One thing that I do quite a bit of for TouchArcade is attend various conferences. We always hit the big ones like E3 in Los Angeles, along with both WWDC and GDC in San Francisco as well as several smaller conventions throughout the year that often don't amount to a lot of coverage-- But where it's still great to meet people and have a presence at them. These events (even the mega-corporate ones like E3) have a vibe about them that's really difficult to describe unless you've been to one.

I think the best way to label the feeling would be "inspirational." You're surrounded by game developers who have all travelled from the farthest corners of the Earth with goals to both promote their existing games, as well as improve their future titles. I've seen amazing things come out of game jams, partnerships spring up over coffee, and game ideas being refined via a form of incredibly open peer review over beer and pizza. The whole process is great, and leaves you feeling lucky that you even had the chance to play your small role in witnessing it.

Attendees of these various get-togethers likely know exactly what I'm talking about, and this is wholly the reason why I always encourage developers to attend conventions whenever possible. Sure, they can often times seem like an unnecessary business expense, but can you really put a price on the value of one piece of random feedback that takes your entire project to a whole new level?

Anyway, not having attended GDC Online since 2009 (It was GDC Austin then) I was beyond stoked to take part in the conference. Not very many developers that I've worked with in the past were going, but that was OK-- the best part about conventions is meeting new people and being absolutely awestruck when they show you what they're working on.


Sword & Sworcery amazed us at GDC '10.

GDC is split into several different sub-categories that they call summits. Of particular interest to me was the Smartphone and Tablet Games Summit, which historically at other events has been fairly interesting with compelling panels and speakers covering a wide variety of topics. Looking back at my last visit to Austin, TX I heard a talk from Imangi Studios on their tips for success as well as the guys from Tiger Style detailing their whole creative and business process. These sessions were educational, and while they both cited specific things they did, the advice was all general enough that everyone could take something away to improve their games or how they make their games.

Somehow, over the last two years, GDC Austin Online seems to have shifted to a convention where you go to learn how to be a better game developer to a convention where you go to learn how juice the absolute maximum amount of money out of your player base. Sessions where you listen to developers give newcomers incredibly useful tips and inspirational advice have been replaced by representatives from large free to play development outfits talking about the chilling precision their in-depth analytics package allows them for real-time tweaking to encourage in-app purchasing rates in their farming games.

Panels on utilizing the touch interface in unique and clever ways have been shifted to presentations on the importance of monetization, and everywhere you look it seems like there's a different middleware provider anxious to tell you all about their new virtual currency, metrics package, or captive pool of freemium players that they're willing to sell you if the price is right.

I felt something was off for the whole convention, until I attended the "Smartphone & Tablet Developer Rant" panel, where Graeme Devine said what I imagine quite a few people (myself included) were thinking: GDC Online isn't a game developers conference, it's a data miner and metrics convention. "We're not game developers here," as a response to the pressure from every direction to monetize every possible avenue in your game where a player might have the opportunity to earn you money in one way or another.

Following the rant, I had quite the discussion with Devine about the current trends in iOS gaming. We both fondly looked back to that initial experience of powering up the original iPhone. According to Graeme, inertial scrolling and pinch to zoom felt "magical," and I'm in complete agreement. We've gotten to the point where this 30+ year veteran of the gaming industry has no qualms describing iOS devices as the best gaming platform, as the potential that the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch have borders on limitless-- But the direction that many iOS developers are taking them couldn't be more depressing.

"Metrics are great," says Devine, referring to the ability of always-on and always-connected devices like the iPhone to constantly report all forms of analytics. Now developers can easily tell when you play, how long you play, when players fail, and much, much more. For a game designer actively looking to improve their game, on the iPhone it's easy to see that too many players are falling into a pit in your platform game that you never intended to be a challenging obstacle, for instance. That hazard can be easily tuned, and quickly dispatched via an update. Even though metrics can certainly have a spyware-like feel to them, they can also be instrumental in building a substantially better game. Especially a low-budget iPhone game that likely doesn't enjoy the benefits of a vast army of play testers.

