As consumers, we have a weird kind of cognitive dissonance when it comes to our mobile technology. For some reason we're willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a cell phone and sign up for a subscription plan that ends up costing hundreds more per year, but if a developer asks us to shell out two measly dollars for an app, we practically laugh in their face. After all, mobile apps should only be a buck, right?
Obviously consumers don't draw these lines arbitrarily; they're typically set by the market. However, historically speaking, markets tend to fluctuate based on consumer demand and perceived value. But these days, technology firms are able to manipulate things like perceived value, which means that they have significantly more control over the pricing of their product. This is why tech companies have practically carved their pricing into stone, and service providers can afford to implement ever-climbing payment plans.
But all of this isn't even the problem. I'm happy with my phone and I'll probably be happy with the next one. I don't mind shelling out money every month for my service plan, provided that it does what I pay for. The problem is that these companies are financial gatekeepers for app developers, and we continuously let them dictate what a dollar is actually worth.
Just to give you a bit of context; when the App Store launched in 2008, consumers were excited to download versions of their favorite titles for less than half of what they would have paid on a console. Apple's draconian policies and advertisement strategies had created an environment where it was nearly impossible for developers to compete unless they undercharged and hoped that the app would explode in popularity.
These days Apple is a bit less domineering, but the effects of their original policies haven't exactly worn off. Sure, developers have more control over their pricing structure, but consumers are less likely to buy an app unless it's within the range that we're used to. Unfortunately, that range foists a razor-thin profit margin onto the developer. Granted, there are a few success stories out there, like Angry Birds. But for every hit there are hundreds of misses, and many, if not most, of them end with the developer closing its doors.
Now, I'm not putting all the blame on Apple here, but they shouldn't be the one telling us how much our money is worth. After all, they don't really care how much developers make on any of these products. They're only worried about whether or not their customers have a positive experience. And, while this is an admirable sentiment on the surface, it sort of leaves the developers in the lurch.
See, developers want you to have a positive experience as well, but their product has to jump through significantly more hoops to get into your hands, and with every hoop comes a smaller profit margin.
Don't get me wrong. I like a good deal as much as the next guy, but I also genuinely care about the success of indie developers. Sure, Activision Blizzard, EA, and Ubisoft are going to get a pretty good chunk of my paycheck, but when the average price of a developer's product is forcibly capped at $2.99, and half of that money is being scalped by the delivery system, there's really no incentive for a developer to invest. When businessmen have so little control over their product, the market always suffers.
So, now that we understand the issue, it's probably time to dole out the blame.
Just like ripping off a Band-Aid, I'm going to make this short: we are the problem. The real blame belongs to those of us who have decided that two dollars is too high for an app. See, every time we avoid an app—or worse, download a cracked version—we just further dilute the developers' desire to invest quality material into the market. Yes, the mobile market is currently the fastest growing market in the gaming industry, but don't confuse growth with profit. And don't try to rationalize yourself out of tossing a bit of cash at a company who created something you dig.
So go ahead and jailbreak your iPhones, root the android OS, and crack your Windows devices. I'm not pretending to be your parent, and I'm certainly not a policeman. What I'm saying is that the people who enjoy gaming also enjoy supporting it.
And if you're the type of guy who's planning to post a poorly phrased comment about how you can't afford to buy all the games you want to play, let me stop you right there. That's the same argument that you're going to be using to justify living in your parents' basement for the next thirty years, so don't waste it on me.
Remember, sometimes the best gaming system is the one that you're already holding. So support it.
Date: June 4, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*