I got a text the other afternoon from a pal who knows a thing or two about video games. He was confused about Gasketball's [Free (HD)] IAP model. He wasn't sure what he'd get if he boned up the $2.99. I thought he forgot how to read or something, but it appears as though this is an actual problem that a lot of people are having -- and it's hurting Mikengreg, as you'd expect.

The Penny Arcade Report filed a pretty depressing post about Gasketball this morning, detailing how much of a flop that the game is shaping up to be. You should read it in full, but the gist is this: the conversion rate on Gasketball is stupidly low and now the game's two creators, Mike Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend, can no longer afford shelter.

When I previewed and when I reviewed the game, I looked at it as a whole; not just as a tutorial with IAPs. In hindsight, I should have made it much more clear that I see it as a $2.99 game, as opposed to a free one with optional IAP.

But anyway, since people like my pal are having problems, here's what you get if you opt to purchase the $2.99 "Buy It Forever" IAP: 100 levels, 10 new objects to play around with, and all of the content that will ever be released for Gasketball from this day forward.

To further break it down, here's the names, themes, and items you'll get from each of the five worlds this pack unlocks.

  • Roballin' 101 - 25 construction site themed levels. You also unlock two objects: a panel that makes your ball move faster and the conveyor belt.
  • Cosmo Jam World - 25 levels wrapped in a space theme. You also unlock a new robot avatar named Albert, and two objects: the teleporter and the grav switch
  • Gasketslamcade - 25 levels pinball themed levels. You also unlock a new robot avatar named Geoffrey, and two objects: the bumper and the flipper.
  • The Drunkworks - 25 machine themed levels. You also unlock a new robot named Woohouse and two new objects: the spinfusor and the conveyor.

And in case you didn't notice, But It Forever is available in the "user menu," which is an option you can pick on the game's home screen.

Gasketball is too good to fail, and this content makes the game a much, much better offering. if you've got Gasketball, we reccomend you give the pass a download. It's not disappointing.

  • http://twitter.com/3parkbenchhydra A Hut Full

    This seems an excellent case of IAP coming back to bite the developer; I'd wager they'd have had more sales if they'd just made the game $2.99 to begin with and received some strong critical reviews on its quality.

    • AcneVulgaris

      They're doing just fine now that they have the update out that pesters you to buy.

  • HandsomeDan

    An iPhone version wouldn't hurt either. I'm hoping I get to play Gasketball at some point, but I don't have an iPad.

    • mguniverse

      It definitely feels good on iPad, and I don't know what they could do to make it feel good on iPhone. I don't think Mikengreg want to release a game that doesn't feel good.

  • ImJPaul

    Just play feed me oil, enigmo 1 or 2 etc. this genre of game is in no shortage on the AppStore. And this one looks like it holds no separating qualities. I don't understand why touch arcade has taken such an interest in such a mediocre game. They're usually spot on with everything. Oh well. We all have our preferences.

    • subshell001

      You are really missing the picture with this game.

      Those games don't have a brilliant asynchronous multiplayer mode. Also, those other games don't develop any "skill". Enigmo for example is placing objects and hitting go or whatever. Gasketball actually requires you to develop a feeling for the ball since it requires you to toss it, and with the physics being spot on (feels very 1:1), it sometimes requires a very precise movement of your finger. It's like gaining skill in an actual sport.

    • 1Fcm

      I don't understand how you can call it mediocre if you haven't played it? It is vastly different from 'feed me oil' and 'enigmo'. It's actually a great game and I really think you should try it out. I suspect you would really like it.

  • subshell001

    Actually you can't buy any of them at 0.99 each. That was removed. It's just everything for 2.99 now. People who bought a 0.99 pack before got the full 2.99 pack for free in the latest update.

  • http://twitter.com/johnwhitley John Whitley

    In no small part, this is also Apple's problem.  As business models are developing in the App Store, it's becoming difficult to for a user to understand exactly what they're getting into.  "Free" now has a bunch of obscure alternate meanings that require the user to parse that specific app's business model: Is it "really, actually free"? Is it some form of "try before you buy" (ala Gasketball)? Is it a nagging, parasitic, life-sucking IAP monstrosity?