Unfortunately, the way developers are using these tools, and the way far too many business-types are encouraging them to, is to fine-tune revenue streams. Remember, if you're not buying a product, you are the product-- With the success of the free to play model on the App Store, projects are now being built from the ground up with maximum monetization in mind. Developers are evolving their business to even stray from in-app purchases as their primary revenue sources, realizing that there's just as much (if not more) value in the larger portion of their user base that never buys anything who can be sold and traded with other developers for cross-promotion deals.

Graeme argues that the word "monetization" shouldn't even be in the game designer's vocabulary, and offers examples of previous creative works that would never have existed in today's metrics-hungry world of live tweaking and over-analysis. He proposes a whole host of ridiculous changes that would've been made to a game like Pac-Man if power pellets could only be obtained through some kind of in-game credit system. These kind of things would have changed gaming history, and it's sad to see how thoroughly similar creativity is being stifled in the name of scientifically extracting the most money possible out of the audience.

As a life-long gamer, I find this trend to be incredibly unsettling. I realize the cold hard reality of the business of video games requires developers to turn a profit, but I just hate thinking that the developer who might have come up with the next Sword & Sworcery or Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor has eternally relegated that project to the back burner in exchange for spending time pouring over analytics and tweaking their latest freemium time sink for optimal average revenue per user.

I suppose it's only human nature to try to assign blame for this latest turn of events in the ever-evolving saga of the App Store, but when you think about it, whose fault is it? The ad networks, the virtual currency systems, and the people behind all other forms of metrics-hungry middleware are merely fulfilling a heinously profitable demand. New companies wouldn't be springing up on a seemingly daily basis offering the next big thing in free to play monetization if there weren't a pool of developers hungry to hop on board. Similarly, these developers wouldn't be pulling out all the stops to become fully invested in the free to play model if the money wasn't there from an ever-growing user base eager to pump proverbial quarters into these games to speed a progress bar.

At the end of the day, it's the customer base that is driving developers down this road. Just like middleware providers, they're similarly fulfilling a demand. Since the launch of the App Store in 2008, the value proposition of your typical iOS title has continually sliding towards offering more and more for less and less. Simple games like Moto Chaser launched at $5.99, slid to $4.99, and settled at the rock-bottom price of 99¢ in less than two months. 99¢ became the expected price for games for the next few years, and now-- Even 99¢ is too expensive. The talks of GDC are also just reflecting this demand, as the entire event agenda is set by an advisory board who is well tuned into all aspects of the gaming industry.

So what can we do to change this? For the first time, I'm really not sure. This is normally where I'd champion the premium priced "full" game experiences with fabulous production values like Infinity Blade and encourage people to actually try to support developers at higher price points in attempt to stop the toxic "I'll wait for the 99¢ sale" mentality. But, this problem is far bigger than that. The people driving this market are the ones who've never read TouchArcade, who don't follow gaming, and are just downloading the next free to play sensation because the carefully tuned viral aspect of friend recruitment drove them to, they saw it on the charts, or a million other reasons that'd never put them in the same room as someone who cares about a long-winded editorial on monetization as a part of game design.

I think I'd just really like to meet the person who launches one of these games, does their daily in-app purchase to buy a load of in-game currency, spends that all in the course of five minutes, then feels satisfied enough with their purchase to do it again and again and again.

My question to this person is, "Why?"

  • Anonymous

    Great read. It is a very sad trend to me. I've been hard at work on my first game for the iPad and I've had people shoving free-to-play and the consumable model (cough, TapJoy) down my throat whenever I'm talking business.

    To quote Will FerrelI, "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills" when I talk with people about wanting to create a game, sell it for a small price and provide add on content (weapon packs, extra campaigns) both in free updates as well as some paid packs (nonconsumable, you buy it, it's yours forever).

