The iApp Pricing Dilemma

Around a hundred years ago in 1984, I owned a ZX Spectrum 16K (which my Dad had bought for Christmas in 1982). This tiny little computer cost £100 or so, hooked up to your TV and the games had to be loaded over a audio cable from a tape recorder. I remember my Christmas Day was spent with a hairdryer trying to resolve a hilarious problem where any dust inside would cause internal shorts and produce a little row of bombs across the screen. Ah, heady times.

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The games I bought were sold in two shops. Tandy on the Antrim Road in Lisburn and a video rental store. At the time the full price of a game was around £7.99. The rental store also rented the game for 99p for two nights. This was achievable to my 11 year old mind and I rented the game which caught my eye.

You see.

TRON had been released in 1982 and I was obsessed. (In hindsight I really should have stayed with the computers thing.) And a company called Personal Software Services in Coventry (England) has produced a game called Light Cycle.

LightCycle

Evidently Disney wasn’t paying attention to computer games in 1983. But anyway – this game which entranced me (before I knew what the gameplay looked like), was £7.99. (I know it says it was £5.95 retail on the web site but I tell you, it sold for £7.99 in pre-globalised, pre-internet Lisburn).

So, iApp prices.

I think everyone knows that 59p (99c) is too cheap for anything of value.

That said, the iPhone has proved quite the opposite (and it seems to be everlastingly sustainable) as we fill our home screens with games and utility apps that are, quite frankly, too cheap to be good, but so good you’d be stupid not to try them. I’ve got pages of apps and games which cost very little and yet I get hours and hours of use out of them.

We knew that iPad apps would cost more. Sure, you can run your existing iPhone apps on the iPad by stretching them up to fill the screen, but there’s a heap of new apps coming. Some of them are refreshes of existing iPhone apps with new content but some of them are new and exciting.

So iPad apps and games will cost more.

They’re not going to cost like PC games or console games – between thirty quid and fifty quid for a single game – but they’re also not going to trend towards 59p! As you can see below!

These images are from MacRumors:

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Expect bigger prices from big names. We’re going to see some amazing content on this device. Just be prepared to pay for it.

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  1. Bombs on a ZX Spectrum? There was no
    bomb image in the character set..

    It’ll be interesting to see if prices will be higher for iPad apps.
    I know it was a lot of work for me.. I’m still thinking about pricing.

  2. http://bit.ly/cvvyc9 iPad is over twice size of iPhone and much faster processor so games should be different and priced accordingly. They are a lot more expensive but 2/3 of buyers aren’t buying iPads to play games http://bit.ly/bY7qr5

    I think vast majority of iPad games will fail to cover their costs given small amount of iPad sales (especially via total iPhone sales) and that is why price is so high.

    Big reason people won’t buy too many games is simply the weight of the device, very different playing a racing game on an iPhone compared to an iPad. iPad will be interesting but i think there’ll be few winners in the high end 3D games side

    Liam
    @WeeManStudios

  3. The only crash displays I know are:

    Macintosh – System Bomb
    Amiga – Guru Meditation
    Windows – BSOD

    Essentially if you weren’t running a multitasking OS as such, there was nothing to report the crash. So the ZX81, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC would just hang, or reset themselves as there was no supervisor to catch the crash.

    Maybe you were just playing Super Bomberman and didn’t know it 😉

  4. Hi Liam,

    Just because 2/3 of surveyed iPad buyers who have never touched the device are not planning to buy games means nothing. The folk surveyed see an immediate need but they have no idea of the scope and ability of the machine. Yes, it will fill their browsing needs immediately but it’s a fact that the device is already more capable (through smart software) than most low end PCs.

    (The size of the screen and number of pixels to be pushed has a detrimental effect on game performance. In my estimation, it won’t be streets ahead of the iPhone in game performance because it isn’t a next generation chip in there)

    Where are you getting the ‘total iPad sales’ being lower than iPhone? The device isn’t even released and it’s already gotten nearly a million in pre-orders -over 250 000 pre-ordered currently at the online store and an Apple Store in Florida reports 1800 pre-orders at the store (and they have another Apple Store 30 minutes away).