    The prevalence of the latter puts a 10-meter pole between my devices and most free games.  This produces a fair measure of "buyer-beware".  One way or another, app users have to expend energy parsing the business model of any given app, whether before or after downloading it.

    • subshell001

      It would be pretty neat if developers could switch a flag that instead of saying "free" it behaves exactly as it does now, but replaces that word with "Demo" or something to indicate the purpose of the IAP.

      • http://twitter.com/fucrate Mike Boxleiter

        I've actually heard a lot of stuff like saying "Demo" gets you rejected by Apple and causes violent outbursts from users.  Really, there's a ton of weird connotations that different business models carry for no reason other than that's the way other games have used them.

        I see IAP as a bitchin way to sell a game, you download a demo, and if you like it you don't even have to go back to the store.  It's just so damn simple and painless for the users.

        I guess that's why it's so easily abused when it's used as a slot machine against people with addictive personalities :

      • ducksFANjason

        I agree with the mentality of how cool it is to be able to demo an app and then unlock the full game with a simple IAP, but I suspect a large amount of user hesitance is due to the lack of permanence in an IAP. If I uninstall and 2 years down the line reinstall but the dev no longer hosts the game, I'm screwed out of my game. The conventional purchase method doesn't have that same issue as long as the user keeps the app stored on their computer. If I buy a game, I want to know it's mine forever, not just rent it.

      • http://twitter.com/RubiconDevelop Rubicon Development

        I've seen this argument a lot and I really don't get where it originates. It's simply not true.

        Downloadable Content (DLC) might be hosted on some developers server and be prone to disappear in the future, but IAP on Apple devices is permanent forever. It's stored with your iTunes account. The actual content you unlock is already inside the game - no downloading ever happens.

        It's true that a developer may elect to take the whole app down from the store for some odd reason, but even then you can still get a copy back from Apple if you bought it previously.

        Consumable iap is different, but that's a whole different thing entirely.

      • ducksFANjason

        Really? I was unaware of that, as (I suspect) are most iOS gamers. I'd really like to know how/where you learned that though, as if it's true, I'd no longer feel so hesitant with IAPs.

      • http://twitter.com/RubiconDevelop Rubicon Development

        Hehe, if Apple's income suddenly doubles because of this, I want a slice.  :)

        I'm a developer of games with IAP, but not the nasty sort, so had to get well versed in how it all works. There aren't any options to play with, so all other games with non-consumeable iap's will work the same.

        The content is there already, you're just paying to gain access to it. Forever.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=4503716 Brett Nolan

        That's not entirely accurate...

        There are a number of apps which I've purchased in the past that can only be re-installed if I still have the IPA file sitting on my local PC, meaning I have to do a local sync with iTunes to install them., I cannot get them via the cloud. 

        I know that at least one of these was due to the fact that the developer was not making enough money on the game and decided not to renew his developer license. Others were pulled because ownership of the app changed to a new publisher and the app was re-released with a new ID. Meaning I'd have to buy it again from the new publisher if I wanted it back after deleting it. :( And others still have just disappeared from the store after an acquisition of the developer, never to be seen again, and not accessible via the cloud.
        In cases like that, I wish Apple would keep the last known version available for download via the cloud so those of us who already purchased it and are in the "Post-PC era" wouldn't need to keep local copies of every app we've ever purchased, "just in case". Plus I'd rather not touch iTunes ever again if I didn't have to (so buggy for the PC).

        As far as IAPs go, I'm not sure if its a dev thing or not, but I hate the uneasy feeling I get when a dev makes me "purchase" an IAP for a second time to restore it. I never know if I'm going to be charged again by mistake or not, or even if I did in fact already purchase the IAP. Restore IAP buttons should be standard, or the app should be able to detect it is me and ask me if I want to restore the IAP.

      • http://twitter.com/RubiconDevelop Rubicon Development

        Restore buttons /are/ now standard, we almost got bounced for not having one, but got a warning in time from a friendly dev who did get a submission fail because of it. In the end it was about 3 lines of code anyway.

        If a dev pulls an app entirely, you can still get it back via the "my purchased games" view in iTunes. (aiui anyway, never actually done it.)

