The 99c iOS gamer is a myth: Consumers will pay more for quality, insists Telltale Games
The Walking Dead not slowed by $4.99 price tag
Telltale Games' latest iOS release is The Walking Dead, an episodic adventure game that first launched in April 2012 for PC and consoles.
But The Walking Dead on iOS is no cut-down port - to all intents and purposes, it's largely the same game.
As such, Telltale saw fit to issue it with the same price-tag as its close relatives on console and PC.
To find out about the challenges of bringing one title to these varied platforms, and how you decide a fair price for such a game, we spoke to Telltale Games' SVP of publishing Steve Allison.
Pocket Gamer: The Walking Dead for iOS is remarkably similar to the PC and console versions of the game. What technical challenges did that present, and what did you have to design differently for iOS devices?
Steve Allison: As we've seen the computing specs for smartphones and tablets rise rapidly to rival home consoles, we committed internally to the idea of ubiquitous content across as many platforms as possible for all of our titles.
The past year we invested a good amount of effort in bringing some of our catalogue titles over to iOS as well as doing some original iOS development on the Puzzle Agent and Hector titles.
This effort was so that we could get our technology there and to really understand what differences the touch control environment would dictate versus our other platforms while keeping the core content intact.
We learned a lot from each release about the optimal way for us to build touch screen UI, the control changes necessary, optimisations for each device and how to build the mobile apps to enable a different kind of distribution model than we see on PC and consoles.
The first title that really was in production along with the PC and console platforms from day one was The Walking Dead. Our goal was to keep the game experience on iOS as high quality as the PC and consoles.
For The Walking Dead we had to make some tough choices as to what iOS devices to support in order realise that goal, so we had to make the call to not support iPhone/iPod below 4s and the iPad 1.
Even then the iOS versions needed some specific asset tuning and tweaks to lighting versus PC and console versions.
Specifically on the touch devices we also created entirely new dialogue UI and control UI to drive the game so that the experience felt like it wasn't a port from a gamepad or keyboard/mouse experience; it's all worked out nicely.
Did you give much consideration to the different ways people play games on consoles and mobile devices?
Our episodic game format is designed for all platforms to be consumable in one sitting if a player chooses to, or in quick sessions.
Regardless of platforms, each episode generally has a target play time of about two hours and the pacing of our narrative is always built into smaller digestible chunks.
Those considerations that map to the mindset of what people would define as a mobile consumer are some core traits of how we build our content regardless of the platform.
How did you determine pricing on iOS? Each episode costs roughly $5 on Xbox Live Arcade, but iOS players may have rather different ideas about pricing...
We've had good success selling episodes of our other titles on the App Store for $6.99 on iPad and $4.99 on iPhone.
We knew The Walking Dead was shaping up to be a great touch screen experience and as our first universal iOS title that would also be available on console, $4.99 an episode is consistent with our past successful experiences on the App Store and with the pricing on other platforms.
The idea of a 99c gamer on iOS is more myth than fact, it's the quality and depth of each product that will drive the right price for consumers.
We've had a great initial launch as a top 10 title with no signs of slowing down and great feedback on the game from people who have bought the game for their iOS devices.
This is the right price for our game and it has not impeded our ability to get people interested in buying it.
Do you think that, moving forward, we're going to see more games launching on both consoles and mobile? Or is The Walking Dead a bit of an exception?
With the computing specs continuing to improve as new devices are introduced and older models phased out we will absolutely see a lot more of it.
Some content creators will do what we do and build their content ubiquitously for as many platforms as possible, tuning key aspects per platform.
Many others will build crossover experiences to multiplatform franchises that are more and more console quality, as opposed to huge steps down from their console/PC big brothers when the franchise appears on mobile.
These cross-platform experiences may be subsets of a larger console or PC experience providing cross-device benefits that are maximised when gamers play across devices and platforms.
Thanks to Steve for his time.
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Mitch (Dave Mitchell) | 15:14 - 6 August 2012
Great to see games doing well outside the 99c band but I don't think 99c gamers are a myth.
If you have a powerful brand and high quality product that players feel is worth the price tag, they will pay it. But a lot of games on the App Store are high quality and free.
Jon Jordan | 19:17 - 3 August 2012
Definitely true if you have access to a brand and/or the ability to demonstrate your game is very high quality.
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