Apple has finally, formally announced its subscription service for apps. This formal announcement means that any app that provides a digital subscription outside an app must also do so inside the app.
The announcement to day basically comes down to this. If a service provides a method to receive a digital subscription on an iOS device (think Zinio, The Daily, The Times of London) that the option to subscribe needs to be offered inside the app at the same or lower prices. To clear one thing up, this does not mean that print subscription prices need to apply to digital subscriptions. While I’d love that rule, as a consumer, that would be overstepping Apple’s bounds a bit.
One thing to note is that this doesn’t just apply to digital print publications like magazines and newspapers. This also applies to music services like Rdio, Pandora, and Rhapsody. And it applies to video services like Netflix and Hulu+. We’ve reached out for comment from some of these companies to get their reaction.
The result is that services like the above will need to provide a method to subscribe inside the app as well as outside the app. And Apple wants their 30% cut when subscriptions are done inside the app. To ensure that publishers don’t just pass the 30% extra onto the user, Apple has noted that the subscription prices inside the app be the same or lower than those offered outside the app.
If a service provides a subscription outside the app, and doesn’t deliver the subscription in the app, they seem to be excluded from this requirement. The one key phrase from the Apple announcement is “Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app.” That does set the likes of Wired Magazine free to continue to only offer their magazine at an inflated per issue price. Wired offers their magazine at $3.99 per issue within the app while routinely offers the print edition at $10/year. But they don’t offer a digital subscription anywhere else.
There has been very little information available about what we can expect to see for iPad app prices and their method of publishing. With the increased size of the screen, many are calling for greatly increased prices noting that the iPad is more like a laptop computer than it is a mobile device. Others believe that since the operating system and development environment are pretty much duplicates of the iPhone that app prices will fall in a similar range. We did a quick survey of some developers to see what their plans are for how they are going to release their iPad apps and what we can expect in iPad app prices.
In addition to the price question, how will applications be released? Apple has made available to developers two different ways to create applications for the iPad. In addition there are various forms of those two methods developers are looking to use as well.
Univeral or HD/XL?
The first method of iPad app creation is to create a unique application, an app with a new name and a unique bundle id. These iPad only apps, while they may share the same functions of their iPhone versions, will be unique and require customers to purchase the iPad version even if they have already purchased the iPhone version. We will also likely see some applications as iPad only that are unique to the iPad in that they just wouldn’t work on the iPhone with a small screen.
The second method to create an iPad application is to release what is designated by Apple as a Universal build app. These are apps that work both on the iPhone and the iPad. The apps have functionality built in that will recognize if they are running on an iPad and show the proper iPad controls and display full screen on the device. For the customer, this is the obvious preference. If you have already bought the iPhone version, the iPad version is just an update away, at no additional cost.
In our survey of developers, a slight majority (52%) indicated that they will be developing Universal builds for their iPad applications over iPad specific (48%) versions.
Since Apple has indicated that Universal builds that are updates to existing apps should not yet be submitted to the App Store, this leaves the developer of universal builds at a little bit of a disadvantage as it’s likely they will not be available for the device launch on 4/3.
This weekend, in a protest against supposedly 3400 emails complaining about the $2.99 price of their app Alchemize, Schiau Studios raised the price to $39.99 for the weekend. Yes, it’s a hilarious protest against whiners who complain about spending a few bucks, but Schiau is not entirely in the right. Alchemize was originally priced at $9.99 and then quickly lowered until it was only $.99 for a short time. I can’t blame people for waiting for another sale. If Schiau truly wanted to protest App Store pricing, they would have come up with a fair price, stuck to it, and never changed it amid protests. By acknowledging the whiners, Schiau has granted them some legitimacy.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-08-22 :: Category: Games
Sometimes it’s good to take a look at our beloved App Store’s rival, the PSP Mini store. The store has launched and two of its biggest name games have already made an appearance on the iPhone (and for cheaper): Hero of Sparta and Fieldrunners. In addition, Chillingo and Mountain Sheep’s Minigore is on the way. What do all of these games have in common? In my estimation, they’re three of the most overrated games on the App Store. Hero of Sparta had good visuals for its time, but the dull one-button hack and slash affair has so many pre-rendered cinematic animations it’s like watching a movie. Fieldrunners has a great art style and was admittedly one of the first open-path TD’s on the App Store, but there’s only a few enemy types and tower types, and it lacks the depth of the genre luminaries such as Sentinel 2 and Defender Chronicles. Minigore has nice aesthetics as well, but it’s an average two-stick survival shooter with little depth, easily outclassed by games such as Alive 4 Ever. Sony, wake me up when you manage to get some good games.