        It's of course personal taste on a game by game basis if you decide to purchase some iap or not, but customers should certainly buy with confidence and not worry about their investment disappearing in the future.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=4503716 Brett Nolan

        From a consumer point of view, I think that's awesome news about the "restore purchases button". I know it's more work for devs, but offers nice peace of mind to consumers. Coincidentally, I had actually just heard this same thing on a podcast I was listening to on the way into work this morning. :)  

        I can confirm that there are still some Apps I previously that I purchased, that have been removed from the apps store (and not because they were deemed illegal or broke copyrights) that CANNOT be re-downloaded via the "Purchased->Download Previous Purchases" section of either on iTunes on the PC or on my iPhone/iPad. 
        If I still had the 'ipa' file on my PC I'd see in the normal purchased section of iTunes on the PC, but since they are gone, I cannot get them back onto my device. 

  • subshell001

    this was supposed to be a reply. doesn't look like it worked.

  • lr1919

    I feel sorry for the guys, but didn't quite get the game. It didn't hook me... But I do think I would have bought it based on all the hype if it would had not had been FTP.

    • tmronin

      whew, i'm glad i'm not the only one - i really really wanted to support this game, but it's not floating my boat (and i'm a tri-star Angry Birds/Cut the Rope/Where's my Water player)...the physics are hella-weird and the control is not great.  what should be simple just isn't for me and it got too frustrating when i couldn't get the ball to go where it was supposed to go.  

  • http://twitter.com/AnimalTrackers Animal Trackers

    I can relate to this.

    As an indie developer, you work all the hours you can stay awake for, day in, day out, for in some cases several YEARS (nearly three in my case) and unless you're VERY lucky, you make virtually no money at all.

    The App Store is so crowded these days, that unless you've got a large marketing budget or a huge fan base, you just don't get the exposure needed to even begin to make any money.

    Animal Trackers has been on the App Store for over three months now and has had a grand total of... 53 sales! Not 53,000 or 5300, but 53. At $1.99 per sale, less Apple's cut, tax, and foreign exchange commission, that works out to the equivalent of about $0.01 per hour!

    If you'd told me three years ago if I wanted to work for 1 cent an hour for three years, I think you know what my answer would have been... lol

    I think as indie developers, we have this 'build it and they will come' type attitude, but unfortunately, it would seem that this usually only happens in the movies. :(

    • kennfusion

      That is probably not the App Store, but sadly your game.  And by your game, I don't actually mean your game, but how you have presented your game. Never having heard of Animal Trackers, I just Googled it, found your wordpress blog, saw some screen shots of the game, and it looked like a little kids game or something. Literally it looks like a game you download for your ipad to keep toddlers quiet in a restaurant.  Not a commentary of the game itself, as I have not played it, but that was enough for me to instantly decide I don't need that game. The advantage to being an indy developer is that you get to make any game you want. The disadvantage is that a big corporate studio can afford to fail some of the time.

      • http://twitter.com/AnimalTrackers Animal Trackers

        Thanks for your comments. I'll see what I can do to better match up the iTunes images with the gameplay experience.

    • Seth Kiehl

      With your next game I would leave some room in the budget for marketing. A good product is only half of the equation, same as in the real world. I took a look at Animal Trackers and love the artwork. The gameplay isn't very clear, though, either on iTunes or in the trailer. It's not obvious who your audience is (kids, adults?) or what makes your game fun to play (core competency). Because the app store is so saturated, I look at games like looking at billboards on the highway. If it doesn't grab me in 3 seconds I've probably moved on. A good, for-hire copywriter could probably up your chances of catching peoples attention.

      • http://twitter.com/AnimalTrackers Animal Trackers

        Thanks for your comments.

        As mentioned in the reply to kennfusion, I'll look into improving the 'first impressions' of the game so that it gives a better feel for the actual gameplay and indicate that it has modes for both adults and children.

        With regards to marketing, though, I think the main problem for the majority of 'bedroom' developers is that there's barely enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills, let alone set aside hundreds or even thousands of dollars in what you hope would be effective advertising or copywriting.

