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Early Sale/Discount Indications?

02-26-2012, 04:23 AM
#1
Joined: Dec 2010
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 9,494
Early Sale/Discount Indications?

A lot of people complain about purchasing games to see them rapidly drop. Often developers swear they will not lower a price then they do. I have a few speculative indicators of impending price drop that I look for in deciding on a purchase. Has anyone else noticed any other patterns for iOS game discounts/sales?

1. Marketing Trends Repeat: Developers often follow a specific marketing pattern. Obviously Gameloft is going to have holiday sales. Kairosoft universally drops their games to $0.99 within 2 months. Square Enix has a Christmas sale and often does discounts on older titles with their new releases. Looking in App Shopper for other games by the same developer will often indicate that strategy for price drops.

2. Inflated Release Pricing: New releases at the $2.99 price point are more likely to discount to $0.99. It often seems like the $2.99 price is an elevated price to drain funds from excited early adopters. Examples include Evil Dead, X-men, Majestic, Swords & Soldiers, etc. If a games comes out at $2.99 it is likely a safe bet there will be a $0.99 sale within 3 months. Games with higher release prices have more room to discount. Recent examples include Epoch, M.U.S.E., and Mission Europa. I think Chillingo has started to do this with some of their newer releases. My impression is the $2.99 price point is especially designed for gouge then drop tactic. It may be that poor sales play into this in some cases.

3. In-App Purchases Makes "Discounts" More Likely: If a game has IAP, even if the IAP is optional and fair, it is more likely to go on sale. Bug Heroes, Minigore, and 100 Rogues are examples.

4. Introductory Sales Are Less Likely to Repeat Discounts: Games that launch with an introductory sales seem less likely to go on sale in the immediate future. Obviously this is not always the case (Grand Theft Auto, W.E.L.D.E.R., etc have discounted further immediately from "intro sale") but often it seems launch discounts get people talking then the game stays higher from there. Rocketcat is a good example, since launch sale on Super Quickhook the price has not gone back down again. Same with Deckmake Fantasy and I think Sword & Poker. PixelSlime launched free, and is probably not selling great but has resisted freeness since (maybe due to below).

5. Once Free, Less Likely to Have Future Sales: Once a game goes free once it seems less likely to have another sale in the near future. I speculate this is because once a developer freebies the game it is often a last ditch marketing strategy and unless successful indicates the developer is abandoning the project.

6. Big Name Developers Are More Likely to Slash Prices: Companies like Gameloft, Capcom, and EA will not retain their value. These publishers can afford to reduce rates and likely see iOS as a secondary market. This is in time with developers repeating marketing strategies across products (mentioned above).

7. Holidays = Savings: Games are more likely to go on sale during holidays. Appvent alone keeps me from purchases in the last quarter of the year.

8. Developers Who Give Out Promo Codes Are More Likely to Freebie: Developers who are more liberal about posting promo codes in the promo code forum are more likely to freebie their game in the near future. Many times I've missed out on promos only to see the game go free shortly afterward. Most recently Awesome Land is an example of this. Marketing a game by releasing promo codes, even limited amounts, seems to correspond with free price drop within 2 months.

9. Promises of Big Future Updates Are Hint of Corresponding Discount: Developers who hint at a huge update coming in the future are likely to slash prices when that update arrives. Speed Blazers is a recent example. I think hinting at a large update is one way of hyping the game in "inflated price" early release timeframe to pull in consumers before a developer anticipates dropping the price. This is especially true if the update will include DLC/IAP (see Galaxy of Fire 2).

Last edited by undeadcow; 02-26-2012 at 05:21 AM.
02-26-2012, 04:57 AM
#2
Joined: May 2011
Location: Finland
Posts: 8,366
Hmm good points. Now all we need is a developer to confirm at least some of the points, if they even need it.

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02-26-2012, 05:03 AM
#3
Joined: May 2010
Location: Deepest Circle, Hell
Posts: 8,673
You've pretty much hit every nail on the head with that post. Especially the $2.99 to $0.99 discount. I've mentioned it numerous times to people in the past.

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02-26-2012, 05:46 AM
#4
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 5,146
Spotting the likely sales does not present a great problem. The problem is how easy they are to spot.
02-26-2012, 08:01 AM
#5
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 1,737
I very much agree with most of your points, except 4+5. I feel like once a developer has "cracked the seal" so to speak (similar idea to 8), it's almost guaranteed that the game will drop in price again sometime in the future, usually multiple times. Rocketcat is not representative of most developers, because they have a history of making good games and can afford to release a game at $1, raise it to $3, and keep it there. In many cases, developers won't even make money at a sale price of $1, much less after they raise the price.