    I grew up paying a price for an experience and I got that experience. It feels ethically wrong to me that we're implementing the princicples of the Skinner Box ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber ) to maximize how we can get a person to swipe a credit card as many times in an hour as possible. I think that's the answer to your last question. It's a cocktail of behavioral science that works in us on a subconscious level.

    These monetization analytics heavy sentiments are why I have trouble seriously considering attending these types of conferences.

  • http://twitter.com/DJMalou DJMalou

    Very nice article.

    Don't be too pessimist. the tide will turn soon. the moment content will become so poor that you will have nothing to monetize.
    then we will come back to gameplay.
    i've heard zynga is feeling this and is recruiting real game designers

  • Anonymous

    Don't expect the person who spends loads of cash on freemiums to answer your questions on a thoughtful forum such as TouchArcade - users like that are allowing basic social instincts (finely targeted by the creators of these games) to control their usage and spending habits.  

    If you have a hard time understanding why people would spend so much money on freemium social games, it might be easier to view these apps as something other than games. To me they are closer to the "games" of the casino world combined with social network-connected pyramid schemes.

  • http://twitter.com/DJMalou DJMalou

    the casino image is perfect. slots are all about skins :  it could be some cherries , some bells, some gold bars, anything, but it is always the same "game".
    You just skin to sell your stuff.  let's sell carrots !! hey , my designer had an idea to sell carrots ; a horse care game !

  • http://twitter.com/coolpowers Simon Windmill

    I haven't heard/read Graeme's talk - is it online somewhere? - but I think it's damaging to say that developers shouldn't have "monetization" in their vocabulary. No, I don't think it should be the first thing a game designer thinks about, but unless you're giving your game away, you have to think about how you're going to make money from it, and in today's climate that means at least considering the freemium model. It's no longer a simple case of "make a decent game and people will pay you for it" - which is why it also seems unfair to suggest Pac-Man as an example; it's a lot easier to develop something when you KNOW the ONLY way players can play your game is to pay for it. There was no piracy and every game was on an equal price and exposure footing. And let's not forget that arcade operators and developers soon found ways to squeeze more money out of customers - artificially inflating difficulty, reducing number of lives, tying health directly to the number of quarters you pumped in - ruthless analysis to maximize cash extraction is nothing new.

    The real problem is that "freemium" and "monetization" are now interpreted to mean "let's have a game with a relentless grind where the only way out is to pay more money". You CAN do variable pricing without going that route.

    • Anonymous

      "let's have a game with a relentless grind where the only way out is to pay more money"

      There's a way out of the grind, hehe? In a majority of these games, I do not think there is an end-game. They want you to come back in perpetuity to press the lever (swipe your card) for your piece of cheese (game bucks for powerups, instant turns, etc.).

      • http://twitter.com/coolpowers Simon Windmill

        You're right, I of course meant to say there's a _perceived_ way out of the grind by paying. You get temporary relief and sense of achievement. The grind then starts again with the next must-have item.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GHIIHTRJXIOZCAF2GESNKZH264 himanshu

    Absolutely lovely "editorial". Freemium is surely, surely a fad. Gaming itself has been around for a long time. Different kinds of games become popular at different points in time. Freemium I suppose became popular with facebook. But the number of notifications i recieve about farmville and mafia wars has now reduced to a trickle. This gamin phase will soon pass.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GHIIHTRJXIOZCAF2GESNKZH264 himanshu

    Absolutely lovely "editorial". Freemium is surely, surely a fad. Gaming itself has been around for a long time. Different kinds of games become popular at different points in time. Freemium I suppose became popular with facebook. But the number of notifications i recieve about farmville and mafia wars has now reduced to a trickle. This gamin phase will soon pass.

  • scott slomiany

    "I think I'd just really like to meet the person who launches one of
    these games, does their daily in-app purchase to buy a load of in-game
    currency, spends that all in the course of five minutes, then feels satisfied enough with their purchase to do it again and again and again.
    My question to this person is, "Why?""

