$16 iPhone game rebels from cult of free

$16 iPhone game rebels from cult of free

By Rob Crossley

August 2nd 2011 at 3:51PM

Premium priced Final Fantasy may chart new path to mobile success

Square Enix has fled from the iPhone industry’s race to $0.99 by releasing a bold and already controversial premium priced title.

Final Fantasy Tactics, due on iPhone August 4th, will be charged at €12.99 and $15.99.

The price marks a significant breakaway from mobile game trends, as the weight of thousands of developers push iPhone app prices below the rock-bottom $0.99.

Many iPhone games are now completely free, with creators hoping to recoup costs with a delicatly balanced microtransaction model.

Many industry luminaries have warned of this trend. In particular, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently alerted the industry that cheap iPhone games were damaging the perceived value of games.

His theory, which is widely contested, is that the games industry won’t thrive if its content loses its premium value.

Other publishers, such as EA, are ignoring Iwata. Many well know franchises, from FIFA to Need For Speed, have flooded the App Store at rock-bottom prices. Coupled with the marketing might of EA, this tactic is seen to be pushing out the indies.

Around ten publisher make half the money from the top 300 iPhone games, according to independent data.

But Square Enix, with Final Fantasy Tactics, could be charting its own path to success on mobiles.

As mobile devices become more powerful, and the experiences become more premium, such software may seem appropriate launching at a higher price.

Whether the market will accept this strategy is a matter of debate. The ‘price hike’ already has vocal opponents,  even in some arms of the consumer press.