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Wonderland: hard to make money on iPhone games with up-front charge

Ex-Lionhead dev says Godfinger more popular than any of his retail games

Matthew Wiggins of mobile developer Wonderland, creator of the chart-topping Godfinger, has claimed that charging any price for an iPhone game is a mistake.

Following the Canada-only release in March, Godfinger went to no 1 in the charts in 36 hours with no promotion. It also topped the charts come its worldwide release in June.

While he did not reveal just how many downloads Godfinger had seen, the former Lionhead developer revealed that "It's big, it's really big. In the space of a week you can have more people playing a game certainly than any of the games in a box I've ever worked on, and I've worked on some pretty successful games."

Wiggins, who was talking at this year's Develop conference in Brighton, prescribed the success to the game being free up-front, citing that this meant there was "no excuse" for it to not be on the bulk of the 100 million iPhones worldwide.

"The difference between free and any cost is enormous," he said. "If you could price apps at 1 cent, the difference in number of downloads between completely free and 1c would be about the same as it is [for 99 cent to $9.99 games]. The problem is you have to think about it before you hit download. You really don't want to put people in that position.

"From a creative point of view, you're just desperate for people to play. If they don't have a chance to see it doesn't matter how hard you worked. [Going free] is removing a huge barrier, and it's giving us an absolutely huge market. You want the largest player-base you can. There's 100 million IOS devices out there. If it's free, all 100 million devices have no excuse to not have your game on them.

"This is the closest I've ever been to the business and the creative worlds colliding. Previously you didn't have to worry about how much it cost, now these two things are really closely related. They shouldn't be in conflict with each other."

Godfinger is funded by virtual currency and in-game advertising. Wiggins also celebrated the era of social and mobile development as "a return to games for all."

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Alec Meer


A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.