    I don't know, different people have different expectations of what they want to do with their free time. And while I'm not one of those people who would ever buy into the premium currency model of these types of games, I can certainly appreciate what some of these games offer.

    For instance, a large chunk of people don't want twitch heavy games, and get no excitement over defeating foes...however, there is something appealing and generally satisfying to "create" a little city. It fulfills a dream of anyone who as a child picked up a crayon, and said "I think I'm going to create this today." And that's pretty much everyone. 

    And to turn your parting words back on yourself, I personally don't see the appeal of Infinity Blade...beyond the tech demo response of "but see how cool it looks on my beloved gadget of choice." If I'm going to play an axe-swinger, I'd rather play it on a console; with real buttons that don't take up video screen real estate.

    *************

    Having said all that, I've never believed in the view that freemium games are "stealing" from the more male-based tradition video game experience. Sure, their profits are eating into the industry as an entire industry percentage, but I doubt anyone who is into Halo is suddenly going to be giving up the BFGs for time-based farming.

    But mobile games encompasses "everyone". My mom who is building a city isn't going to care about the gorgeous graphics of Infinity Blade. My 5 year old who is enamored with flinging birds at pig fortresses isn't going to care about the intricately timed swipings of Infinity Blade. 

    As another point, I can't help but think that Apple should do something about their 30% cut of everything to try an increase the value of apps. Something like a scaled pay structure to entice app makers to go with a higher pricepoint (such as Apple only takes 10% if you price your app at $10). Give the app makers an incentive to think twice about racing towards the bottom.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GHIIHTRJXIOZCAF2GESNKZH264 himanshu

    Absolutely lovely "editorial". Freemium is surely, surely a fad. Gaming itself has been around for a long time. Different kinds of games become popular at different points in time. Freemium I suppose became popular with facebook. But the number of notifications i recieve about farmville and mafia wars has now reduced to a trickle. This gamin phase will soon pass.

    • http://twitter.com/MarkEightThree MarkEightThree

      But as much as we view this as an iPhone issue, we're seeing the effects in every other aspect of the gaming industry, especially on consoles. These days, it's completely fine for a developer to create content, stick it on the disc, then charge the customer for something they already physically own.

      Batman: AC is launching tomorrow but we've already known for weeks that there will be upcoming DLC packs of costumes for The Dark Knight. It's crazy. Whatever happened to start screen codes to unlock hidden content? Even in EA Sports games you can pay extra to have your skills boosted in game.

  • scott slomiany

    "I think I'd just really like to meet the person who launches one of
    these games, does their daily in-app purchase to buy a load of in-game
    currency, spends that all in the course of five minutes, then feels satisfied enough with their purchase to do it again and again and again.
    My question to this person is, "Why?""

    I don't know, different people have different expectations of what they want to do with their free time. And while I'm not one of those people who would ever buy into the premium currency model of these types of games, I can certainly appreciate what some of these games offer.

    For instance, a large chunk of people don't want twitch heavy games, and get no excitement over defeating foes...however, there is something appealing and generally satisfying to "create" a little city. It fulfills a dream of anyone who as a child picked up a crayon, and said "I think I'm going to create this today." And that's pretty much everyone. 

    And to turn your parting words back on yourself, I personally don't see the appeal of Infinity Blade...beyond the tech demo response of "but see how cool it looks on my beloved gadget of choice." If I'm going to play an axe-swinger, I'd rather play it on a console; with real buttons that don't take up video screen real estate.

    *************

    Having said all that, I've never believed in the view that freemium games are "stealing" from the more male-based tradition video game experience. Sure, their profits are eating into the industry as an entire industry percentage, but I doubt anyone who is into Halo is suddenly going to be giving up the BFGs for time-based farming.

    But mobile games encompasses "everyone". My mom who is building a city isn't going to care about the gorgeous graphics of Infinity Blade. My 5 year old who is enamored with flinging birds at pig fortresses isn't going to care about the intricately timed swipings of Infinity Blade. 