      • Seth Kiehl

        I understand that for sure. First, I think you are talking hundreds of dollars, not thousands. Obviously a marketing campaign across various channels would be ideal. I'm thinking more along the lines of sitting down with a freelance copywriter, preferably with some app store experience. It would involve paying them for a few hours of their time to write an itunes description, a press release maybe (have to grab the attention of the reviewers), and help structure your trailer. On the mid - high end I think they would charge $100/hr.

        My point is that, especially for bedroom developers, a "build it and they will come" strategy doesn't give you a fighting chance. It doesn't work in the real world either. You wouldn't open a store, invest everything in it and then just open your doors and hope people find you, no matter how great the product is.

        I do think you have used social media, developers blog, etc, well. You've done a lot of things really well. Despite all of that, as someone who pays attention to new releases pretty much every day, this is the first I've heard of your game. I guess its  just the nature of the app store and the quantity of games being released. I really do hope you and other bedroom developers find success-- its the best part of ios. There are so many big companies gaming the system and releasing terrible "games".

      • http://twitter.com/AnimalTrackers Animal Trackers

        Well, I've done the first step and updated the images on iTunes. Hopefully those will give a better representation of the game and at least hint at the fun and depth that can be found within. Thanks again for your comments. :)

    • ducksFANjason

      I'm one of those 53! Sorry to hear about your struggles though... :-(

      • http://twitter.com/AnimalTrackers Animal Trackers

        Thanks for your support! It's much appreciated. :)

  • RottenRedRod

    I think part of the issue is it being iPad only.

  • albinosalad

    I feel bad for developers that put their livelihood on the line to make their game but simply put, the App Store model is unsustainable. Every iOS developer should read the Sreaming Colour survey. The summary: 20% of iOS game developers earn 97% of the income. 50% of games earn $1,000 or less a year and $3,000 or less in their lifetime.

    http://www.streamingcolour.com/blog/2011/09/28/results-ios-game-revenue-survey/

    • http://twitter.com/AnimalTrackers Animal Trackers

      Yes, I remember reading some figures like that AFTER I'd made my game... lol

      However, even if I'd known those figures beforehand, I'd still have gone ahead and made a game purely out of creativity... plus there's always the 'lotto' factor... there's a 1 in 14 million chance of winning the jackpot, but millions of people still play... just in case.

      Given my time again, I wouldn't have made this game in its current form, though, now that I know it would take up nearly three years of my life and have a near zero ROI, but I'd have stuck to my original one month time frame for a 'taster' app, just to get a feel for the App Store.

      But, what's done is done, and we just have to try to learn from the past and hope that our current decisions will lead to a more fruitful future. After all, it took Imangi 7 apps before they finally hit the jackpot with Temple Run.

    • Alex Dantis

      Actually I believe that survey is biased. 

      They tried to contact devs through websites, social media and forums like the one TA has. This has led to mostly contacting "good" developers, the kind that actually care about their product enough to have a website or a social media presence. Also when you get really bad sales numbers you'd rather not talk about it. The end result is that they probably targeted the top 10%. Meaning that that 20% that looks so achievable is more like 2% out of which most are "old timers" that have built a name for themselves and big companies that already had a name (the EAs of this world).

  • kennfusion

    I downloaded Gasketball for my ipad based on the TA post about it. I played the first 4 levels. I thought it was a really bad Angry Birds clone. I deleted it. Done. Gone. Off the iPad. Now, it may be I barely saw what the game could do, but there are so many free games and freemium games these days, that I don't have to give a game more than 10 minutes of my time to determine if I want to give it more of my time. A game like Triple Town? I upgraded to the unlimited turn account in about 10 minutes, as I could see the value in the game that fast. 

    If you are an indy developer, hoping to get people hooked with freemium models, first you have to overcome the whole anti-IAP crowd out there. Next, think of it like a novel, if you cannot hook me in the bookstore with the first paragraph, I am putting the book back on the shelf and grabbing another. 

    • ducksFANjason

      Well said. I did the exact same thing with Triple Town! As for this game, I, like many, don't have an iPad. I think a HUGE factor in the non-sales of this game is the iPad factor. It's an awesome format for universal games, but the iPad-only games are simply limiting their potential consumers. I've seen PLENTY of games converted from iPad-only to universal and nearly all of them made the switch flawlessly (as long as the dev put some thought in to work out diminished screen real estate).

