on iPhone app pricing


Games are a special case. You can sell a game for $9.99, but it’s much harder than selling a good app: games don’t solve most people’s problems, get them laid, save them time, make them money, or enrich their lives. Most have little lasting value: once you’ve beaten them or gotten sick of them, you rarely play them again. And the game market is absolutely flooded with cheap or free competition. But there’s nearly infinite demand for new games, and the potential market for a good game is much larger than the market for a good app. You can sell a great game for $9.99, but the bar is pretty high.

Here’s a fairly reasoned argument as to why most apps should be $9.99 (or higher!).

As I’m writing my iPhone games review omnibus, I keep thinking about one of the best games of the year: Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS. The actual printing and shipping of DS games is much more expensive than its console counterparts because the cartridges are quite expensive, especially for games like Layton that require large carts due to FMVs or other high data resources. Certainly it would be cheaper for them to distribute digitally. How much would I pay for Layton on a phone?

While I would lose value by not being able to re-sell the game on eBay when finished, I’d gain the utility of having the game with me everywhere. Actually, the game seems like a perfect fit for the mobile platform. If the developers were to charge $19.99, that wouldn’t seem out of line. $14.99 I’d buy in an instant.

Of course, with the aforementioned fear in the App Store market, they would probably split the game into four $4.99 chapters, which just takes up valuable screen menu real estate.

We need a Killer App to prove this can be done. I’m no fan of paying more money, but we have no long-form games on the platform and won’t if there is a $9.99 price ceiling. Nosiy 13 year olds be damned.

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