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Capybara's Vella: iPhone's 99-Cent Push Is 'Frustrating And Terrible'

Capybara's Vella: iPhone's 99-Cent Push Is 'Frustrating And Terrible' Exclusive

January 12, 2010 | By Chris Remo

January 12, 2010 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

With an overabundance of games, it's well-known that the iPhone game market quickly became dominated by pressure for developers to adopt 99-cent price points in response to increasingly solidified consumer expectation -- and Capybara Games founder Nathan Vella calls that trend "the single most frustrating and terrible thing about App Store pricing."

Speaking in a new Gamasutra feature about the dilemma of pricing independent games, Vella says the the phenomenon has reduced developers' options and made it harder for them to turn a profit.

"Since it became 'expected' by consumers, it forces a lot of developers, specifically indies, to devalue their game and significantly increase the number of sales needed for developers to get back their investment," he goes on.

But developers also have the power to buck the trend. If enough of them resist the urge to plunge to 99 cents as quickly as possible, consumers might reevaluate how they value iPhone games.

Capybara is currently selling its well-received puzzler Critter Crunch for $1.99, more than half a year after it was released -- and the freedom to do so is a big part of what's attractive and potentially lucrative about the App Store, so developers must be careful not to relinquish that freedom.

Adam Saltsman's celebrated sidescroller Canabalt is another game resisting the 99-cent siren song.

"That game is 100 percent worth $2.99," says Vella. "Adam Saltsman bucked the trend and priced his game at a level he thought was fair. We're on board with what Adam is doing -- not letting the 99 cent pressure define how you price your game. Rather, just price it fairly. Having control of your pricing is great -- being able to define, at a fine level, what your game is worth is something you often don't get control over."

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