Chair: App Store should support more high-end games

But Infinity Blade studio says Apple is coming around to gaming and "looping" industry into new developments

Chair Entertainment's CEO and CTO, Donald and Geremy Mustard, have said that they'd love for Apple's App Store to do more to support higher-end, big budget iOS titles such as Infinity Blade, because the current layout is too weighted in favour of 59 pence titles. spoke to the pair at Epic's stand at San Fransisco's GDC earlier this month, where they spoke quite frankly about what they'd like to see in terms of evolution from the runaway success of the platform's storefront.

"It certainly affects our visibility to people looking for the game," said Donald when asked how the current layout affected Infinty Blade's exposure. "The first thing that people see is the top apps, and those are all by numbers so, yeah, if you're a 99 cent game then you're going to have a lot more numbers than say a $5.99 game.

"That totally affects the charts. I would love for it to not be that way. I would love for it to be something that didn't actively encourage 99 cent applications to be so prevalent. But, that's entirely Apple's call. It's their store.

"I wish and long for a day when that would change, because it would help encourage developers to not feel like they had to make their app 99 cents. I think that if we're really going to get applications and games... To create something of the quality of Infinity Blade costs a considerable amount of money. It was almost hard to justify selling it at $5.99, let alone 99 cents.

"We want to play more games of the scope and production value of Infinity Blade, and it would be great if the App Store could support that more widely."

"Well yeah, I would agree," continued brother and CTO Geremy. "I think to encourage developers of any sort of app to create something that's of the quality level of Infinity Blade, that's requires them to sell enough to justify that cost. If we want to see that trend continue in that direction, and we want to see more games like Infinity Blade that are high-resolution, fully realised 3D worlds, versus flash-based games like we're used to on the iPhone - that's what you get when you're targeting 99 cents. If you're targeting something higher then you can get something more.

It was almost hard to justify selling it at $5.99, let alone 99 cents.

Donald Mustard, CEO, Chair Entertainment.

"So yeah, I agree, I believe all that Apple has to do is to swap the top paid category with the top grossing tab, make the top grossing tab the first one you see. That would solve that, make it so it's more about how much money you're actually making. So it really would show the quality games, or the quality apps, versus whatever happens to be the current fad of whatever people are into."

However, the executives certainly believe that Apple is heading in the right direction, coming around to the idea that games are going to become a core pillar of its business.

"Their attitude to games has certainly changed," said Donald. "Three years ago, I believe you could find quotes of them saying 'the iPhone is not a gaming device', regardless of how many games were on there. But now it's undeniable, their attitudes are definitely changing."

"They're coming to us more for advice about changes to hardware," continued Geremy. "They're looping the games industry into their thoughts. Whether they like it or not is one question, but they obviously see the benefit.

"What are the numbers? I believe it's something like over 50 per cent of the revenue that they make on the App Store, is from games. They definitely see that it's a huge, huge market."

For a full transcript of the interview, head to the front page.

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Latest comments (15)

Ralph Barbagallo CEO, FLARB LLC11 years ago
You are fighting a losing war if you are trying to transform the audience's purchasing habits to fit your pricing model.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game11 years ago
"top grossing" doesn't make sense to the general public. And you would get people arguing 10000 people buying the tom tom app at £59 being on the same level as cut the rope selling 1 million at 59p just is going to really confuse people who can't be bothered to delve that deeply into the meaning.

It works on cinema becuase within a territory, tickets are simalar prices, ok £2 more for 3D here, 50pextra after 6pm there, £1.50 less for under 15s, but broadly it's similar. With a possible range of 59p(or free) to £599 it makes absolutely no sense. Even with cinema, I bet a good deal of people think gross directly equates to ticket sales.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andrew Goodchild on 14th March 2011 9:20am

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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 11 years ago
I agree with the drive of this argument. But not the proposed solution.

The bottom line is Apple needs to talk to developers more, and perhaps invest in the odd long-shot with some assistance. Rather than simply giving the publishers who already have budget and presence yet more advantages to sell mobile-adverts for AAA titles. I kind of hoped we'd see some of this support with the new faces they brought to the App Store team a few months back.

In our case we have had a title under development for over a year, and because we are already Alpha testing we have registered the name on the App Store. Unfortunately we are constantly fighting an uphill battle to keep the name we have registered because Apple wants to delete it after 120 days. We alternate between being completely ignored, or getting a boiler plate reply from Apple on the subject of simply keeping a Trademarked name. Despite showing them adequate proof that our project is genuine.

Of course from Apple's perspective we should just sue anyone who uses our name once we are ready to publish, I guess!

The expectation that quality software can be pushed out in 120 days is stupid. And shows an underlying problem with Apple's attitude towards the large majority of iOS developers. They're hobbyists, as far as Apple are concerned. Until they start shifting huge volumes. And then they are a commodity.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Stephen Northcott on 14th March 2011 9:41am

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Show all comments (15)
Tom Keresztes Programmer 11 years ago

We normally do iphone games in 6-8 weeks, if it takes longer than 6 weeks, we lose money. Just because something is narrow in scope does not mean it could not be a quality title.
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 11 years ago

I hear you. I am not saying that games with a narrow scope == crap.
What I am saying is that if you want to put something together which has got more depth then the App Store is very developer unfriendly.

There is no reason why both cannot exist side by side.

Especially now that we are starting to get devices which are much more capable.
Our title is aimed at, and always has been aimed at, iPhone 4 and up.
Believe it or not we started R&D on the title when the iPhone first came out. :)
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Spungo McGee Reviewer 11 years ago
"It was almost hard to justify selling it at $5.99, let alone 99 cents."

