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Whale Trail Android release is "litmus test" for premium pricing

UsTwo co-founder Matt Mills claims he was wrong to avoid freemium model

UsTwo co-founder Matt Mills has claimed that the Android release of its iOS game Whale Trail this week could be company's final "premium" priced release.

In a statement acquired by PocketGamer.biz, Mills explained that the 140,000 downloads Whale Trail received on iOS did not cover its production costs - the game is priced at 99c /69p on the App Store, but UsTwo invested $250,000 to develop both versions.

"We had invested a lot of money making and marketing a game for the masses and it failed to reach the masses," he said.

"Although we're still getting around 500 to 700 downloads a day on iOS, we quite rightly feel it's not enough for a game of such quality. So our conclusion is that we were wrong to go premium."

The Android release will also be priced at 99c/69p, and Mills wants 45,000 downloads in the "first few months" on sale as a "litmus test" for the viability of charging for high-quality games on mobile platforms.

"If we shift less than this, then we can safely say premium is no longer sustainable for UsTwo and others like us in terms of investment," he added. "We simply need to see ROI over a shorter time period."

"This is a chance to see if Android users accept or reject a game that has so far cost £250,000 across both platforms to create and market and continually update with new content."

In August, 2011, Mills wrote an editorial for PocketGamer.biz about the company's decision to, "remain as far away as possible from the F-word - freemium," for Whale Trail's iOS release.

"The last time I looked, gaming was about art, playability, enjoyment and fun, not about complex ways of getting users to spend money on items that don't actually exist in the real world."

"Besides, we don't have the time or patience to study the mechanics, infrastructure and psychology needed to make a freemium game actually work."

However, while many developers are still uncomfortable with the free-to-play model, a number of studies published in 2011 indicated that freemium downloads and revenue are dominating the smartphone business.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.