    As another point, I can't help but think that Apple should do something about their 30% cut of everything to try an increase the value of apps. Something like a scaled pay structure to entice app makers to go with a higher pricepoint (such as Apple only takes 10% if you price your app at $10). Give the app makers an incentive to think twice about racing towards the bottom.

  • http://twitter.com/edfear Ed Fear

    It's really interesting to hear your perspective on this, but I'd just like to reiterate your point that the Smartphone summit is just one part of GDC Online. I attended the Game Narrative Summit this year, which I found to be the most inspirational, empowering and educational summit I've ever been to - and I've been to a lot!

    Just wanted to add that so that people don't tar the whole of GDC Online with the same brush. It's actually a pretty diverse (some might say disparate) event.

  • http://twitter.com/Pandatheist Ben

    Just read this and it ties in wonderfully. It's titled "who killed video games". http://insertcredit.com/2011/09/22/who-killed-videogames-a-ghost-story/

  • Adams Immersive

    In the end, people are willing to pay for truly great content.

    Wait... I just remembered how quality TV series die off quickly, and reality TV keeps ballooning endlessly. Scratch what I said...

  • Adams Immersive

    In the end, people are willing to pay for truly great content.

    Wait... I just remembered how quality TV series die off quickly, and reality TV keeps ballooning endlessly. Scratch what I said...

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VG32DHEW4DDCCFRQALBYWZ73G4 Bob

    Eli, you're coming off like a pretentious indie rock fan.

    Let the mindless masses eat at McDonald's, listen to the Black Eyed Peas, and play Farmville. Your scolding condescension isn't going to change anyone's habits. Great games with great value have been made, and will continue to be made. There will be enough quality titles for this website to highlight without having to cater to lowest common denominator fremium crap.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VG32DHEW4DDCCFRQALBYWZ73G4 Bob

    Eli, you're coming off like a pretentious indie rock fan.

    Let the mindless masses eat at McDonald's, listen to the Black Eyed Peas, and play Farmville. Your scolding condescension isn't going to change anyone's habits. Great games with great value have been made, and will continue to be made. There will be enough quality titles for this website to highlight without having to cater to lowest common denominator fremium crap.

    • Baby Landlord

      I can't think of anything more pretentious than looking down on all indie rock listeners because you think they are snickering at your tastes behind your back! Do you claim an earnest, pretension-free music listening bubble? Do you get all your music at the mall? What do you listen to that could be so far removed from the pitchfork reading suburban experience? Is it U2? AC/DC?? You clearly don't approve of the black eyed peas either! I don't know where I stand with you. Bob, you are clearly a discerning music listener, but I don't know how to please you. Think about Built To Spill, Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr! Are these gold-selling major-label bands among those that raise your scornful eyebrows because of their archetypically "indie" sound? Or is that alright? What about pop groups on indie labels? What about CDBaby? iTunes?? Clearly you have the internet, how could you turn your back on your own kind? In 2011, what does it take to avoid indie rock? What about Death Cab for Cutie? Am I pushing it now? Bob, indie rock wants to like you, but it doesn't know how to get through to you.

      What about Christian Rock???

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VG32DHEW4DDCCFRQALBYWZ73G4 Bob

    Eli, you're coming off like a pretentious indie rock fan.

    Let the mindless masses eat at McDonald's, listen to the Black Eyed Peas, and play Farmville. Your scolding condescension isn't going to change anyone's habits. Great games with great value have been made, and will continue to be made. There will be enough quality titles for this website to highlight without having to cater to lowest common denominator fremium crap.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VG32DHEW4DDCCFRQALBYWZ73G4 Bob

    Eli, you're coming off like a pretentious indie rock fan.

    Let the mindless masses eat at McDonald's, listen to the Black Eyed Peas, and play Farmville. Your scolding condescension isn't going to change anyone's habits. Great games with great value have been made, and will continue to be made. There will be enough quality titles for this website to highlight without having to cater to lowest common denominator fremium crap.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VG32DHEW4DDCCFRQALBYWZ73G4 Bob

    Eli, you're coming off like a pretentious indie rock fan.

