $10 and above, and I am expecting full-on console quality here, with highly polished production, excellent high-res graphics, excellent soundtrack, good quality voice acting and so forth, plus real, in-depth game play or big, epic, quality stories.

I think as the platform matures and the hardware gets better with each generation of devices, as well as developers learn how to take advantage of (such as how to really leverage the touch interface) as well as work around the quirks, the iOS will become a real gaming powerhouse here.

Posted by SkiBumMSP on August 16, 2011 at 11:26 PM (CDT)

9

@8: Actually, $15 is about right for a premier title. Square Enix can be chastised for the quality of their ports and “offshoring” the original properties they’ve published, but they’re right to hold to their prices.

Excluding obvious statistical lies like the 200+ million Angry Birds *downloads*, most insanely successful games still aren’t going to move more than a few hundred thousand copies if they’re not free/$1 in this environment. At $15, the publisher takes home $10.50 after Apple gets their “shelf space” cut. So even if you moved 500,000 copies, do you think any development firm with the resources to provide full voice acting, cut scenes, actual writers, editors, etc. to produce a top shelf game could afford to do so for less than 5 million gross? Particularly when facing the very real chance that if the title flopped and only move 50,000 copies they’d be looking at having invested all that money for a $500,000 gross return?

Right now most of the best titles are from indie devs doing this on the side of the “real” jobs, but that also means piecemeal expansion, limited support, no professional voice acting (usually no voice acting), simple or no cutscenes, terrible to not-that-bad writing, etc., and for the money we’re paying now, that’s fine, but you’re not going to see the equivalent of a modern day FFIV breakout if you won’t also break out of this economically naive view of what games should cost.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on August 17, 2011 at 9:31 AM (CDT)

10

#9 For the most part I agree with you.  However, I wonder what cut the developers actually get on, say a $30 Nintendo DS game after paying Nintendo’s licensing fees, the cost of producing the cartridges/packaging/manuals, and all the retail markups?  I would be willing to bet it is not much more than what the same developer would get for putting the same game at $15 on app store after Apple’s cut.

That is why I said that for the good, premium titles, I figure the $10 to $15 range is about where it is at.  For anything above $15, the game has better be damn good.  That is why that, desptie my whining about it, I did drop the nearly $70 on a copy of Red Dead Redemption for my PS/3 because that was that good of a game. 

There is nothing naive here (and being a senior software developer myself with some 20-odd years experience, I know what goes into writing some of this stuff).  But I do agree that if everybody is expecting all the games to be less than $5, even the good premium ones, than that is indeed naive.

Posted by SkiBumMSP on August 17, 2011 at 11:25 AM (CDT)

11

Fair enough, I took your “are you listening Square Enix?” as a rejection of their pricing, but I think their app store pricing is probably set at just about what they are used to bringing home on their titles when everything is broken down.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on August 17, 2011 at 10:14 PM (CDT)

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