As for the big companies having sales, as you've pointed out, almost all of them run them regularly. I would also add that indie developers who are new to the App Store tend to have a lot of sales too, usually to free and then often they abandon the game. I would attribute this to their inexperience in the market and oftentimes their inability to grasp the ridiculous pricing that occurs in the App Store.

One other indicator I would like to add (not as good as the ones you listed, but still another to add to the checklist) is the status of the TA thread for the game. If the thread is pretty much dead 24h after release, or especially if 70% of the posts are from the developer himself, that's usually a sign of a failing game. On top of that, if those posts are all "[app review site that no one gives a **** about] gave us a 5/5!", then it's a sure sign of desperation and poor sales. For types of games that the TA community dislikes (ie. freemium), the TA thread doesn't mean much, as many high grossing games have inactive threads.
02-26-2012, 08:52 PM
#6
Joined: Jan 2012
Posts: 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by undeadcow View Post
A lot of people complain about purchasing games to see them rapidly drop. Often developers swear they will not lower a price then they do. I have a few speculative indicators of impending price drop that I look for in deciding on a purchase. Has anyone else noticed any other patterns for iOS game discounts/sales?

1. Marketing Trends Repeat: Developers often follow a specific marketing pattern. Obviously Gameloft is going to have holiday sales. Kairosoft universally drops their games to $0.99 within 2 months. Square Enix has a Christmas sale and often does discounts on older titles with their new releases. Looking in App Shopper for other games by the same developer will often indicate that strategy for price drops.

2. Inflated Release Pricing: New releases at the $2.99 price point are more likely to discount to $0.99. It often seems like the $2.99 price is an elevated price to drain funds from excited early adopters. Examples include Evil Dead, X-men, Majestic, Swords & Soldiers, etc. If a games comes out at $2.99 it is likely a safe bet there will be a $0.99 sale within 3 months. Games with higher release prices have more room to discount. Recent examples include Epoch, M.U.S.E., and Mission Europa. I think Chillingo has started to do this with some of their newer releases. My impression is the $2.99 price point is especially designed for gouge then drop tactic. It may be that poor sales play into this in some cases.

3. In-App Purchases Makes "Discounts" More Likely: If a game has IAP, even if the IAP is optional and fair, it is more likely to go on sale. Bug Heroes, Minigore, and 100 Rogues are examples.

4. Introductory Sales Are Less Likely to Repeat Discounts: Games that launch with an introductory sales seem less likely to go on sale in the immediate future. Obviously this is not always the case (Grand Theft Auto, W.E.L.D.E.R., etc have discounted further immediately from "intro sale") but often it seems launch discounts get people talking then the game stays higher from there. Rocketcat is a good example, since launch sale on Super Quickhook the price has not gone back down again. Same with Deckmake Fantasy and I think Sword & Poker. PixelSlime launched free, and is probably not selling great but has resisted freeness since (maybe due to below).

5. Once Free, Less Likely to Have Future Sales: Once a game goes free once it seems less likely to have another sale in the near future. I speculate this is because once a developer freebies the game it is often a last ditch marketing strategy and unless successful indicates the developer is abandoning the project.

6. Big Name Developers Are More Likely to Slash Prices: Companies like Gameloft, Capcom, and EA will not retain their value. These publishers can afford to reduce rates and likely see iOS as a secondary market. This is in time with developers repeating marketing strategies across products (mentioned above).

7. Holidays = Savings: Games are more likely to go on sale during holidays. Appvent alone keeps me from purchases in the last quarter of the year.

8. Developers Who Give Out Promo Codes Are More Likely to Freebie: Developers who are more liberal about posting promo codes in the promo code forum are more likely to freebie their game in the near future. Many times I've missed out on promos only to see the game go free shortly afterward. Most recently Awesome Land is an example of this. Marketing a game by releasing promo codes, even limited amounts, seems to correspond with free price drop within 2 months.

9. Promises of Big Future Updates Are Hint of Corresponding Discount: Developers who hint at a huge update coming in the future are likely to slash prices when that update arrives. Speed Blazers is a recent example. I think hinting at a large update is one way of hyping the game in "inflated price" early release timeframe to pull in consumers before a developer anticipates dropping the price. This is especially true if the update will include DLC/IAP (see Galaxy of Fire 2).
Hi UndeadCow,

Great write up! We developed speed blazers which is our first game and yes every developer is forced to drop prices to get noticed. We dropped prices to see how the consumer feels with our game since we are new to mobile development. We learnt a lot since our game was released and yes it is not complete with all levels and it is not perfect. BUT we do promise a massive update for Free which is not often done recently because of the Free In app purchasing models have come into play.

As a developer we see that In app purchasing is the way to go whilst selling games really cheap for a dollar. A lot of developers are opting free to play which has the in app purchasing model to some combat the amount of people downloading pirate stuff that drastically hits every developer.