Nimblebit’s Freebie Friday
This Friday, Nimblebit lowered all their apps to free in celebration of their newly launched site App Classics! Even if you missed the deal, the apps are still worth buying; Nimblebit is the best in the business at creating fun, short, and addictive games such as Scoops and Textropolis. This move was interesting from a marketing standpoint, and certainly created buzz. In fact, Ian Marsh reported via Twitter that Saturday’s sales were double normal and more than made up for Friday’s losses.
This week’s upcoming app that looks frickin’ awesome!
This is the inaugural issue of this feature where I’ll be showing off some upcoming games that look awesome (though I’ve been doing it unofficially for quite some time). This week, we have Jet Car Stunts, an awesome-looking racing game in the vein of Track Mania. The game is due to be submitted within the next week. Enjoy!
This week’s sign of the apocalypse
A few weeks ago, Chris used this space to talk about how happy he was that Glu’s awful Family Guy cash-in was doing poorly in the App Store. Well, times have changed, and apparently Stewie is enough to make a poor game reach #9 on Top Grossing Apps.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-09-23 :: Category: Games
App of the Week
Soosiz is without question the best platformer yet on the App Store. The game uses gravity-centered gameplay, like that of Gomi, but much more fast-paced, to turn a good platform adventure into something extraordinary. The level design is excellent, and the difficulty curve is just right. Controls are great as well. There’s only a left arrow, a right arrow, and a jump button, but they are all perfectly responsive and work brilliantly in unison, making you almost forget you’re playing on a touch screen.. The graphics are cartoony and playful, and the only big flaw of the game is the sometimes overly-childish music. Other than that though, Soosiz is a magnificent achievement is App Store platforming, and it’s one of the most fun games I’ve played in a while, coming highly recommended.
In what is seemingly a periodic function, the app store community has been in an uproar over the pricing of a game. What was the sin? Pricing a game over the sacred $9.99 mark? Nope, it was the debut of the addictive but simple flash game Canabalt (free demo here) at a whopping $2.99. The game itself, from its great pixel artwork to the catchy in-game music to the simple but “one more time” gameplay, is actually fantastic, only lacking a global leaderboard. Well, apparently there’s some unwritten rule that if a game has a free flash counterpart, it can be priced no higher than $.99. Luckily, the average Joe App Store user was able to withdraw enough from their savings account to shell out the $2.99, as it’s ranked #78 amongst all paid games. Bargain bin App Store pricing is great for the consumer, but it sure does create some spoiled brats. Hey haters, you know what you can do if you don’t like the pricing? NOT BUY IT! But don’t go around calling for Semi Secret Software’s head.
App Store Starts to See Yearly Updates
We’re beginning to see 2010 installments of emerging App Store sports franchises, including Real Soccer 2010, Baseball Superstars 2010, and the upcoming X2 Football 2010. Not only does each of these titles bring notable improvements over the previous installment, but they are also another sign of the iPhone as a true gaming platform. Developers are clearly planning long term and are investing in the iPhone for their latest and greatest games. This trend will reach explosive new heights if EA Mobile joins in by releasing yearly updates to their sports games along with their console counterparts.
Mini Squadron Looks Insanely Fun!
This video of the upcoming “Mini Squadron” put it on my “can’t miss” list:
The game looks to have a nice amount of content with 50 unlockable planes and Wifi multiplayer, great graphics, and awesomely frantic gameplay. Look for this one near Halloween.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a competition for the best App Store Kart racer between Konami’s Krazy Kart Racing and Gameloft’s yet to be released Shrek Kart. Well now, a completely unexpected racer has entered the fray, Cocoto Kart Online. Cocoto is made by Eurocenter, the makers of such online luminaries as Dinosmash, Ace Tennis Online, and Bomber Online. Cocoto contains a generous single player mode and of course, fully functional online play over Wifi or 3G. Oh, and Cocoto has one thing neither of its competitor’s can beat: at $.99 price tag. We’ll try to review this one soon but until then here’s a video of Battle Mode:
Note: the game can also be played with accelerometer controls.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-10-02 :: Category: Games
This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse
Kyle Orton is now officially a better QB than Tony Romo. That is all. (Truth. -Ed.)
