Comment & Opinion

Apple's best games of 2014 over-indexes paid content once again

Following critical not commercial acclaim

Apple's best games of 2014 over-indexes paid content once again

Continuing a trend that's been ongoing for 18 months, Apple's editorial teams in the US and UK generated lists of their 'best' (presumably favourite) games of 2014, both of which included more paid games than you'd expect.

That Monument Valley and Threes were feted as the Game of the Year, respectively for iPad and iPhone, wasn't a surprise, however.

Both games have received big promotional pushes from Apple throughout 2014; most recently during the charitable (Red) campaign.

Think different

Indeed, it could be argued both games have found critical acclaim and as much commercial success as can be expected as paid content in an ecosystem that's massively dominated by free-to-play content.

After all, as we pointed out at the start of the 2014, Apple's power to push paid content isn't as strong as many may think.

Nevertheless, that 12 of the 28 titles highlighted in the Best of 2014 list in the US and 13 of the 26 titles highlighted in the UK were paid games suggests that Apple remains determined to highlight the sort of content it thinks will differentiate it from Google Play /Android, rather than what iOS users are actually playing.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.


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Darren Williams
Hmm. The idea of "over indexed" is an odd stance to take. It feels quite defensive.
This entirely subjective list from Apple is a favorites list, plain and simple so why be so shocked?
Across all entertainment media the awards season, as ridiculous as it is, does at least mostly aspire to acknowledging quality as opposed to ratings (MTV aside of course...).
Step outside games for one second and look at TV. Amongst the most widely watched shows (at least in my adopted home of the US) are shows such as Modern Family, Blue Bloods, Dancing With The Stars, CSI, Two and A Half Men and 2 Broke girls. Successful? Yes. Profitable? One has to assume so. Popular? Clearly, given the rankings. Memorable? Almost certainly not. Methinks that shows such as True Detective, Mad Men and Masters of Sex will linger far longer in the memory and boast greater enduring legacies regardless of their smaller viewership. FYI Mad Men is not in the top 50 most watched show in the US despite it's cultural impact.
The point of this?
Perhaps TV - as maligned as it is - has a mature model and a clear idea of each shows "role". Populist shows are designed, built and tweaked to be populist. Do CBS care when people knock Big Bang Theory? Probably not as they are too busy looking at the ratings. Likewise, do HBO or increasingly Netflix take all decisions based upon populism, or are they looking for other rewards? For example, was Arrested Development Season 4 a revenue play or a branding play?
The F2P industry is full of intimidatingly intelligent people. Almost all projections see mobile (admittedly phone and tablet combined) become the number one segment in gaming by 2017. Christ, Tencent are forecast to own 10% of the global market! F2P is a money driven industry - every metric and success story is based upon installs and revenue.
So to weep and sneer when others in the industry don't celebrate F2P games in term of "quality", and to suggest that there is some ulterior motive or conspiracy to keep F2P games down, is at least a little insecure.
F2P is destined to swallow the majority of gaming's money - that is it's design and sole purpose. Is the industry now supposed to become slack jawed and servile and to only worship those with the biggest install base?
jon jordan
Nothing from Apple is subjective...

Personally I think given the enormous creative and commercial evolution that's happening in F2P mobile gaming, Apple could occasionally throw the sector a bone, rather than sitting safe and pretty, highlighting the paid game segment.

And to be clear, it's not just Apple, but the the old school/hardcore gaming clique, which is where Apple recruited its App Store editorial team from.
Darren Williams
Jon, F2P publishers dominate the industry. Do they need to be thrown a bone? I'm not suggesting that they be excluded nor they be scorned, but why the plea for critical favor in a segment that was built on the basis of mass installs and long tail revenue?
A great many times I have chatted with UA folks and the recurrent thread was that reviews and PR don't drive installs. While that early bullishness is dimming in light of the extreme market saturation we're now seeing, the early days of F2P (and the explosive success seen in the early phase) was characterized by a strong belief that the old ways were irrelevant. Data, optimization and iteration were the new drivers. So why now plead for critical mindshare?
The industry will settle and myriad ways to skin this particular cat will emerge. Different approaches, strategies and tactics will be tried the marketing rulebook be rewritten over and over again.
Yet at this stage to hear a plea for critical love from a F2P that has been ruthlessly profit driven feels a little like a plea to have their cake and eat it.
It's hard to be rich and popular.
Tom Ricket Partner at Inert Soap, LLC
I'm a bit confused, also. The statement, "Nevertheless, that 12 of the 28 titles highlighted in the Best of 2014 list in the US and 13 of the 26 titles highlighted in the UK were paid games..." seems to indicate that Apple is more than "throwing the sector a bone."

Personally, as both a developer and an avid iOS game player, I'm quite happy to see that even if paid games aren't getting a 50% share of attention, Apple is highlighting a bunch of them. Paid games (Kingdom Rush, The Room, etc.) tend to provide me with far more entertainment than their Freemium cousins.