I would consider myself a bargain hunter, yet last year alone I spent over $30 on gaming apps for my iPhone. A majority of those games I did enjoy, but for the most part almost none of those same apps are on my iPhone now. That’s not to say the quality of the games were “okay,” if anything I waited patiently for those apps to drop to a lower price. However, I don’t think I’ll be paying over $30 on apps this year.
No, this is not an anti-app rant. If anything it’s a warning to those who think apps are the future of gaming yet don’t see the flaws of the current app store. I’ve ranted on Apple’s failures to stop cloning/rip-off and copyrighted apps from appearing on the app store, yet as time goes on Apple still fails to stop such apps once the filtering process is done. But this post isn’t about the failure of Apple as a gaming company. It’s actually about the app pricing model, and how we are wasting money due to it.
$0.99 for a game is great; no one is denying that. However, what price is better than a dollar? Free, and on the app store you will find no shortage of free games up for grabs. Of course many of those free games are free for a reason: they’re crap. So much crap clutters the gaming side of the app store that the tag “free” has become an indicator of a low quality game. Sucks, but it’s true.
So how do you separate the crap from the quality? Apparently just put a price on the game. $0.99 seems to be a decent bargain for a so-so game, especially to the many people willing to buy that so-so game just so they can test their new edition iPad. Maybe I’m being drastic, but after browsing for bargains on the app store for a year my thinking isn’t so far-fetched. Games that have no business being priced at $1.99 just want to separate themselves from the free ones. But sometimes a game has to go free to get a few downloads.
A new trend is happening with gaming apps and it is becoming an annoyance for my wallet. Recently I’ve noticed a few well-known games from publishers who I thought would never lower the price of their games to free do exactly that. Games like Mirror’s Edge, Cut the Rope: Experiment, Fruit Ninja, and a few first episodes from various Telltale series all went free for a limited time. Though these were promotional offerings, this has got me thinking about the uselessness of the pricing model. Why bother paying for the damn game if it’s only going to go free? Sure I support developers by buying their games, but if the game’s popularity is more important than paying those devs why even bother? Of course most of those games didn’t get to where they are if no one paid for them in the first place, but still. If I have to wait a couple of years just for a free game, then sure why not. I’ll hold off purchasing any game with the hope of it going free and certain programs can easily make that happen.
Places like Free App A Day and Free App Daily all hold one day specials on certain apps ranging in quality from doo-doo to decent time wasters. Usually these promos allow the app to jump on the app stores top download list, the only known list that determines what is popular among everyone else. Though the validity of the top download list is questionable, the fact there is even a program that essentially gives away free apps on a daily basis proves consumers are wasting money on apps.
Almost every analyst, mostly Apple analysts, saw the $0.99 pricing model as a blessing and the future to killing console gaming. But like I said before, what’s better than $0.99? Free. Free is the future of gaming apps, which means devs will have to find other means of making money with their work.