Mobile games have impacted the video game landscape in countless ways, but here’s the biggest change: digital marketplaces make it possible for games to sell for a few paltry dollars. Admittedly, our newfound ability to download cheap games has made us a little, er, entitled. Tiger Style, the studio behind the iOS game Waking Mars, recently released some statistics that demonstrate how its numbers fluctuated when two of its games went on sale. Said stats provide an interesting look at our iOS buying habits.
‘Our strategy was to try and create news and attention by coordinating several newsworthy events simultaneously,’ wrote Tiger Style developer and co-founder, Dave Kalina. ‘Our Waking Mars update had new jetpacks to collect and play with, and enhanced support for the iPad Retina Display.’
Aside from the content update, Waking Mars’s price was dropped from $4.99 to $2.99. In the two week period between April 30 and May 14, revenue earned from Waking Mars doubled to $25,733, up from the $12,946 that was earned in the two weeks prior. Sales of Waking Mars began cooling off by May 15, so Tiger Style ended the promotion.
Sales for the second game, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor didn’t fare quite as well. It was on sale for approximately a week, and after a brief traffic spike that lasted a few days, the game’s sales settled back down to where they were before the promotion.
Overall, Kalina is happy about the results. ‘All things considered, this effort was successful,’ he wrote. ‘We reached a significant number of new users, (hopefully) increased the perceived value of the product, and pocketed a nice chunk of extra revenue.’
But do sales hurt or hinder iOS games in the long run? ‘Long term, it’s harder to predict how much these efforts help,’ Kalina admits. ‘I used to fear that sales would serve to cannibalize your potential user base — how many of the people who just bought Waking Mars at $2.99 would have eventually bought it at $4.99? It’s impossible to know. iOS has definitely taught people that, if they wait just a little bit, practically everything goes on sale.’
Some members of game development’s old guard, particularly Nintendo, has been vocal over the dangers of cheap games. They argue that low-priced apps cheapens game development as an art, and makes it difficult for modern devs to make a living. From what we’ve seen of Tiger Style’s data, that’s not entirely untrue. Kalina stated that the iOS market has taught people that things will go on sale if they wait around, and he’s right.
Even so, Kalina’s analysis ends on a hopeful note: he believes that maintaining a slow burn on the App Store is the secret to success. In other words, instead of freaking out over immediate sales numbers, developers need to find ways to stay relevant in the marketplace over the long term. Sales are one way to keep in the public’s eye, as blog-based promotions and word-of-mouth recommendations will follow.
It’s a tough market, sure, but when has game development ever been easy? Not counting the untamed days of the Atari 2600 when people just ripped off each other’s code, slapped a Mr. T sprite in there somewhere, and called it aday.