    Let the mindless masses eat at McDonald's, listen to the Black Eyed Peas, and play Farmville. Your scolding condescension isn't going to change anyone's habits. Great games with great value have been made, and will continue to be made. There will be enough quality titles for this website to highlight without having to cater to lowest common denominator fremium crap.

  • http://twitter.com/Halfbot Halfbot

    Great article Eli. You pretty much emulated what I'm sure a lot of us developers are thinking and feeling about the state of the market and where it is headed. Thank you for saying it. 

  • http://twitter.com/FugazoInc Fugazo Inc.

    Great article Eli, I think the freemium trend will die down eventually, but not anytime soon.  Free is just too good of a price, but as most will probably agree, most of the games I play daily are games that cost more than .99.

  • Anonymous

    My wife loves freemium farming games of all shapes and sizes. She has never paid a dime for any in game content. In her opinion, it would ruin the game for her. The whole point is for her to slowly toil away and build up to a thriving whatever it is, and buying a bunch of smurfberries (for example) would just end the journey prematurely.

  • http://twitter.com/apponomix Apponomix

    I love the freemium ad right smack in the middle of the post.. lol

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Are you referring to the We Rule screenshot from iTunes? That's not an ad, or at least, it wasn't intended to be.

  • Augustus A

    Who uses iCloud? LinedIn? Flickr? Google? All on the basis of a free model with premium paid services or content. Free + premium = freemium. A price structure will not destroy gaming, the focus on business over game design may destroy individual games, but I think the constant fear mongering and characterization of crack addled housewives playing farmville and destroyign the games industry is overkill.

  • http://twitter.com/nicolinux nicolinux

    As much as every developer likes to say that they want to create great games, lets not forget the fact that the App Store is screwed beyond fixage regarding recognition of truly great games. You guys are doing a great job at toucharcade to sort out the crap, but from a business perspective what choice are there for game developers?

    1. Create a great game that you can be proud of, don't insult the player's intelect and don't treat him like a Pavlovian and then see your game run down the drain at 99c on the App Store.
    2. Sell your soul and create a mindless farming game with this omnipresent and awful "mostly friendly but always greedy" aura.

    I don't want to take either route, but it seems that you can't have both and be successful. And when you talk about rock stars like Tiny Wings who represent games that somehow struck a chord in many people and became famous and successful through proper game design - you talk about miracles and developers who got lucky. On ther other hand, every time I have to read app reviews like http://bit.ly/oMu1Xd I question my motivation to work for an industry where this mentality is rooted so deeply...
    I am at the crossroads and I honestly don't know what to do. But your article helps, so thanks for writing it.

    • http://twitter.com/Beards2 Beards_Game

      I agree whole-heartedly with this. I decided to make a freemium game as my next project. I don't want people to HAVE to make in-app purchases to play, but I like the option being there. I too am torn on what to do about it. This will be my second game and I don't want to end up being shunned because I want to make games AND make money so I can make more games. lol.

      • http://twitter.com/nicolinux nicolinux

        One game that seems to strike a good ballance is Jetpack Joyride. They were confident enough to add a price tag to the game _and_ include optional IAP that does not hamper gameplay. But I get the feeling that Jetpack Joyride won't be a success.
        However, I think this is a lost battle. As a game designer you'll always have a different perception of great games that will be the exact opposite what the "masses" think. Take Psychonauts for example. Ingenious game with crazy creativity and it wasn't anything near the success it deserved. The list goes on and on (Shadow of the Colossus, ICO, ...). The best thing I can imagine to happen to me right now is having enough money to pay the bills for a year and work on my game without worrying about monetization.

