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Feature: How iPhone Game Dissatisfaction Stems From 'Cognitive Dissonance'

In a new Gamasutra column, writer and designer Ian Bogost examines why we might expect more from a 99 cent iPhone App than we do a 99 cent cup of coffee.
In a new Gamasutra feature, writer and designer Ian Bogost explains how he recently released a meditation game on the iPhone App Store called Guru Meditation, a port of an Atari VCS game that he had made. The cost: 99 cents. He said he received mostly positive feedback on the game from trade and consumer outlets, but on the day of release, he got an email from a customer: "I want my 99 cents back." Bogost, who said he appreciated the email, entered a discussion with the customer. It got him thinking about the expectations that people have when buying a game -- people seem to be more forgiving towards a bad cup of 99 cent coffee than towards an unsatisfactory 99 cent iPhone game. He writes: I'm convinced that a large part of customer and developer dissatisfaction with iPhone games and apps comes from a cognitive dissonance. Games aren't generally like cups of coffee; they don't get used up. They don't provide immediate gratification, but ongoing challenge and reward. ...Yet, when we buy something for a very low price, we are conditioned to see it as expendable. What costs a dollar these days? Hardly anything. A cup of coffee. A pack of sticky notes. A Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. A lottery ticket. Stuff we use up and discard. It's hard to reconcile the value expectations of a 99¢ discard with those of a video game. One is supposed to offer single-use expendability, the other is supposed to offer depth and challenge over time. You can now read the full feature at Gamasutra, in which Bogost evaluates the dissatisfaction that developers and customers have with iPhone games, a feeling he says stems from a cognitive dissonance (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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