One of the barriers to big studios developing big name titles for the iPhone and iPod Touch has been pricing. The kind of investment that goes into making blockbuster titles requires a pricing scheme that the App Store probably couldn’t currently support. Users are now used to the extremely low prices most of the apps are offered at, and games tend not to do well if priced over $9.99, and even then most developers cut the price to around $5.99 a few weeks after its release.
PocketGamer.biz is now reporting that the App Store will soon see the introduction of a special Premium Games Section, offering a range of titles at a price point of $19.99. The club will be an exclusive one, with membership only open to large developers, and not the indie folks who’ve brought most of the innovation to the App Store thus far. I’m really hoping the move doesn’t inhibit the great independent development that’s been going on so far, but I’d also like to see studios like SquareEnix go all out, instead of just sort of going with half-measures like Crystal Defenders.
The date suggested by PocketGamer.biz for a possible launch of the new section is Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), which takes place in June. If true, this would explain the recent slowdown of releases from major studios like EA and Gameloft, who for a while were keeping their pipelines flowing at a fairly steady rate. Such a release might also coincide with the advent of new iPhone hardware from Apple, if recent rumors prove true. That would make a lot of sense, since any hardware update will likely bring improved specifications, including processor power, graphics rendering capability, and possibly control refinements as well.
I think this could work well for Apple, as long as they don’t allow it to balloon. A jump from $10 to $20 dollars is one that I think avid gamers, and especially those for whom the iPhone is their only mobile platform, will go along with. It might take some time and marketing to ease the transition, but it’ll still be cheaper than your average big name DS or PSP title. But if pricing increases get out of hand, and enter into the $30 to $40 range, Apple will probably have a hard time getting iPhone gamers to follow. Unless they allow the Seaman spin-off after all. That, I’d pay $40 for.