      • http://twitter.com/Beards2 Beards_Game

        "The best thing I can image..."
        That's PRECISELY what I'm hoping. hahah. I don't want to have to think about that bit. I just want to make some games and earn something for the hard work (and it IS work - whether it is enjoyable or not) that I put into a game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Hopper/1238691947 Paul Hopper

    Excellent use of We Rule as an example of this unfortunate gaming trend. They offer zero means of earning iap currency in game. They take new features and run them into the ground for their cash potential while ignoring glaring bugs and performance issues that have been present ingame since day one. They delete anti we rule posts from both the game and company's facebook pages. Definitely an excellent example.

    Great read and a solid article worth spreading around, ty TA.

  • daveSpartan

    GOOD ARTICLE!!  

    The bottom line is that the app store supports the freemium model.  The top 10 apps receive 90% of the downloads which leads to lower prices, because higher volumes are necessary to break the top 10, NOT QUALITY.

    This leads to the real problem.  There is no way to search or filter the store based on the quality of a game.  If there were a way to filter the app store for only 4+ star apps, there would be an instant jump in quality.  Because then exposure wouldn't be driven by downloads.

  • daveSpartan

    GREAT ARTICLE!!

    The reason is because the App Store supports freemium by not being able to screen or effectively search.  The apps in the top 10 get 90% of all downloads.  Lower prices are essential to driving volume which is necessary to get exposure.

    If there were a way to filter apps so that you could only see 4+ star apps, then there would be an instant jump in quality.  But as it is, the apps are listed by number of downloads, and never quality, which leads to lower cost, lower quality games.

    Freemium is the inevitable outcome, because the cost is not upfront.  The game is free to drive downloads, and the cost is hidden within the game.  People have no trouble paying for a good game, they just can't find them in the App Store.

  • http://twitter.com/Beards2 Beards_Game

    Filter by star rating would be AWESOME. Wish they'd do that.

    • http://twitter.com/nicolinux nicolinux

      They won't do it. It would increase quality but reduce volume and Apple earns more money with volume. Even if I like Apple's products so much, they are just another cold, precise company built to earn and not to save the world (or to remain in related terms - the "gaming quality world") :)

  • http://twitter.com/rastermax rastermax

    Great discussion.
    First yes Apple is in for the volume. Looks like they don't care then about quality. They want volummmmmmmes.

    Already posted but check:http://insertcredit.com/2011/09/22/who-killed-videogames-a-ghost-story/

    Freemium is ok/good to me as long as it not to sell time in a plant/harvest simulation.Because that's reverse design.

    Good examples of freemium:
    League of Legends
    Lord of the Rings Online.

    The issue here being, that Freemium making so much money on users weaknesses, that those "designers" don't consider anything else, thus they won't create anything new (apart from new algorithms to milk even more "players").
    By the way the guy at insertcredit has a name for them : PsychoMathematicans !

    The cool thing there is that if you are smart you can still be creative.
    and have your game in the hand of much more players thanks to freemium.

  • Anonymous

    don't know what to say myself, as i seem to usually go against the tide/grain of any popular gaming trend.  i hate the likes of steam, online multiplayer, IAP (unless the game is free, one i like, and one i care to start/finish), i could care less about achievements, gamecenter/etc, hardcore modes, blah blah blah, i just play to have fun, if what i'm experiencing is fun to me, i continue to support the develop.  if all i smell within the first few minutes of a game is IAP, then i move on and write the developer off.

    granted, i play games as an escape, to get AWAY from people, not to pseudosocialize.

    granted, apparently there's enough sheep out there that are of the 'i need to fit in and be a sheep too' mentality that the model works and continues to grow.

    i can only assume that its the younger generations that are more sheep prone than the adult, at least i would hope so, as that would be a pretty sad state of affairs if the adults were getting zombified like this.

    i don't mean the term 'sheep' in an overly derogatory way, but sheep are what they are, just follow along in a pack and do what everyone else seems to be doing.

  • http://twitter.com/Platronic John Francis

    This is actually a huge thing I looked into when we started developing our game. I'm all for trying to make money so that we can stay in business and we have a plan for light  IAPs but in the end I just couldn't rationalize the new time sink purchase loop of fremium games.