I know a lot are not super happy with In app purchasing, but the reality is that is the only way a lot of developers big and small are surviving just to pay bills and eat and enjoy what we are making/doing.

Will be keeping an eye on this thread cause its great to see what people think about sale / price indications.
02-26-2012, 10:03 PM
#7
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: India
Posts: 964
I think a largely universal rule is that a game, if priced more than $0.99 will go on sale, within 2-3 months of release. This could mean 4.99 going to 1.99 or 9.99 going to 4.99 or stuff going all the way to 0.99. (Of course there are exceptions like RocketCat and Cave) I suppose paying the full price can be labeled as an early adopter premium, which I largely avoid these days, because of the huge game back-log I have.

I really want to understand how much does a 0.99 sale impact sales. As I see it, people not on TA or equivalent websites (if any), will not be greatly affected by the sales at all. I would assume that these people constitute a larger % of the market. The way these people would buy games are things that appear in new & noteworthy, or are highly rated in the charts. If so, sales shouldn't be impacted a great deal by a price slash, unless it goes down all the way to free, in which case the downloads would be high... obviously my understanding about all this is very fuzzy.

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02-26-2012, 10:08 PM
#8
Joined: Dec 2010
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 9,494
Quote:
Originally Posted by ninja7711 View Post
...As a developer we see that In app purchasing is the way to go whilst selling games really cheap for a dollar. A lot of developers are opting free to play which has the in app purchasing model to some combat the amount of people downloading pirate stuff that drastically hits every developer...
It is a sad marketplace. I want to support quality games but a lot of the dodgy price games developers seem to play are uncool. I regret that it seems consumer unwillingness to pay a fair price for games has resulted in lowering the quality threshold of games and encouraging developers to resort to IAP funding. I know IAP seems to be the current direction but I feel like IAP price models will fail for the same reason up-front price games are shaky (consumers will be unwilling to pay for IAP too). Games like Infinity Blade or some of the Square Enix ports that have rocketed to the top 50 at higher price tags hopefully suggest that consumers will pay high prices for quality products. If developers release revolutionary games or with polished graphics then I'm thinking they will get compensated (Battleheart is another example). The key is competitive game design. Good luck with Speed Blazers, you guys are in no way guilty of questionable pricing but were just a memorable example of mild discount to advertise an update.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dazarath View Post
I very much agree with most of your points, except 4+5. I feel like once a developer has "cracked the seal" so to speak (similar idea to 8), it's almost guaranteed that the game will drop in price again sometime in the future, usually multiple times...
Fair point... some games (like Mechanic Panic or Aliens Versus Heroes) go free very frequently while others (like Dungeon Hunter 1 or for a while Civilization Revolution) drop in price then go back up seemingly indefinitely. It is hard to predict.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spidey View Post
I really want to understand how much does a 0.99 sale impact sales...
Zeboyd Games published an editorial about their Xbox Live $0.99 price drop.

Last edited by undeadcow; 02-26-2012 at 10:12 PM.
02-27-2012, 03:44 AM
#9
Joined: Jan 2011
Location: England
Posts: 10,656
I dont mind price drops one bit, if anything it try and buy a game early so the devs get maximum profit.

My fear is more and more devs jump to Android or other platforms if their profits start falilng because of free apps/people waiting/no one buying IAP's then it'll start the decline of the app store and iOS gaming in general.

So i think if company x sells a lot of units instantly and make more money then they'll be encouraged to make another game for iOS in the future due to high profits.

I mean if we ALL dont buy game x, then game x drops to 99c and then a few of us buy it, but then the mean people wait for it to be free and then they all get it then, that company will think 'no point making games on iOS, just not making the money, everyone wants a bargain at 99c or the game to be free, they moan if we put IAP's in to try and make money, lets move on.'

So if anything i think the reverse, forget early sales (I mean how much do you often save, perhaps a buck ,come on !) or moaning when the price drops, just help the devs by buying early !

If games were $24.99 i could understand but you still get people with a game like a $1.49 waiting for a price drop ?!
02-27-2012, 10:58 PM
#10
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 603
@psj3809 - I don't think there's any danger of developers moving on from iOS because of this "race to the bottom". People have been talking about it for almost as long as the App Store has been around, and while the average selling price of a paid app is barely over a dollar, the total amount of money flying through the ecosystem as a whole continues to grow as the number of iOS devices being sold continues to shatter records. At the very least Android isn't going to entice people away - my paid apps over there represented about 5% of my bottom line last year, and 99% of my support costs :P. Bottom line: there's a ton of money to be made on the App Store, even at a dollar, without having to resort to offensive monetization schemes. People's expectations on price are awfully distorted, but I wouldn't worry about developers fleeing en masse. Obviously the last 3 years haven't scared many people away, quite the contrary.