    It took the iPhone 74 days to reach 1 million in sales. I am of the opinion that it will reach 1 million in the first weekend if Apple have sufficient inventory.

  5. Hi John, I did’t have an Atari ST. o_0

    Seriously, when I first got the device (nearly 30 years ago I admit), it would switch on and then at a random interval it would display three tiny bombs at the bottom of the screen. Only 30 minutes with a hairdryer to dislodge fluff would fix it…

    WEEEEEEEEERD….

    Going to have to crashdump my brain…..ack..

  6. Matt, you really think that the number of iPad’s sold will match or exceed the iPhone/iPod Touch?

    I know that the iPad is easier to buy: you don’t have to wait for your phone contract to run out, or buy yourself out of a contract, or change carriers, but… it is more of a geek toy than a phone at this moment.

    Of course, if the ‘old’ media takes off on it, it might be the best-selling computer ever.. I really WANT it to sell as many as the smaller devices, because to me it’s the ideal form of the future of personal computing, but at the moment I’m blinded by how much I want one and don’t feel able to un-bias my guestimates for how popular it will be.

    Picking the best price means maximizing the equation “units sold x unit price”. Price too high, and you’ll lose sales AND be undercut by competition, but you might still make more money than if you sell it too cheaply and don’t make it up with sheer numbers. So initially, I can see iPad authors veering to higher prices and hoping their competition does too.

    It’s interesting how cut-throat the app market is at times. I know that my competition continues to use the title of my app as search keywords, and in an email conservation when I asked them not to, I was told to stop being naive.

  7. Matt, the original ZX Spectrum 16K/48K models definitely didn’t draw bombs. It’s possible that a specific game did of course. But then again, I’ve never heard of the hair-drier being used, so I really beginning to doubt your sanity 😉

  8. Hi John,
    I’m just questioning the logic of describing iPad sales as low a week before it actually is in the shop and with pre-orders veering towards seven figures. I believe that app prices will be more sensible for iPad – iPhone pricing was indeed cut-throat but that’s because there’s a *perceived* limited value in something that is only able to display one tiny screen of information.

    On the other thing – have you considered emailing the App Store itself and telling them that they are abusing your trade mark? (I know it’s not a Registered Trade Mark ® but it is still, under UK law, a trade mark which you have been using for nearly two years so it definitely counts). At the very least it should be kicked out of the UK store for this reason.

  9. I did email the App Store people. I asked if using a product name as a search keyword was fair, and if not, perhaps they could suggest that the other company not do it? They sent a cease and desist (sigh) and the other company paid a lawyer to write lots of letters. At the end of it, they said they WOULD remove the term from their search and so Apple closed the case.

    But despite assurances, they simply decided they didn’t want remove the term, and so they didn’t.

    So I could go back to Apple again, or I could just savour the knowledge they are a bunch of dishonest liars and enjoy every moment when I am higher in the charts then they are 🙂

    I’m not convinced it makes any difference to sales, and it makes me feel like I’ve taken the moral high ground.

  10. >>>They are a lot more expensive but 2/3 of buyers aren’t buying iPads to play games

    There may not be plans to buy one, but that won’t stop impulse or curiosity buys. I could see myself buying a few — and I’m an absolute game spazz too.

  11. IIRC, the Spectrum didn’t have crash images. However, when the game failed to load for whatever reason, often it loaded a partial set of data and then tried to execute it. I remember seeing results such as flashing squares within the screen, random gobbledygook text and mutated game sprites: three bombs is entirely possible.

  12. I didn’t plan on putting games on my iPhone but then I did. And then I put more. Then I bought more from the in-app stores. That first games is like a good joint – then comes heroin – then comes crack.

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