09 September 2012

Universal Language

We spoke before on the price of King of Dragon Pass in the App Store. Unlike other online stores (like Steam or Amazon.com) there’s no way I know of to do A/B testing of price on the App Store (price reductions are noticed and retweeted before any PR we may choose to do, so they become publicity events in their own right). So I can’t empirically say that we chose the best price. It does seem like it wasn’t a horrible mistake. I think the basic message of “this is a valuable product” has come through, it has given us some flexibility for the occasional sale (ironically, even our sale price probably looks like a premium price given the state of the App Store), and there’s probably some benefit to the large number of App Store reviews saying things like
“Worth every penny!”
“Wow this game is fantastic, don't be discouraged by the price it's absolutely worth every penny.”
“Well worth the price.”
“Do not fear the price point. You will extract the value over and over.”
“It's worth every dollar.”
iPad was released while the game was still in development, but too late for us to take advantage of. Once we figured out a design that would work on iPad, it didn’t take any time at all to know that it would be a Universal version — one that runs on both iPhone and iPad. And that it would be the only version.

A Sharp is a development studio, and I wouldn’t say we have a lot of expertise in marketing. But here’s the rationale.

It’s obviously simpler for a developer to have only one version to maintain, but the code base would be essentially the same, so that wasn’t really a factor. More importantly, we knew that a lot of our players were using iPads. How would they feel if (like some games) we released a separate version they’d need to buy?
“Total different from those "money machine" games.”
“Wow thanks so much for the universal support on this app! It really says a lot about a developer who is willing to add universal support instead of forcing users to buy another separate app! Wonderful support!”
Just flip those comments around. Also, this would be an ongoing issue, as people bought the iPhone version but later bought iPads.

While we might be able to price separate iPhone and iPad versions differently and capture more of the market, we’d also be introducing more consumer confusion (which to buy? I might get an iPad for Christmas, I guess I should wait to see which version to get.) And if sales were divided between two versions, it’d be even less likely to appear in the App Store charts, which are one way to discover the game.

And, we had communicated that the game was a premium product. Premium products don’t annoy their owners. By trying to come up with clever ways to make more money, we’d undercut our own message, and likely end up making less. By staying true:
“What a great suprise! Most companies would have been more than happy to create a separate version to milk money from iphone owners who want to play on their iPad. This game rocks! Developer A Sharp rocks! Keep it up. You have a customer for life.”
So hopefully the Universal version not only is a better product, we’re using it to tell people it’s a quality product.


  1. You definitely made the right choices in the price department.

    KoDP is a quality game with a very long gameplay AND extreme replayability. People who want to play a game like this (instead of mindless app store filler) are prepared to pay a bit higher price, which, I must add, is still a steal, compared to the original PC version. We've had this discussion before.

    Great games create loyal fan bases, and KoDP is no exception. People stick with this game and give David useful feedback on it.

    Therefore I consider it a sign of loyalty from A Sharp to their fans, the fact that they don't ask for another payment when downloading the iPad version.

    By the way, I have both versions now, and I have to say, I like playing on my iPhone just a little bit better. It has nothing to do with the iPad version, I just like this game on my most portable device, so I can play in short bursts as well.

    1. There is something to be said for having a great game in your pocket, always with you. Being Universal means you don’t have to decide, and worry you got the wrong one.

    2. Wait, does this mean that I can play the same "game" on my iPad as I'm playing on my iPhone? The iPad version starts with the tutorial though, so I'm not sure

    3. You need to complete the tutorial and then start a new game hen you get a new device.

      And no, games do not synch.

    4. That's what I thought already

  2. I think I will write up a guest blog post on clan archetypes and roleplaying David, hopefully sometime this month. I'll let you know when it's done.

    I've beaten the long game on hard with all six types, and some are significantly more difficult than others, but roleplaying a distinct and unique clan makes the game come alive in ways you won't get if you play by always picking the "right" choices and going with what you know has worked in the past. You also get to experience content you otherwise might miss; if the clan you are roleplaying must act in certain ways regardless of the situation, you will often go with "sub optimal" choices and decisions, and get to see where they lead you. And of course, deal with the resulting consequences!

    1. Sounds interesting. I think the closest I have done was when I got Kallyr to be queen as a teen-ager, and always chose things she recommended.

    2. Wow, I am very impressed, LostInBlue. I found the game quite hard in the Normal mode, and I'm one of those people who's continually trying to pick the right answer, instead of following a certain unintuitive path. Looking forward to your guest blog.

  3. I was disappointed that I didn't get the chance to buy it again but I'm a fanatic :)

    1. Better to disappoint you than the majority :)

      You can always buy gift copies. And not gift them. (That would not be Orlanthi, however. And I do know a number of people have done this.)