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/B43JKX2D3OQEHBQTTD5WB4PWL4 Antwone

    Another one of those physics playground games it just doesn't look very interesting to me.

    • MidianGTX

       It's not really a physics playground. If by having physics you think that automatically equates to a playground somehow, then sure, but otherwise...

  • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

    Well, I originally didn't think I was interested in the game, but this article made me go pick it up. I gave it a try, and after I got the hang of it, I went ahead and bought the full game! It is surprisingly addictive, and I hope sales do pick up for the devs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Lee-Pauley/1682315208 Christopher Lee Pauley

    Well, if the game was a Universal app in the first place, then this MIGHT be less of a problem. I don't think there's enough of the iOS userbase out there who owns an iPad AND actively plays games for the developer to expect this to be a profitable game. There are three people in my extended family who have iPads, and none of them use the device for games. I was really looking forward to this game and I was bummed when I found out it was iPad only. I hope that Mikengreg at least releases an iPhone version before deciding to call it quits on Gasketball.

  • extol4000

    In paragraph 5 of that Penny Arcade article, Greg is quoted as stating:

    “We wanted the game to be free but also we want to make a living off of it since we’ve spent 2 years on it."

    I think Greg & Mike (of Gasketball) should not have had such high expectations for the success of their game. This isn't the dawn of the App Store, when apps like Trism were literally changing heir creator's lives. The App Store is a very different place now. The pipe dream of selling your game, making millions & quitting your job early to retire are is dead. Making a great game that everyone loves does not guarantee a successful future on the iOS platform. You have to compete against big name developers, the freemium Business model & the .99 cents rat race. That's a lot of competition for an indie developer.

    -Rick

    • NickyNichols

      I can't believe that in 2 years it didn't dawn on them to make the game available for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Just poor planning really.

      • MidianGTX

         I suppose they were too concerned with the game being good to try and force it onto a little screen.

  • sakara214ever

    I also agree with some people in here. It is not that the game is mediocre no. I think the devs have done a great job. But, although i really love this kind of games Gasketball really bored me to death after 10 minutes of play. Dunno why. Here and there i keep opening the game "hoping to make myself like it???" but still i get bored. Maybe it is just me but i think it is something else something i haven't figured out yet.

  • Kafu

    The App Store is loaded of good games that failed, instead of complaining they should understand their errors and fix them.

  • http://twitter.com/RubiconDevelop Rubicon Development

    They're charging $2.99 for a $0.99 game and a game like this should not take a couple of years to make. Seriously, not even close. We did Great BIG War Game in less time, programming wise.

    If they put it for $0.99 and got it done in a month or two, it may well have earned its keep. But the graphics need to improve a lot to get more downloads. And the name really is crap.

    If they fix all that, it might still have some legs.

    • jay401

      Agree about the platform choice. iPad will naturally have less sales than iPhone & iPod combined, and if the game doesn't scale well to the smaller screen, perhaps the concept bears some rethinking.

      Another perspective: I downloaded the game because it was featured here on Touch Arcade. It otherwise wouldn't have caught my attention. I honestly didn't find it that enjoyable (just my opinion) so I did not have the incentive needed to pay $3 for the IAP. Sorry, but that just happens for some folks. Not everyone is going to like a game. That said, had the game been $.99 I would have bought it based on TA's recommendation (and honestly wouldn't have felt bad about it even if I didn't like it). So they would have gotten something out of me vs nothing... which goes to your point about the pricing.

  • http://twitter.com/appaddict appaddict

    I'm very hesitant when they guarantee updates forever, considering they last updated Solipskier 2 years ago. I quickly threw down cash for that game, but they never even updated basic requests like rotating the orientation of the iPad 180 degrees so you could play with the iPad sitting on a table with the cover on.

  • kendahlj

    In the interview seems they take no responsibility for picking a bad business model with this game. The should have just charged $2.99... Of the 200,000 who downloaded the free version, I bet at least 25% would have paid. I would have... Instead it sits on my iPad. While I might get around to it and may buy the iap it isn't top priority. At minimum they should have made it top priority to make buying the game easily done within the app...