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App Store Analysis: The slide to a 99c standard continues apace

Average price of Top 100 is lowest to date
App Store Analysis: The slide to a 99c standard continues apace

In a week when Nigel Little, MD of experienced mobile developer Distinctive claimed you couldn't be profitable with 99c cent games if your development costs were greater than $40,000, the Top 100 of the US App Store was once again dominated by 99c games.

Cog-based physics game Geared entered the chart at #1, PlayFirst's remake of its casual web brand Cooking Dash was at #3, while zombie survival game Alive 4-ever was at #5.

The average price of the top 10 slipped from $2.59 last week to $2.19, while the average price of the entire Top 100 fell 10 percent from $2.69 to $2.43, its lowest since we started our weekly analysis of the App Store in July.

Underlying the problem of pricing, the most expensive highest new entry was Digital Chocolate's Jurassic 3D Rollercoaster Rush which costs $4.99 and entered the chart at a lowly #75.

In fact, it's becoming increasingly clear that only the largest and best financed publishers - i.e. EA Mobile, Gameloft, Digital Chocolate and PopCap Games - can sustain releases priced at $4.99 or more.

Indeed, when a big web licenses such as Luxor (released by MumboJumbo and ngmoco's Plus+ Publishing arm) are priced at 99c, it's time to start seriously worrying how sustainable a business the App Store will be longterm.

Innovation but too cheap

Still developers are demonstrating plenty of innovation, even if they're cutting off their noses to provide gamers with the privilege.

New 99c entries this week included Chillingo's side-scrolling shooter Inkvaders at #19, cute action-strategy game Aqua Globs 99c at # 26, while online robot shooter iMech 99c was at #47.

IUGO's Spy Bot Chronicles re-entered the chart, currently at #64, despite reverting to its original $3.99 price.

Konami's classic Frogger ($1.99) jumped seven places to #2, Sheep Launcher Plus! (99c) six place to #4, while Namco's decision to cut the price of Pac-Man REMIX from $4.99 to $2.99, boosted it 23 places to #54.

At least EA Mobile and Sony demonstrated pricing stability could work with their respective $4.99 games: The Game Of Life: Classic Edition and Wheel of Fortune. The Game Of Life climbed 13 places to #6, and Wheel of Fortune 23 places to #42.

Many 'expensive' licences didn't fare so well however this week, with $4.99 games such as id's Doom Resurrection and Gameloft's Guitar Rock Tour 2 dropping right out of the Top 100.

Gameloft's $6.99 Gangstar: West Coast Hustle - which was only released last week - dropped five places to #33.

Almost half the Top 100 is 99c

As previously started, price deflation hit the Top 100 this week. The average prices of games in the top 10 and the top 20 were down. They are still higher than at the start of August though, thanks to the presence of games from EA Mobile, Gameloft and 2K.

This is positive as it shows a lot of people are prepared to buy certain games at prices much higher than 99c.

Yet, 49 games in the Top 100 were priced at 99c, while the most expensive games are three that cost $6.99: Gameloft's Gangstar: West Coast Hustle, EA Mobile's The Sims 3 and Taito's Cooking Mama.

$4.99 and $2.99 are now well established as the obvious price points for 'premium' product.

EA Mobile muscles ahead

EA Mobile continues to demonstrate its ability week-on-week to build up a powerbase in the Top 100, thanks to its pipeline of new games, and it's flexible pricing policy.

Re-entry of CLUE ($2.99 at #85) boosted the publisher to having 14 games in the Top 100: its highest total to-date.

Gameloft remains at 11 in the Top 100, with two 99c games re-entering the chart: Rise of Lost Empires at #40 and Castle of Magic at #43. Guitar Rock Tour 2 and Ferrari GT: Evolution drop out.

Chillingo boosts itself back to five games in the Top 100 thanks to Inkvaders (#19) and Touch Magic (#90), although Touch K.O. drops out from #59 last week. The publisher has singularly demonstrated its inability to sustain any price point higher than 99c.

In contrast, PopCap Games and Digital Chocolate remain bastions of stability with the same number of games and the same average price over the past four weeks.