With the proliferation of 99 cent games on Apple's App Store, many developers feel they have no choice but to sell their games for dirt cheap. Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor
developer Tiger Style says studios shouldn't sell games at rock-bottom prices if they don't want to.
"I don't know if I hear anyone but us saying, 'You don't have to do it,'" said Tiger Style co-founder
and former Looking Glass and EALA employee Randy Smith in a new Gamasutra feature interview. Some developers say that selling games for cheap is the only way to be competitive on the App Store.
"I think we really wanted to say, 'You don't have to do it' in our [GDC Austin] presentation
, and I haven't heard that echoed," he added. "I don't know if it's straight up disagreement. We're not getting into fistfights with other [developers]."
But the "race to the bottom" of App Store pricing is a point of debate among developers. On the App Store, apps are sorted by unit sales. Some developers launch games at a special low price point to get their games up high on the digital storefront, then revert back to higher pricing after a period of time. With prices so low, App Store users often see prices as low as $5 as pricey.
Fellow Tiger Style co-founder David Kalina, who worked at Looking Glass and Midway Austin previously, admitted that the studio is still trying to figure out how to navigate the App Store. "…I don't know with 100 percent confidence that our decision to stay at $2.99 is ultimately the right decision," he said.
But he continued, "Yeah, I don't think that doing constant price drops and price manipulation is really good for the market as a whole. People are chasing short-term profits at the expense of a long-term, healthier platform. That's the nature of the market right now."
Kalina suggested that Apple implement "by revenue" sales charts. "I think that sort of information helps people who are making products make better decisions about whether or not a price drop is actually worthwhile, and maybe we'll see prices kind of swing back upwards over time."
Currently, users can't sort by user ratings on the App Store. "I just want to be able to sort by rating. 'Oh, here's a cluster of them that have done really well in the four and five range," said Smith. "Which one of these [apps] do I want to buy?' That would help a lot, too, to drive something in the App Store based on perceived quality. That would be pretty good."
But adding a ratings feature on the App Store may only complicate digital storefront issues. "It seems potentially dangerous because you can game that system a lot more easily than you can game sales," Kalina said.
For more on Tiger Style's transition from employees of big publishers to creating their own startup, read the full Gamasutra feature
, available today.