Monday, December 10, 2012

Why is Mutant Mudds $1 on the App Store?


A question I have been asked is why Mutant Mudds costs only $0.99 on the App Store when it costs $8.99 on Nintendo eShop. I’ll try to justify it.
 
Mutant Mudds was first released on the Nintendo eShop on January 26, 2012. The Nintendo eShop was a very new market, so all I really had to go on in regards to comparable pricing of platformers was DSiWare – the digital download store on the Nintendo DSi. The two main titles I looked at were Shantae and Cave Story. Shantae was priced at $12 and Cave Story was $10. I felt that Mutant Mudds was similar in scope to these, if perhaps slightly on the lighter side when compared to them, so $8.99 felt like a competitive price for a platformer in a Nintendo handheld market.
 
When the game released, most people agreed that the price was fair, even though it was the most expensive title on the Nintendo eShop at the time – if you do not count DSiWare titles, which are also available on the store. Including Shantae and Cave Story.
 
So then it came time to think about the pricing of Mutant Mudds in the App Store. I was new to the market in terms of being a consumer, so I did not have an immediate feeling of where the game should be priced competitively. I knew it could not be priced as high as the Nintendo eShop version, due to lack of buttons and 3D, but I was not sure how much lower I should go.
 
I did a lot of research on other titles and gauged how successful they had been. What is nice about the App Store games is that the data is fairly transparent. You can see top paid titles, highest grossing titles, number of reviews, number of active players on Game Center, and other such indications that give you a decent impression of how well a game has sold. Looking at the top paid apps today, you’ll notice that the majority are priced at $0.99. Sure, there are a few that are priced higher, but they typically offer a well-known brand or perhaps a state-of-the-art experience with cutting edge graphics and such. Mutant Mudds is not a large brand that can command “premium” price, nor does it sport state-of-the-art graphics. J
 
I even considered going freemium with the game and chopping up all of the game contents in purchasable chunks, but quickly ditched that idea when it just didn’t feel natural for this game. But, I am glad I at least considered that pricing model.
 
Other research that I uncovered suggested that even pricing a game above $0.99, say at $1.99, would result in less than 50% sales – meaning; if you can sell 100 copies at $0.99 you should expect to sell less than half that when priced at $1.99. That’s crazy!
 
Another painfully obvious fact is the quality of games now available on the App Store for $0.99. In an interview with GimmeGimmeGames, I recently said:
 
The quality of games that can be purchased on the App Store for $0.99 is very high. Titles like Jetpack Joyride and Bad Piggies make it a very competitive market. We have to try and compete with that quality and price-point.
 
Each market is different, not only due to the audience that is actively purchasing goods in those markets, but also due to how that market is presented to the public. After only spending a short time buying games in the App Store you are quickly conditioned to hunt for games that are free or $0.99. Only a well-known brand or an out-of-this-world impressive game can demand “high prices” such as $4.99 and above. It’s a crazy thing. But, it’s real.
 
We make games because we love to. We also want to continue to make games. That means we have to position our games competitively in each market in an attempt to maximum on the cash we receive. The inevitable result is that some people will get upset. I don’t like that fact. But, it is unavoidable. What makes it bearable is the fact that there are just as many people, if not more, who are ecstatic about the price of the title in their market, because that’s where they live and they understand or can appreciate the business side of things.
 
I hope this helps shed some light on how we approach such things. Happy gaming.

5 comments:

  1. Keep in mind I have nothing but respect for you personally, but I find a number of issues with this kind of business strategy.

    First, if the smartphone market for gaming is such a miserably stingy ecosystem, why jump into it? Catering to an audience that doesn't see games as something worth more than $1 is insanely dangerous. You know your game is worth more than 99 cents so why toss it out there for such a price?

    There's also an issue with any follow up titles on the eShop. Let's say Mudds 2 happens and it launches on the eShop for $9... well why buy it for the 3DS, just wait until the ios release for 99 cents. Why buy Mudds on the eshop right now when it's next to free on your phone? It definitely sends a message.

    This logic of "Well this marketplace won't buy software for more than $1 so we have to price it accordingly" isn't logical. Especially when it's being sold for considerably more on another marketplace. It's like going into a supermarket and being able to buy a loaf of bread for cheap because you fall into a certain category, meanwhile the next fellow has to pay 5x what you did simply because he enjoys bread more.

    The smartphone audience looks at video games as being basically an entertainment kleenex. They don't really want to pay anything for the experience because to them it's just something to distract them while they have a couple minutes of down time. This mentality isn't exactly encouraging to the future of video gaming both as a game designer or game player.

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  2. Speaking as a developer, I think you're simplifying the situation more than you should. What you said isn't wrong - lots of people will turn their nose up at anything more than a dollar on mobile, and many can/will only do free.

    But for the majority of indies, it's not a sustainable price-point. The big boys are getting sales numbers that we can only dream of - they can afford to practically/literally give their stuff away and monetize in other ways or make up in volume; we can't. Luckily, Josh is overly simplifying too - there IS a subsection of mobile game players that will actually pay for good games. They are the ones that can keep your game's long tail alive.

    My advice is to keep $0.99 as a promotional price point - once you've had your shot at the charts, put it up to something more reasonable. Then you have some flexibility for holiday promotions and sales. My other piece of advice is to ignore what everyone else says and go with your gut :)

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  3. Thank you for your thoughts, Josh and Simon. You both make excellent points. This is a subject that can be debated for a long time, and possibly never find a perfect solution for everyone.

    One thing I would like to share are some thoughts on your loaf of bread example. Instead of a loaf of bread, perhaps we could see this as a chair. A chair on an airplane. The majority of people will pay less for a chair that is labeled economy class whereas others are willing to pay much more for a slightly better seating experience in a chair that is labeled first class.

    Is it right? Is it fair? It is for some. It isn't for others. It is what it is. It's business.

    When you pay $0.99 for the iOS Mutant Mudds, you are getting a great game, but you are not getting the same "first class" experience you could have on the 3DS. Some will argue that the 3DS experience is worth more than $8.99, and others will argue it is worth less. Each to their own. If the iOS Mutant Mudds offered the exact same experience as the 3DS version, we might have a problem here. But, it doesn't. The 3DS version offers buttons and 3D.

    When Mutant Mudds 2 arrives on the Nintendo eShop, those who value what the 3DS has to offer in terms of a gaming experience can buy it. Those that view the iOS experience as being equal to the 3DS, can wait for the iOS release.

    All is good.

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  4. I'm a bit late to comment, but hopefully you'll see this.

    I really can't understand how you can justify pricing a game so much cheaper on a different platform. But what really bothers me is that Mutant Mudds is on sale right now on PC for $5. Your best PC sale price is $4 more than the regular iOS price. If I was in your position, though, I would probably price it similarily.
    Anyways, if I buy MM off your fastspring store, do I download an installer or is it just the app? How long does the sale last?

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