When the iPhone* application store launched in June, there were games priced everywhere from free to $4.99 to $12.99. Anything above $9.99 bombed.
Former Electronic Arts executive Neil Young, now leading an iPhone studio called ngmoco:), believes there's a very specific reason for that.
"My read on the market is most of the games that are $9.99 don't really deserve to be there right there," said Young to MTV Multiplayer over the phone last week. "If that's the premium tier of pricing on the device, my expectation would be the premium tier of pricing would have premium games built for the platform that fully take advantage of that, versus a cross-port from a Symbian [a mobile operating system] or a DS game."
Young will try to prove that himself; ngmoco:)'s "Loco Roco" style puzzler, "Rolando," will cost $9.99 in December. He also thinks it could've sold for $29.99 on the PSP.
So, why not price it at $29.99 on iPhone? Young explains...
*When we say iPhone, we also mean iPod Touch, unless noted.
"The only mega hit that's existed today at a $9.99 price point is 'Super Monkey Ball' [Editor's Note: It's $7.99 now]," he said. "We're excited to get to the place where you get the first thing that's been built for the device, so the gamer could go, 'You know what, this is every bit as good as a DS or a PSP game and, not only that, it's actually built from the interface out."
ngmoco:)'s "Loco Roco"-inspired title, comlete with accelerometer controls
That doesn't mean Young expects to see games at more than $9.99 soon. Furthermore, he's expects that when it does, it won't happen very often.
"On the DS, users, on average, spend $62-a-year on software and on the PSP they spend $45-a-year on software," he explained. "I think it's unlikely you're going to get an average user buying 62 99-cent games, but I do think you could get an average user two or three $9.99 games and those $9.99 games to some segment of the audience are extended with microtransactions or delivered episodically."
He even recommends his company and others should start looking towards Nintendo. Having déjà vu? Young also told us developing iPhone games reminded him of early Wii and DS development.
"[On iPhone] maybe there's four $4.99 games or multiple SKUs of product, the kind of lessons learned from Nintendo, where they have 'Pokemon Saphire' and 'Pokemon Ruby,'" he said. "Just like we're at the very beginning of the life of the platform from a quality of software platform, we're also at the very beginning of the life of the platform in terms of the economics. They're going to grow and evolve and shift and change over time."
Would you ever pay more than $9.99 for an iPhone game?