Guess what? Premium iOS games can sell well

3 mins read

One of the common misconceptions about iOS game development is that premium priced iOS games can’t sell well. Some recent games suggest that is blatantly incorrect.

Case-in-point #1: Square Enix. Square Enix insists on pricing its iPad games for over $15. Its most recent game, Chaos Rings 2, is $20.99 in Australia. That game is currently 80th in the highest revenue earning games in Australia, and its previous premium priced games; Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy III, have performed remarkably well in the charts.

Of course, it’s easy to dismiss that data as an aberration, since there’s a lot of brand power sitting behind Square Enix games, and it’s a company with a really loyal fan base, who are used to spending premium prices for console-quality games.

Enter case-in-point #2, Battle Academy. Also a premium priced game at $19.99, Slitherine’s title has nowhere near the same raw brand power as Square Enix games. And yet there it is, hitting the top 10 charts in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK, and charting in the top 20 in the US.

Now, that game deserves to chart well. It’s a great game and we scored the PC version very highly at Digitally Downloaded. But it does fly in the face of conventional iOS sales wisdom that states that freemium or $0.99 apps are the only successful model.

A Matrix Games press release quotes the director of the company, JD McNeil, as saying “We knew we would come in for some flak when we released at a premium price point, but simply put we figure we know more about our audience than many of the so called experts. The received wisdom is that iPad games should be free and then milk the audience for all its worth with micro sales. We know this is a broken business concept, sure it might work for a lucky few, but certainly not in the real world we inhabit. My own view is that the sort of price points we are seeing are simply unsustainable and will lead to multiple casualties along the way.”

Big props to McNeil for having the guts to say this. The reality of iOS games is that people are willing to spend money on them. Whether that’s $50 through microtransactions, or $50 upfront, if developers provide a game that is compelling enough, people will spend the money.

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  • Very interesting. I don't think anyone expected premium games to be this well recieved so soon. Maybe this could help turn things around for the iOS market?

  • Hi Frog!

    Yeah, I remember the CEO of 2K Games talking about how there's room for premium iPad/ iPhone games in the market, and at the time a lot of people dismissed him.

    I think there are a lot of people that underestimate the quality of iPad gaming. It's definately capable of some really great games. Not in every genre – FPSers for instance – but not every genre needs physical buttons. RPGs, Strategy Games, puzzlers – there's no reason "full" games of those genres can't be developed for the iPad, and then cost $20 or $30 or so. 

  • I think you can't say there's a premium market until we see enough games to actually become a market, and not an anomaly. One thing that shows true in sales – When there's only one or two premium items on the market, anyone who decides they want premium/quality will turn to buy it on principle – They want to have the thing that price suggests is the best.

    Also… If you only need to spend $20+ once or twice a year, then it's affordable. It totally remains to be seen if iOS gamers will buy multiple games at that price point.

    Not making a conclusion either way. This definitely shows you can have a game succeed at that price… We just need to see if that's all down to the way the rest of the market is geared now or not, and if expanding this area of the market will simply split the same spend between multiple games, making them way less profitable.

  • Hi Dan,

    Great points, thanks for dropping by to leave your perspective!

    I agree that there's still a way to go before premium-priced iOS games are common. This piece was more in reaction to the persistance I see out there in the Internet discussions that iOS games can't be succesful, "proper" games at a premium price point.

    The reality is that there are more and more games on the iOS – iPad especially – that are more than competitive with 3DS or Vita games for portable gaming. 

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