Yes, it is hard to justify that, because the game's been making a lot MORE money at lower prices. At the end of February, Infinity Blade was at No.77 in the Top-Grossing charts. On 2nd March they cut the price from $5.99 to $2.99 and the game shot up to No.1, where it stayed until they put the price back up a few days later, at which point it dropped to No.5 (and very probably lower by now).

Developers need to get over their ideological block about low prices. Time and time and time and time and time again - with all sorts of digitally-distributed games, not just iOS - it's been proven that you make MORE money the lower your price gets. Publishing executives have a religious problem with accepting that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Spungo McGee on 14th March 2011 2:44pm

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David Bachowski VP Business Development, Babaroga11 years ago
@Spungo - Just because sales shoot up during sales does not mean they will stay there after the initial boost wears off. I do agree that lower price points can keep the application higher up in the regular app rankings, but sometimes over the long haul it makes sense for a higher price point for premium products.
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Spungo McGee Reviewer 11 years ago
Check out this post for a lot of data suggesting that lower prices mean more revenue in pretty much all circumstances, however extended the time period:

[link url=

And of course, note also that most of the top-grossing games - not just the top-selling ones - are 59p games.
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Megan Fox Programmer, NetDevil11 years ago
@Spungo - in the current marketplace, yes, that's true, largely for the aformentioned reasons (ie. lower prices equate to more sales which has the effect of knocking you up in the Top Sales lists which in turn helps your visibility and in turn increases sales). The point is that with that model, you can only push your budget so far, as Tom mentions. 6 weeks, 8 maybe, 3 months on the absolute outside, or you're risking too much, given that the only real possibilities are anemic sales or explosive sales. Hugely risky.

The point of this article is that if you could somehow get away from that, somehow create a market for higher-priced titles that allowed them to sell well even at a higher price, you'd be able to bump up operating budgets and make larger games. Of course that assumes there is such a market in mobile, substantial number of people willing to pay for higher quality games that just can't find them right now due to the bias toward listings-by-sales - who knows if that's actually the case.

Personally, I'm of the mind that such a market capable of supporting quite a few higher-budget titles likely exists, but we'll never really know for sure unless Apple switches up the store format. I'm not convinced that Top Grossing would be any better. I wouldn't mind seeing movement toward a tiered system, though that really isn't ideal either. However they do it, this is the direction they'd need to move in to truly beat the GBA/DS/3DS/PSP/etc.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Megan Fox on 14th March 2011 7:28pm

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Spungo McGee Reviewer 11 years ago
"The point is that with that model, you can only push your budget so far, as Tom mentions. 6 weeks, 8 maybe, 3 months on the absolute outside, or you're risking too much, given that the only real possibilities are anemic sales or explosive sales. Hugely risky."

Um, isn't that the case for ALL big-budget games on ANY format at whatever price? However you slice it, low prices make more money, and more money is less risk. Infinity Blade has made millions of dollars, as far as I'm aware, and it's not even a very good game. Of course, low prices do put a ceiling on development cost because even really big sales will only make so much money, but anyone who wants to make a $20m iPhone game probably isn't the sharpest tool in the box anyway.
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Private Industry 11 years ago
Your average person isn`t going to care what`s the highest grossing app when looking at the App store he/she want`s to see whats the most downloaded one.

A more structured store might be better with more sub categories like top games in the price range for Free, top games 0.1 - 0.99 cents and so on so you are only shown with games in the same price range instead of having your full game with a higher price tag displayed next to the free and 00 cent stuff.
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos11 years ago
I actually agree with the poster. Purely from a sales perspective, it makes more sense to group titles in terms of gross sales.

The highest grossing are the most likely to make the most money for Apple and therefor should be placed at the top of the chart.

I think you could have other leader boards for "most units sold" and "best consumer rated" and such.
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London11 years ago
I generally agree with the rhetoric, but it's effectively just that..

Adoption of higher price, grander productions has to come from the consumer, and the developer will have to work hard to make that content and make it great in hope that the consumer hungry for the high end goes and buys it.. there are plenty that will if it's there and it's not like Infinity Blade had any trouble, and it made more than just about any title..

Apple can do things to be more open and more friendly however in a general sense.
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 11 years ago
By putting the "Top Grossing" Apps as the top list, "Top Selling" Apps as the second and "Top Free Apps as the third list I think you alleviate the problem.

People who like free stuff will go anywhere to get it free, including the bottom of the page (versus the middle).
Maybe "Top Grossing" needs to be relabeled to something more consumer friendly like "Most Popular (By Earnings)" or "Top Earners" "Highest Demand"... I don't know, something along those lines that indicates money and sales in laymen's terms.

As for supporting more expensive apps, NO. No more than what I mentioned above. We're seeing things get shaky on consoles at the moment. And my personal bias favors the App Store and seeing games updated and iterated to the audience's consensus of perfection.
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Jozsef Trencsenyi CEO, Lead Programmer, Artex Studios, Inc.11 years ago
OK! Let see the current top-grossing chart:

1. Tap Zoo (Free)
2. Tiny Wings ($0.99)
3. Angry Birds ($0.99)
4. Infinity Blade ($6.99)
5. Smurfs’ Village (Free)
6. Zombie Farm (Free)
7. Words With Friends ($2.99)
8. Call of Duty: Zombies ($4.99)
9. Angry Birds Seasons ($0.99)
10. Kingdoms at War (Free)

LOL! Where is the "high quality" games?! The top 3 are a "low quality" casual or social games. :D

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jozsef Trencsenyi on 16th March 2011 10:05am

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