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Editorial: Are Mobile Gamers Spoiled by Low Prices and Throw Away Content?

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In today’s mobile gaming market there seems to be a rift growing within the gaming community between gamers that want games to stay as close to free as possible and game publishers wanting to make as much money as possible off of their hard work.  Many would argue this rift has been there since the dawn of time but, for the sake of this editorial we will just act like it is now rearing it’s ugly head (when else in gaming history have games been so cheap?).

There is no denying that Apple changed the gaming world with the launch of the iPhone, specifically the App Store for iPhone, just a few short years ago.  The biggest draw was that most of the games were $0.99 or free.  This was amazing, this was a revolution- this was a true challenge to the monopoly that companies such as Nintendo and Sony had on gaming.  It is still going strong today, it was not an overnight war with Nintendo and Sony on game prices.

Many people still argue that iOS devices, and Android, are not true gaming platforms capable of playing “real” games.  We are not here to argue that point, for or against.  We are here to argue the price of the games though.  We will take a look at a few titles, some big names and some not so big and well known, and compare prices and content where available.

First up, Angry Birds, possibly the title that propelled iOS (and to a lesser extent, Android) to the mainstream with more device buyers than any other title before it.  On Android, iPhone and iPad a fan can have the game for as little as free (with ads) on up to a little shy of a combo meal at the local fast food restaurant (for the “HD” versions).  It is safe to say, for less than $5, you can be playing Angry Birds on your Android or iOS device.

On Playstation 3 though, we have a COMPLETELY different story.  On PS3, Activision is selling (as listed on Gamestop.com) Angry Birds Trilogy for $39.99 ($37.99 pre-owned).  Sure, Activision is offering up “exclusive levels” for the Playstation 3 version but for about $35.00 more than the iOS and Android versions?  Again, the PS3 version has “Playstation Move” support but at what cost?

Plants vs. Zombies is another title that started on a non console platform (PC this time) and then gained major fan support on portables such as iOS and Android and now is available on Playstation 3.  Gamestop has it for $19.99 ($17.99 pre-owned), to be fair, it is about $20 on PC too (has been from launch for the physical, digital only can get as low as $9.99).  The pricing for the iOS and Android versions are similar to those for the Angry Birds games.  The gameplay seems more streamlined on the portables though- just more intuitive to use a touch screen than a mouse or controller here.  The Android version is $2.99 and has sales sitting somewhere between 100,000 to 500,000.

On the other hand, there are games on iOS and Android that cost a fair penny when compared to other titles on the platforms.  Titles such as Spectral Souls and Blazing Souls Accelate both by HyperDevBox are games that are more than $10 on Android and both have 1,000 to 5,000 purchases (abysmal sales figures).  DODONPACHI RESURRECTION and ESPGALUDA Ⅱ and Ikaruga all by G-Gee are sub $9.99 but above $4.99 games, again, 1,000 to 5,000 purchases (again, abysmal sales figures).

The big game changer here is Square Enix games.  For the most part, SE games have 10,000 to 50,000 purchases (still abysmal but better than others).  Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy Dimensions all are in that wide range up to 50,000 in sales with Chaos Rings in the 50,000 to 100,000 in sales.  While Final Fantasy III is in the 100,000 to 500,000 range there is a title that fails miserably for SE – Demon’s Core THD which is under 500 in sales which is probably because it is Tegra only at this time.

All of the Square Enix games are over $4.99 each which begs the question of how they reached sales figures like they have, even though they are not great figures at all.  Look at Angry Birds Space Premium on Android – 500,000 to 1,000,000 in sales.  The HD version of Angry Birds Space is sitting at 10,000 to 50,000 in total sales (it also retails for $2.99).  Could Android (and by relation since Apple doesn’t make sales figures public) gamers just be cheap?

While I don’t see high sales for Activisions Angry Birds Trilogy on PS3, it does show the price differences between the platforms.  Granted, on iOS and Android physical copies are out of the question but PS3 has the Playstation Network which should have been the platform for Angry Birds Trilogy anyhow.

So, are Android and iOS gamers cheap or are companies just out of touch with what sells on the platforms?  Personally, I think it is companies are out of touch with what most iOS and Android gamers want.  How many times can you expect gamers to purchase Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy 1 or 2?  It seems that original IP’s sell better on iOS and Android- maybe retro gamers haven’t adopted the devices yet (if they ever will)?

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