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EA’s App Store Tactics: Dirty Trick or Just Business?

Electronic Arts (EA) (s erts) has a lot of games in the App Store(s aapl), and a huge chunk of them are now available for only $0.99 (via Touch Arcade) as part of a massive holiday sale the publisher started today. But EA isn’t just getting into the giving spirit; this is a calculated move by an App Store bully designed to anticipate the holiday app rush.

Many of EA’s games manage to ride high in the charts even when priced above the $0.99 mark that seems to bring so many titles such a high degree of success. Offering 54 iPhone games and 15 iPad titles at $0.99 (as of this writing) is obviously an effort to flood those charts with EA titles in advance of the App Store freeze that begins on Dec. 22 and continues until Dec. 26, which also covers the period during which iOS apps enjoy the heaviest sales volume.

Why start now, a full six days prior to that freeze date? First, to build momentum. You don’t climb the charts within a couple of minutes. Apps like Angry Birds reach their lofty perches by doing a brisk business consistently. Starting now gives the EA titles a chance to gather steam.

More importantly, today is the release day for a ton of great new quality titles. Games like Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, World of Goo for iPad, and NOVA 2 are among the fresh crop of potential blockbusters. Other great titles, like Eternal Legacy, Dungeon Hunter 2, and Infinity Blade have only just recently arrived. Those games stand a pretty good chance of climbing and staying at the top of the charts, but they have one weakness: price.

As Endloop Studio’s Garry Seto pointed out to me on Twitter, big price drops are a common way for studios to steal attention from the major releases of competitors. EA seems to have taken this to the extreme with this scattershot approach to gaining chart traction.

All this jockeying for position is exciting to watch, and it results in cheaper prices for consumers, but also reveals the App Store’s limitations when it comes to promoting and selling software. Developers and publishers live or die by the App Store charts, and big studios with extensive libraries can pull this sort of stunt, while smaller fish have to struggle to get noticed. That discrepancy will become even more pronounced as time goes by, and the Mac App Store will likely bring the same kind of thing to OS X development, too.

What do you think? Should Apple implement some kind of controls around the holidays to prevent heavy hitters like EA from throwing their weight around, or is this just the unavoidable nature of the beast?

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8 Responses to “EA’s App Store Tactics: Dirty Trick or Just Business?”

  1. I’m guilty as charged of getting 8 ea games for iPad. I mean seriously I bought this device for portable gaming and it’s already paid 70 bucks of itself. In a word this sale is epiczorz. And to answer your last question… no.

  2. Whenever you see basketball players intentionally foul, it plays the system. The foul system wasn’t created to slow down the final two minutes of a close game and make games decided at the free throw line. If it were, then there would just be a shootout to decide the game. Rather, intentional fouls are “gaming” the system. It’s perfectly within the rules: this is the problem. The rules need to account for this kind of manipulation if it wants to promote things like fluidity of a game, etc.

    What the heck is this guy babbling about?

    EA are playing the system so that when Apple freeze the top downloads, EA are all on top. It then switches its prices back and gets advertising. This is not free advertising (the cost is in losses at current prices for persons who would have bought the titles at retail) but at least it’s advertising where you’ll have a decent understanding of its success. But Apple can easily “fix” this, if they choose. All they have to do is make the top applications list during the freeze reflective of a longer period of time, such as within the last year or last 6 months. Then this would at least give all developers a larger window in which they’d have to play little games like this in order to compete in this EA scheme.

  3. Darrell. Maybe you’ve heard the old journalism rule: “if your headline asks a question, the answer is always no” – well, it applies here. The answer is that it’s just business. You know it, we know it.

    Now will you stop asking questions in your headline, it’s so incredibly amateur and predictable.

  4. I don’t follow, why can’t the smaller shops use the same strategy? They can take a short term loss too can’t they?

    EA is taking advantage of its market size, as many businesses do. Smaller firms have the ability to be nimble and make rapid decisions that larger firms usually have trouble with. So smaller firms should be able to move faster and beat EA with newer games, but that also means taking risk.

    I can’t see anything wrong, nor can I see why smaller firm’s can’t use the same strategy. Unless its that GigaOm might not see the tactics smaller firms use.

  5. This is just great business. What is a dirty trick is EA passing off their mobile games as anything other than complete and utter dog s#1T. They’re 99 cents and I still can’t find one I want to buy.

    • +1

      Not enough anti-Apple sentiment today that gigaom needs to fabricate a story out of an app store sale?

      The system is gamed all the time. Since EA has some pull due to their number of apps, let them. May the strong survive.