Most iPhone apps do not come with warnings - but Doodle Jump, the #2 paid application by Lima Sky, has built an advertising campaign around the addictive gameplay: Be warned: this game is insanely addictive!" The ad unit then cycles through anonymous iTunes reviews that highlight just how addictive the game is. Once clicked, the ads take you directly into iTunes so that you can download Doodle Jump for $0.99 and spend hours draining your iPhone's battery!
I am very surprised to see that just three of the top twenty grossing iPhone Apps include in-app purchases:
- The Sims 3 (#5)
- Madden NFL 2010 (#8)
- Tap Tap Revenge (#13)
It wasn't long ago that free iPhone Apps were moving into the top grossing ranks due to in-application micro purchases. But just a couple months later, it appears as though there has been a shift in developer philosophy and/or consumer behavior... the latter of which I find difficult to believe (thanks to Zynga, Facebook and so on). It could very well be that iPhone development and mobile behavior make it difficult to fully capitalize upon in-app purchases. Of course, it could also be that the economics clearly suggest that it is in the developer's best interest to capture the revenue up front. In-app purchases obviously require significant and ongoing engagement - so this could also suggest that the lifecycle of an iPhone game is shorter than anticipated.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I believe this represents the collision of console gaming and social gaming (what we see on Facebook), where games:
- Become inherently social both during and between game play (Facebook Connect is an example)
- Feature in-game micro-payments (a greater percentage of those 650m downloads will shift to small, paid orders)
- Live across platform (and I do not mean Xbox vs. PS3 vs. Wii: game play to some degree will exist between the game itself, site’s like Facebook and the community – via the online stores and Facebook Connect enabled micro-sites)
Facebook and Zynga in particular have become the center pieces for micro-transactions, social gaming and in-game purchasing habits... so much so that the activity on Microsoft's Xbox Live and Playstation's Playstation Store are often overlooked.
That is a very big number considering that:
- there are 31 million registered Playstation Network accounts
... an average of 20+ downloads per user
- the time online for the Playstation is significantly different than a Facebook user (and more costly)
This was also announced before Playstation's Facebook Connect integration went live (November 16th).
Whether you believe that Farmville is the future of gaming, it is tough to argue that it doesn't represent key elements of what traditional gaming has and will become:
- Inherently social both during and between game play (Facebook Connect is an example)
- Featuring in-game micro-payments (a greater percentage of those 650m downloads will shift to small, paid orders)
- Cross platform (and I do not mean Xbox vs. PS3 vs. Wii: game play to some degree will exist between the game itself, site's like Facebook and the community - via the online stores and Facebook Connect enabled micro-sites)
For video game and sports enthuiasts, Madden Football's release day is the equivalent of a major Hollywood blockbuster. In Madden 2009's first month, it did $133.5 million in retail sales. Today, Madden 10 arrives and the presales estimates were ahead of the 2009 numbers and many major retailers opened their doors at midnight last night.
Madden is taking to the ESPN.com and YouTube's homepage to promote the game's launch. Both units feature players from the Pittsburgh Steelers attacking the screen (the EA Sports Logo and Youtube videos respectively).
The Youtube unit expands and disrupts the homepage (much like the iPhone and Nintendo Wii ads of past). The ESPN unit does not expand - but it does take over with an extra-tall header (with video) and the square side unit to match.
Let me preface by saying that, while I do not consider myself a video game buff, I am the proud owner of a Sony Playstation 3 (used both for Blu Ray and infrequent gaming). It is important to say this because my remarks about the PSP Go - Sony's latest version of their portable gaming device - are neither rooted in a dislike for the hardware nor the for the gaming content.
Simply put, the PSP Go is entering the market at a time dominated by mobile devices. Its two core usages are for gaming (leveraging Sony's content and game developers) and high quality video. But unless Sony's device is staggeringly better than what can be done on the iPhone (and others like the Palm Pre), users will not:
- carry another, heftier device
- pay premiums for content and titles
- change their viewing habits (how much better would video need to be to turn in your iPhone or iPod Touch for another small viewing screen?)
Perhaps if the Sony Go was introduced two years ago, it could have won market share during a time when consumers did not believe everything (work, phone, gaming and video) could be done in a single device. But today - we know it is possible and we know that the trend will continue:
- devices are getting better
- gaming content is dramatically improving (just look at Zynga)
- major gaming titles and developers are focusing their attention on mobile (currently the primary reason for gamers to want a PSP Go)
- in the near-term economic climate, users appear willing to sacrifice quality for pricing (ie a <$10 game via the App Store vs. a $40 Sony title)
- Apple and others are opening up to allow peripheral development / integration... which could significantly enhance gaming quality
In late March, I wrote that the next step for iPhone game developers was to go 'backwards' by mimicking control pads found on old gaming systems like Nintendo NES and GameBoy:
Well the iPhone has really gone retro by releasing Sonic the Hedgehog with a two-button control pad. TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid isn't a fan:
"I’m not a fan of the control scheme some developers are adopting to port these classic games, which typically consists of a virtual joypad in the bottom left hand corner of the screen with a few virtual buttons on the right side. Visually the buttons successully mimic the gamepads of yore, but they lack any tactile feedback at all, which gets frustrating when you’re trying to dodge bullets or leap from cliffs and you accidentally hit the wrong button."
Similar feedback was given in the comments from my earlier post. Commenters pointed out that some other games have virtual "d-pads" that have similar issues:
"It's already out there. Though having used these apps, this setup is still difficult to actually play with. There's no tactile feedback to the buttons, making playing very difficult."
If tactical feedback is the primary issue, perhaps the pad / buttons need to be more prominently displayed and provide more obvious visual feedback upon touch.
... Or you could always buy the new Sony PSP that featured a slide-out controller pad, carry yet another device in your pocket and purchase more expensive games. My bet - iPhone developers will figure it out and users will get accustomed to it.