Bolt Creative: We need to be frank with gamers and explain why we need micro-transactions

Next Pocket God update has 99c customisation pack

Bolt Creative: We need to be frank with gamers and explain why we need micro-transactions
One of the most significant iPhone games to announce it will be supporting micro-transactions in its next update, is Bolt Creative's million-selling Pocket God.

As revealed by programmer Dave Castlenuovo - after 26 updates to the basic game - it's the only way the company can continue to create the near weekly new content for a game that now seems to be reaching saturation point in terms of attracting new users.

But as he explains, the challenge will to tell gamers why this will create better games for them to play and isn't motivated by greed on the part of developers.

Pocket Gamer: What micro-transactions will Pocket God have?

Dave Castelnuovo: Our next update will offer Skin Packs that users can purchase for 99c (€0.79, 59p) that will allow them to customise the island and objects that the pygmies can already interact with.

The first skin pack will be for the T-Rex and offer five complete skins, multiple hats and tattoos that you can use to customise it.

We will still offer all new update functionality for free so existing users don't need to purchase the skin packs to enjoy our episodic content.

Will you ever be able to charge more than the 99c iPhone minimum?

Not for Pocket God but I'm sure that different games may try to charge more than 99c. It really comes down to perceived value from the user. If someone creates four hours of content for a really good game, I am sure you could charge more than 99c for it.

Would it help if the minimum price was lower than 99c?

Yes, this would be very helpful. Considering most apps cost 99c, a single 99c micro-transaction almost needs to have the same value proposition as the entire game.

While it's possible to get around this by creating your own in-game currency and selling functionality for a fraction of the initial in-app purchase, building this kind of system in a secure manner takes a bit more development than a lot of indie teams have available.

How big an issue or concern is the lagging of iPod touch owners to update to OS 3.0/3.1?

The only reason why a user would stick with OS 2.2 is because they are cost conscience so I don't think it will take away from our in-app purchase strategy.

As of yesterday 25 percent of our users are still operating with OS 2.2. We can still support those users with all our future updates but they just can't participate in some of our advanced features.

I think this content they are missing out on and Apple's recent decision to reduce the price of OS 3.0 will hopefully convert users at a faster rate.

How significant would it be if Apple enabled in-app transactions for free games?

I think it would drastically change the layout of the App Store. If Apple enables it, I think everyone will eventually be forced to follow this model just like they are being forced into the 99c price point today.

I know a lot of companies are pushing for this but I can't tell if it will increase the amount of money spent on the App Store. Speaking for myself, I buy a lot of games that I don't spend much time on, so my monthly spend will probably be reduced. On the other hand, it might open the door to higher in-app price points for games that are truly compelling.

What benefits do you think micro-transactions provide for gamers?

At the end of the day, when a gamer finds a game they really like, they want the team to continue to support and add new content to it.

Without micro-transactions, the only way a team can justify on-going development is if they have a constant stream of new users which is not sustainable over a long period of time.

In this way micro-transactions allow the core user base to financially support development, which means that it makes financial sense for the team to cater to their specific needs rather than adding fluff features in order to attract new users.

How do you think developers can overcome the backlash from some gamers about micro-transactions?

We need to be frank with gamer and explain the how the big picture of micro-transactions affects the development roadmap. Whether or not a single micro-transaction is actually worth 99c isn't the issue. It all comes down to how long a team can afford to support a game and what type of user they are developing for.

Without in-app purchases, a developer needs to focus on convincing new users to buy their app rather than keep their core users happy.

If you are a core user and can throw a buck or two a month into your favourite games, then you become the driving force in its revenue stream and have a greater voice in the direction of future content and development, even outside of the micro-transactions themselves.

Thanks to Dave for his time

You can keep up-to-date with Bolt Creative's activity via its blog and the Pocket God twitterfeed.

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.