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iOS game pricing. Or : how Indies can still exist on the Appstore?

30/11/2011

I’ve been watching closely what was going on on the appStore since its opening a few years ago. As an indie developer, I asked myself a simple question : how to price my game right?

The context today is this : both indie games and AAA titles are in an unfair competition. Why? Because they have the same price range (FREE – 10€).

Unlike the Appstore, the PC/Mac/Console market is healthier in this department. Between indies and AAA, the price range is larger (FREE – 70€). So when you spend 70€ in a game, you know you will get fancy 3D graphics and rollercoaster gameplay. But you can spend a few Euros in an interesting looking indie game just to try something different.

On the Appstore, customers expect to get AAA for 0,79€ or even for free. It makes it hard to differentiate your indie product from an AAA production.

A few indie devs took the issue in the opposite way. Simogo priced its fantastic title Bumpy Road 2,59€ at release and got somewhat successful. Superbrothers‘ Sword & Sworcery was priced even higher and got the attention it deserved. They believed in the value of their product and customers recognized this value when they purchased it.

The thing is, as always, those are exceptions, not the rule. The Appstore pricing is not healthy for indies. Long time are gone the days of Tiny Wings.

Having said that, what can we do about the pricing rules of the Appstore? Nothing. We have to wait.

The fact is that iOS devices are getting wider and wider audience. Most notably, younger players now want iPods Touch and iPads for Christmas, instead of 3DS or PSP.
What does it mean? Simply that as iOS is getting stronger as a gaming platform, AAA production budgets will rise and so the price of the games. 0,79€ per game is not a sustainable strategy for major publishers.
And user base will welcome more and more core gamers coming from aforementioned platforms that will be more inclined to spend more that 5€ on an iOS title.

When this will happen, and I believe it will eventually happen, it will give indies some air to exists on the Appstore, at least in the price point area. I just wish it could happen just right now.

In a more short-time window, I strongly recommend any indies wishing to make an iOS game to go cross-platform from the start. iOS, Android, Mac, PC, Flash, HTML 5… Anything that you can think of. The same goes for desktop/web indies as mobiles and tablets are here to stay.
Choose your development tools wisely. A lot of SDKs let you build for different platforms with the same code. As an indie, you may not have budget or time for porting your game. It might seems expensive to get a SDK like Unity vs. an open-source one. But in the long run, you will spare a lot of money/development time.

Share your opinion!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 30/11/2011 21:27

    I think in the end the competition will be good for everybody. Those who are committed to their work will be forced to put extra effort into polishing and finishing designs which can end up getting greater recognition in the end, and the consumers get a plethora of options. I don’t think its an unhealthy market, just a young one.

    • 30/11/2011 22:00

      Yes, it’s in fact a young one. I agree with you that even if you are an indie, you must come up with the best product possible. But now you must compete with games like Spy Mouse which has Pixar-like graphics / marketing plan. But it’s 0,79€!
      It’s like Call of Duty was 5€. It’s like buying a Ferrari for the price of a Lada! How indies are supposed to compete with that?
      My point is that the pricing on the Appstore doesn’t reflect the real value of the products. I would have pay 5€+ for a game like Spy Mouse. But consumers are used to get great games for almost nothing on mobiles (it all started with Snake :-).

  2. 30/11/2011 23:32

    But it does reflect the value of the products. The ‘real’ value is whereever the intersection of what people are willing to pay and what people are willing to sell for lays. There was always competition with ridiculously priced games. There were dozens of people giving quality games away for free hoping to get exposure and recognition for their shareware/flashgame/whatever on their lonely little website. The appstore is just bringing all these people together in one spot. The fiercer competition is for peoples time, not their money anyway.

  3. 05/12/2011 14:40

    My two cents : If the game is fun, deep, gives a wonderful experience and/or has a good replay value, in the end just well engineered, people will come to it. Weither it’s 0.79 cents or 4/5 bucks.
    I personally would rather buy a good pixel art game 5 €/$ (mostly if it tells a story, even a dull one like angry birds) rather than a so-so Pixar-grade-graphics kinda game. I guess devellopers just have to target their market and not make a game that wouldn’t appeal to any base by trying to get to both casual and hardcore players. Eventually, if it’s great, user bases/groups aren’t important, even if it seems the market tend so “forgive” storytelling games for having a higher price than casual ones.

    • 14/12/2011 23:51

      Hi David and thanks for your contribution. I strongly agree with you that developers have to find and target their audience, casual or hardcore/niche.
      What I don’t like, it’s how major publishers are locking the appstore market by selling their big budget games at ridiculous price to eventually evict smaller developpers.
      Hopefully, people are more educated in terms of gaming than 5 years ago. And there are so many tastes to fulfill that indie games are here to stay.

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