99c problems

Posted on November 7, 2010

I had been working on a bit more of a technical piece for this week but unfortunately encountered a few problems during testing on it and didn’t get as much time in front of the Mac as I wanted in the evening this week.

Instead I’m going to throw a few of the pros / cons I see with the 99c / 59p price point.

We current have a sale active on two of our apps You Are The Ref down to $1.99 from $2.99 and QuizQuizQuiz down from $1.99 to 99c. YATR is relatively new, being featured by Apple in its football (soccer) games section and Game Center ‘Hot New Games’ and QQQ is now 13 months old but still normally in the top 25 (if not top 10) trivia charts across Europe (and still nowhere in the US chart!!).


  • Will generally result in a higher chart position, top 10 is predominantly 59p apps. Being high up the charts (or any particular category chart to a lesser extent) exposes you to the daily new registrations of devices who will instantly look in those places for their first apps.
  • Likewise a higher chart position is likely to get the App Store gods to notice you and feature your game – it could be argued however that they probably watch the grossing charts more than the standard ‘sales’ (I’m not sure what the current formula is made up of ratings / sales wise) chart.
  • More people buying your game will increase the viral spread of your game assuming those people have a positive experience and it has a ‘show off’ feature that people will be keen to show others (an important part of the viral spread).


  • Once you’ve gone to 99c even as a short-term sale people will assume that you’ll drop your price again and perhaps wait till you do so. The only way to perhaps fight this would be to only do it as a launch sale. If you’ve added more content which you believe justifies NOT dropping back down to 99c that’s fine but how do you actually communicate that to people who haven’t bought your game?
  • Lower pricing tends to equate to lower ratings especially on apps that aren’t top sellers. As always it’s very important to encourage people to rate the app (especially at good times during gameplay, say just after they’ve unlocked a new level or got a new highscore!).
  • The normal criticism about apps pricing themselves at 99c is that the content producer appears to be valuing their content incredibly low, this is based around the suggestion that ‘price sends a signal’ to the consumer (http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2005/11/18.html). Of course 99c on the Apple Store isn’t necessarily the same as 99c in the real world or on other stores though – I’ll discuss this a bit more below.
  • While talking about value there’s also a risk that being if you’re at a partially successful 99c game you will be compared to Angry Birds and other top selling 99c apps and the value they offer. These apps are selling such huge quantities that they’re also able to easily further increase their value over time through new levels and updates further stretching the expectation for the gamers who only buy 99c apps from the top charts.
  • Not making as much money as you could, this is of course a big concern and you’ll never actually know whether you could have made much more money and have had a higher league position at $1.99.

We’re entering (if we’ve not already entered) an interesting time with all these app stores opening (and other digital distribution platforms such as STEAM, PSN/PSP Minis, DSi, WiiWare etc..). Some news articles make a lot of the price differences between various platforms for the same game and of course value for money is a big issue in the current economic climate. For developers however there are differing costs on each platform (ratings cost, development kits, pure porting time via art differences or technical requirements), a different market size and type of demographic. Some platforms also have imposed pricing structures from the powers that be.

Looking at some of the big names across the various platforms an ‘exchange rate’ could be worked out and may be of use to other developers looking at deciding on their price on a particular platform.

As we begin to move QuizQuizQuiz across to various platforms (Windows Phone 7 now at $2.99) we’ll be thinking about this issue a lot more.

Of course in the ideal future we’d have some sort of universal purchase system where users could buy an app / game once and it then runs on every platform, even though someone in the chain is likely to lose out on this (the hardware manufacturers relying on you being tied to your existing paid for apps probably) and of course total spend per user will likely be less. As a consumer it is a very appealing proposition though and we’re already seeing movies move towards multi-platform delivery (DVD/Bluray/Digital copy in the same box at a higher price!)

I’m hoping to talk more about pricing in the future with a few more stats to back things up, thanks for reading and please post any thoughts you have on the 99c price point and how you see the market going.

Things we’ve been enjoying this week

  • http://radio.poetic.ly/
    • ‘Radio for YouTube’ – finds related videos to a keyword and plays them Pandora / last.fm style. I may get addicted to this.
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3 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gavin Bowman, Simon Barratt, Andrew Nicolle, Frederic Tessier, Bob Koon and others. Bob Koon said: RT @barog: New blog post: 99c problems! http://bit.ly/cAJ8NQ #iDevBlogADay […]

  2. JC
    November 7, 2010

    What do you make of the 0.00c price point? It’s not really mentioned in your article and it seems to be the direction in which the market is trending (a ‘race to the bottom’ if you will). All zynga games are free to play initially, angry birds on android is free … You mention acceleration the viral spread of your game, wouldn’t giving the app away accelerating this even more?

    Either making money via adds or in-game transactions seems to be gaining in popularity these days.

    Good article!

  3. admin
    November 7, 2010

    Thanks for the comment JC.

    We’ve had some experience with QuizQuizQuiz Xmas / World Football at 0.00c but we’ve not tried to do anything other than upsell from them. I’ve certainly got FREE / freemium listed as a future discussion piece but I’d like us to have tried it ourselves first which will hopefully be sooner rather than later.


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