While Nintendo’s most senior executives were publicly criticising the App Store for ‘weakening the value’ of games, behind closed doors Apple may be advocating premium prices on its influential digital store.
According to UK studio Somethin’ Else, Apple encouraged the group to raise the price of its award-winning iOS game Papa Sangre before release.
Speaking on stage at Edinburgh Interactive, Somethin’ Else managing director Steve Ackerman explained:
“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.
“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.’”
Papa Sangre launched on the App Store at ₤3.99, Ackerman said. It meant the US version was sold for five dollars.
The game, which last month won a Develop Award for audio achievement, has sold more than 50,000 times on the App Store, Ackerman said.
Papa Sangre’s premium price broken current industry trends, where a majority of developers try to gain ground by undercutting rivals with rock-bottom game prices. A growing proportion of games on the App Store now work on the freemium model.
This so-called ‘race to the bottom’ has proven controversial. Perhaps the most well-known criticism of the policy came from Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who at GDC 25 said low App Store prices are harming the premium value of games.
Iwata’s theory is that games selling below one dollar have cultivated a wider market expectation for cheap games – something which may threaten the commercial viability of triple-A titles that sell for as much as $60 each.
Epic Games’ Mike Capps has backed Iwata’s view, though many iPhone developers have disagreed.
Yet Apple, from Ackerman’s account, may also be encouraging the view that quality should come at a premium. The iPad manufacturer recently raised the base-line prices on its App Store.
The future of price points on the App Store, and indeed mobile platforms, is a matter for debate. Some analysts, such as Nicholas Lovell, believes there’s huge value to be had in freemium games. Others say that, as quality comes at a development cost, the prices of apps will begin to rise.