    For one, because the bigger devs are looking for lowest risk monetization path there's just tons popping up. They aren't really complicated games so there's not a huge barrier to making them if you have the capital.

    The other reason is that I think there really is room for actual games. There are pretty much three categories at this point:

    -Traditional games coming from small teams without the budget and skillset or knock offs from publisher who won't spend it.

    -Short cycle super simple games from companies trying to put out 4 games a year. Not bad but there's only so many game templates that fit into a 4 month cycle.

    -The aformentioned fremium games. They have there high points but their designs are so "malicious" that Ian Bogost made a parody game around the very idea that went viral on facebook.

    I think there will continue to be some real amazing innovative games on the device in the next few years but I hope that they make enough money that some of the bigger publishers will put some genuine effort into making great games for them.

  • http://twitter.com/TapMeJosh Joshua Z Hernandez

    As the founder of a monetization company I have to agree 100% with Graeme. It's our goal that devs think fun not money because that is the best way to make money anyway. And the net result is a product that Graeme uses in his own iOS games. Are we there yet as a company, not quite but working with artists like this will help us get there.

  • http://twitter.com/miiifan Stephen Ceresia

    @hodapp:disqus I've never posted outside the forums, but this is probably one of the most important articles I've read on Touch Arcade and one I hope will be looked back on as a wake up call and turning point in the industry. You've summed up the situation perfectly and I - and I'm sure many other devs - thank you for giving it some attention.

  • http://twitter.com/AlexVandeweyer Alex V

    I completely disagree with the basic thrust here. I don't think IOS gaming could be in a much better state at this stage. And I don't really see why free-to-play models affect that. There have always been commercial concerns, and there were just as many in the days of Pac-Man - that's why the games were made to last a few minutes to encourage replay value, and why it was then licensed to toy-makers and cartoon channels.

    And games like Tiny Tower prove that great design can thrive in whatever model. It's a new challenge and a new opportunity, not a threat.

  • B. Samuel Heilman

    "This is normally where I'd champion the premium priced 'full' game experiences with fabulous production values like Infinity Blade
    and encourage people to actually try to support developers at higher
    price points in attempt to stop the toxic 'I'll wait for the 99¢ sale'
    mentality."

    iOS gamers (or, well, any other gamers) have neither the need nor the obligation to "support developers." Developers provide a product and we are the consumers of that product. If we, as consumers, feel that a product is worth our money at its current price point, then that is the only time that we should purchase it. That's how the free market works - or, at least, how it works /well/.

    If developers expect us, as consumers, to purchase their games at a premium price point, then they need to make those games worthy of purchasing at a premium price point in our eyes. The fact that this "I'll wait for the sale" mentality exists suggests that most developers have not accomplished this goal.

  • http://twitter.com/rastermax rastermax

    Whooo that subject is quite touchy... like that.
    I myself put a lot of time explaining to myself the FreeToPlay model, and now I learned to love it.

    Now to add something about GDC Online, this year was NOT a metrics trade show, and some very interesting confs where being presented as well as some interesting round tables.

  • Anonymous

    The problem isn't in freemium vs paid games, the problem is the inability to find good games regardless of their pricing model.  

    Think about the way you yourself find apps through the app store (so not including this site).  You are usually browsing the top apps or looking at the featured apps.  Many of the half a million apps are never seen regardless of quality.

    Another way to find apps is to search for a keyword.  This leads to us users putting in a keyword and getting a dozen knock off games, of which there is no way to filter.  Try typing in "Tiny Wings" and you'll also get "Tiny Wings Fly", "Wild West Pinball" and "Adult Sex Games".  If Apple had a "Search by Title" option or any kind of alternate search option, it would be much harder for these knockoffs to flourish.

    We tend to think that apple is filtering the apps for us, and that the apps we're not seeing are the garbage shovelware, but the reality is that hundreds of indie developers are trying to find ways to break into the top 10, because otherwise they are off the radar of the average iphone user.

    This creates incentive for low or hidden cost games