Games of the Week
Robocalypse – Mobile Mayhem
The App Store has seen a few, largely unsuccessful attempts at bringing an RTS to the App Store. Now, it finally has one worth playing, Robocalypse. Not only does Robocalyspe deliver solid RTS gameplay (though it is slightly simplified) but also a large dose of humor, nice graphics, a 17 mission long campaign mode, and online multiplayer. It’s tough to beat getting a full DS game for only $2.99.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-09-18 :: Category: Games
FIFA 10 by EA SPORTS
It is with some reservations and trepidation that I name FIFA as an app of the week, but I do it because of one thing: gameplay, which makes it tentatively the best soccer (football) game on the App Store. Despite a very frustrating glitch that mixes up all your positions in manager mode and roster management menus that occasionally border on unnavigable, FIFA’s controls are pretty good – they just take some time to get used to. In addition, EA packed a massive amount of content, including a multitude of fully-licensed teams and several game modes. In addition, FIFA comes through when it comes to gameplay. Unlike X2 Football and Real Soccer, FIFA is realistic. The gameplay is very smooth with a fine attention to realistic detail. No 15-0 blowouts here; goals are hard to come by, and 1-0 results are common, making goals extremely rewarding. The game never feels “cheap,” and you only have yourself to blame for your losses. I reserve the right to change my mind on FIFA’s place in the soccer game pecking order until X2 2010 comes out, but as of now, it sits at the top.
When the release date of Rolando 2 was announced, ngmoco:) also indicated that Rolando, the original, was going to be pulled from the app store when the sequel goes live. It’s an odd move, very smart, and yet wrong at the same time.
I recently asked Neil Young, CEO of ngmoco:), why the original Topple was no longer in the App Store, his comment was “We pulled it, trying something.” Short response and at the time I didn’t think much of it. I assumed they were planning on trying some new marketing technique with it. Turns out they were testing a fundamental business idea in preparation for the Rolando 2 release. Something new, something that really may change the way we think of games in the app store. Apps aren’t forever anymore.
According to our App Store database, Rolando was released originally on December 8, 2008. That effectively puts the lifespan of the original Rolando at 7 months. Is that really all the life Rolando has left in it? I doubt it. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be pulled from the app store when Rolando 2 is released.
While Rolando is their product and they have the absolute right to do with it what they choose, pulling it just doesn’t feel right. Something about the spirit seems wrong. They aren’t doing anything odd with the price to rise up the charts and increase the price to ride the higher exposure as many high profile developers have been doing lately. But they are sacrificing a product and it’s customers for increased expose for the next episode. Maybe I’m just being too sentimental, but I want to see the game stick around.
Back to the original test that ngmoco:) did, removing Topple from the app store. I’m not sure that it relates directly, removing Topple, a free app, to see what it does to sales of Topple 2 at $0.99. But there is something obvious to it. By removing Topple, they see if that increases sales of Topple 2, the more recent game.
By removing Rolando when the sequel comes out, they don’t lose any sales to the original, cheaper version. When users search for Rolando, they will get just 1 result, and 1 price. That makes sense as a certain percentage people would probably choose the cheaper one, and it removes any confusion of their marketing message for the new game.
What doesn’t make sense is why remove one of the best games on the App Store? Rolando may not have been a runaway commercial success, but it is a great game, very well reviewed, and still has some life in it. You know, what about the long tail? What about all those articles that point to Rolando on the app store. They won’t point to Rolando 2 automatically — you’ll just get the error on the app store that the app is not available.
This decision is also bad for people who have purchased the original Rolando. The app store is a digital delivery system. The only way to get Rolando is to download it from iTunes either on the desktop or on the device. If you don’t have a backup, and you lose it, you’ll never get it back if it’s no longer in the store. In addition, there have been weekly updates for a while from Rolando, building up to the release of Rolando 2. If you haven’t updated in a while, and you wait until July 1, you’ll never see those updates.
And what about the people that try Rolando 2 and want more? They know it’s a sequel, why can’t they get the original. Perhaps the original Rolando levels will be available as in-app purchases in Rolando 2.
It seems as though ngmoco:) is willing to live with a little bit of bad customer experience to try to increase the sales of a new game. Not a great thing, but considering the constraints of the App Store and the very limited ways that developers can operate, it might be the best decision. If nothing else, you have to hand it to them for trying something different and thinking about how to best build a business in the maddening chaos known as the iTunes App Store. It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow suit and do the same. Let’s hope not.
