Apple’s meteoric rise from a non-entity in the video game industry to one of its most powerful players has everything to do with the economics of the iTunes App Store. The iPhone is an industry defining product, as are the iPod Touch and the iPad, but the secret sauce that keeps people spending on iOS games is low pricing. When a new, substantial game is just $5 or even 99-cents away, it’s not difficult to separate players from their money.
That’s why Square-Enix is such a baffling iOS publisher. The revered RPG maker has earned a reputation for its expensive mobile titles, with ports of old RPGs like Chrono Trigger priced regularly at $20 and up. With the new original Final Fantasy Dimensions scraping the upper range—it was originally priced at $29 before dropping down to $20—Square has shed some light on why it goes against the iOS grain.
“We are aware of both the positive and negative opinions on this matter,” reads a message from the Dimensions staff to Siliconera, “[Final Fantasy Dimensions] offers about fifty hours of gameplay, and we feel that our community can enjoy the contents of this game as much as they would a console title. Also, we have set the price where it is because this title was developed specifically for the mobile platform, as opposed to just being a port of an older console or handheld game. I hope our long-time fans will feel the nostalgia, while our younger fans will find this game to be refreshing and new.”
The nostalgia factor is born of Final Fantasy Dimensions’ style. Its two-dimensional sprite graphics and chiptune soundtrack were made to mimic the Final Fantasy games of the early ‘90s on Super Nintendo. The price shouldn’t make players nostalgic, though. Super Nintendo Square RPGs like Final Fantasy III often cost as much as $70 when they were first released two decades back. Square’s iOS releases are not just affordable by comparison but cheap.
Still the pricing of Dimensions demonstrates that the business of iOS game publishing is still very much in flux, changing with each release. Chilingo offers game like Puzzle Craft whose campaigns last for 30 hours or more for just 99-cents. By the same token, Square has sold games like Demon’s Score that are relatively short, but costs $44 for all the content. Considering how quickly Dimensions’ price has dropped, it appears that Square is rushing to find the sweet spot for iOS succes.