A Game Or A Coffee? Your Product Is A Commodity! : AIR to App Store, Day 11

So the game is almost built and the time comes to bring up that age old question: “What’s It Worth?”

There’s an interesting discussion out there on the value of games and apps. It’s called the cup of coffee comparison, which basically equates the price of an app or game on the App Store is worth more or less the price of a cup of coffee. Naturally, there are those who argue both sides. Those who say apps are worth less than the price of coffee ( citing that people want coffee, they don’t necessarily even want your app ) and those who argue apps are worth far more than the price of a cup of coffee. It’s a sad day when you’re competing for someone’s dollar with the guy below:

barista

It’s a really tough one to be objective about as a developer – you pour your heart and soul into a game. Literally hundreds if not thousands of hours of your time. Even when you’re not working on the game, you’re thinking about it. You work with musicians who breathe life into the game through their amazing compositions. Artists bring the world to life, one brush stroke and pixel click at a time. And you yourself, the designer. Every level, game mechanic, paragraph of text or clever sound effect. Every feature, indeed every bug – you’ve thought about, coded and re-coded. Naturally, you think your product is worth much more than a mass-produced commodity like coffee.

Only, that’s the thing. Apps and games are now a mass-produced commodity. There’s over 1 million apps on the App Store alone, let alone Google Play’s huge numbers. The barrier to develop a game has been lowered significantly thanks to great tools like Adobe Flash , Unity , and yes even HTML5 ( which is kind of like painting your house with finger paints – you can do it, but why would you?) . So naturally, you’re competing with a stack of other apps and games for the end user’s attention.

That’s the bad news. According to a report by Forbes, less than 0.01 percent of developers will be financially successful. 90% of Apps are downloaded less than 500 times.

However, the good news is, there’s cinderella stories popping up all the time. From Crazy Cricket’s awesome The Tapping Dead (made in Flash!) to Tiny Wings ( made by one person). Hell, even Swords & Sandals for iPhone, which took me three months to make, sold over a hundred thousand copies on the app store for 3rd Sense ( alas, not for me, otherwise I’d be writing to you from a tropical island!)

You’ve got three options when selling a game on the App Store.

  1. Give the game away for free. This is the most common approach – fueled by Apple’s cynical ‘race to the bottom’ which devalued our craft massively over the last few years where it’s even debatable whether an app is worth a single dollar. Developers using this approach often support their game via advertising. They cast a wider net, and try to get as many eyes on the game as they can.
  2. Give part of the game away for free, and the rest via In App Purchases. This approach has become hugely popular over the last few years – it relies on people enjoying the game enough to spend money on virtual goods, unlockables, extra levels and so on. This approach can be vastly profitable ( see the infernal Candy Crush Saga ) but often preys upon those with more money than willpower ( the same folks who get into gambling problems) .
  3. Charge a set amount for the game. This is the original approach developers used before the App Store got so competitive. The thinking here is that you’ll cast a narrower net but you’re guaranteed that anyone who downloads your game has at least paid for it. This approach tends to suit games with a niche audience, those more dedicated fans who really enjoy, for example, Train Simulators.

I’m going with approach three this time – selling the game for $0.99  . I strongly believe the game is good enough to charge a dollar for. It’s not a particularly long game, but it’s very cute and polished and most of all – it is fun. It really is. There are no In App Purchases – maybe if the game is successful, I might add another 50 levels and charge another dollar via IAP.

I’m not sure how the game will sell. It might only sell 25 copies. It might sell 500. I’m splitting the profits with my artist and my musician, so chances are we won’t be rich. That really doesn’t matter – it was never about that. What matters is that we made a good game, and that for those who try it out – they will enjoy it long after the cup of coffee is gone.

And besides, what other kind of game would you see scenes like this dog surfing on a whale:

fishmonger_6

One more day until launch, thanks as always for reading – feel free to leave any comments below!

Cheers, Oliver

 

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