I hope we’ll see Rolando and Topple back in the store, re-released as classic versions maybe, at some point in the future. For now, I think I’ll make sure I have the latest version, do a back-up, and play a little Classic Rolando while I wait for Rolando 2.
David from AppCubby sent us a note about his latest blog post today. This entry gives the results of his pricing experiment that we wrote about last month where he set all of his apps to be $0.99 and provided the ability for people to donate if they thought they were worth more. This update doesn’t look to good for that pricing model. Unfortunately he doesn’t give any real sales numbers, just aggregated results, but there are still some nuggets of good info in here:
- During the 7 days of the experiment they only got $75 in donations
- Initially, volume made up for the lost revenue from the reduced prices (probably due to the increased press, he notes)
- After that started to wain, volume still stayed way up over the previous week, but revenue started to fall below the previous weeks numbers.
- There was an increase the last day or so, as is typical, people rush to buy before the end of a sale.
It’s hard to call this experiment a failure when it was so short. I’m not sure enough time was given for the donation aspect to gain a foothold. But, the result for AppCubby is that they have redoubled their efforts make the best software available and sell it at a price that is fair. All of the AppCubby apps have raised back up to $9.99 and will stay there. And we wish them all the luck in the world!
“To have people say that my products are an absolute steal at $0.99 and that I SHOULD be charging more was a wake up call. As the saying goes, if no one is complaining about your price you’re charging too little.”
If you’re interested in the circle of hell that is app store pricing, check out the blog post, it’s a good read for any developer or potential developer.
David Frampton, the developer behind Chopper (iTunes Link) which had reached as high as #2 on the top paid games list and #3 paid app overall as recently as Christmas, and Duck Duck Duck (iTunes Link) has posted a great article on his blog about what sales numbers he has seen as he has changed the price of his apps. He’s got some great insight in this post.
Some of the findings he shares include info on what pricing your app at 99 cents does to the sales, and the reviews. What giving away your app for short periods can do. Here’s an excerpt about pricing your app at 99 cents:
Many apps have dropped to $0.99 permanently, and my own DuckDuckDuck also dropped to $0.99.
I regret it.
One of the problems with hitting this price point is in the long term income. A month after the price drop, 6 months, 2 years… People who like an app, and then recommend it, are the best form of advertising. These wonderful, loyal customers perhaps unknowingly convince their friends to pay well for the recommendation. But not just yet. The tail of 1000 sales today lasts a hell of a long time. When their friends do happen to buy an iPhone, and then try out the App Store, and then buy an app or two, your app might be it. Hopefully it’s not $0.99.
Head on over and read the post, it’s worth the time if you are interested in what developers experiences are with the pricing of their app.
App Cubby developer David Barnard contacted us today to let us know he’s a little frustrated with the pricing in the app store. As prices trend toward $0.99, many developers are feeling the crunch. And while he thinks the app store itself is pretty sound, he wants to try a different pricing option.
On the subject app store pricing, and $0.99 apps in particular, David had this to say:
We’re not complaining at the existence of $0.99 apps. We’re frustrated that artificial market forces are driving down the price of apps, which in turn drives down the perceived value of the products we have invested significant time and money to create. Marketing can help, but it’s throwing good money after bad if the market discourages charging a fair price for an app.
The new method he’s going to try is to price all of his apps at $0.99 — and if you think they are worth more, head on over to his donation page and tip him what you think they are worth.
It’s in interesting direction to take. All of the App Cubby apps are fantastic and worth well more than $0.99. But will people pay more? I hope so. Will Apple kick him out of the iTunes App Store for doing this? Doubtful — really not that much different than e-book sellers or other apps with extra costs or subscriptions after the app sale.
If you are interested in iTunes App Store pricing, the blog over at App Cubby has some great thoughts on the matter. Highly recommended reading. [ AppCubby Blog ]
We wish David luck with this experiment. I hope it goes well. Take a look at the AppCubby apps, they are all very easy to recommend at $0.99. And maybe, if you like them, head on over and donate something extra.
Pricing of applications and games in particular, have been in a free fall for while now. When a new game by anyone other than the top tier of multi-platform game development companies is released, you can almost guarantee that the price will drop within a few days. Sykhronics is trying things a little differently.
Their approach has been to take their well reviewed Smiles game (we gave it 4.5 stars) and rather than dropping the price, split the game up into multiple applications priced. Those smaller applications are priced at less than the original, but the user gets a discount by buying the main app over buying both of the smaller games.