Yesterday I was surprised by the price drop of popular game F.A.S.T. [iTunes Link
]I was delighted to see that after some time the game was being updated with some content. It was such good news that I even tweeted about it. How wrong could I be?
Similar to recently released by SGN
Skies of Glory, the new F.A.S.T. is free to download but contains heavy pay-per-play content. You can add maps, missions and aircraft through the in App Purchase in both games. I like this model of free apps that you can upgrade easily within the app. It is handy for the player, the impulse for paying is greater and you get to experience how the game feels like before spending a penny.
A different story is the price drop to free.
There has been a lot written and discussed about price changes used as strategy to boost sales. This is working and there are some many sites nowadays tracking every price change that the fact of making a change is going to be covered and people are going to talk about it. Yes, it is for bad. If I have realized of something is the panic of developers to 1 star reviews. If you want to spoil the ratings, change the price of your app and jeopardize all the customers that trusted in you in the first place. This has happened with many apps and games, and I used to get very annoyed when Gameloft would reduce the price of their games the day after I bought it. I'm sure we all agree it is a normal pattern in the AppStore, as apps get older, the price gets reduced. Only a handful of devs don't alter prices.
What happened with F.A.S.T. is a mixture of both, but the result of the cocktail is in my opinion, repulsive. The game was released last summer and was an immediate hit. Starting at $10, it dropped gradually until reaching the symbolic $0.99. I'm sure the marketing guys understand how some buyers might feel after seeing how the value of the game they decided to buy, decrease like that. Last thursday iTunes informs the F.A.S.T. has been updated and we all update. To my surprise, the game I bought was now free and I could get all the content after paying… again!
I was told this is called "to milk the cow":
[...] will soon be releasing a new free version of its smash hit game F.A.S.T., which has done over $1.8 million in sales before Apple’s cut. The new version of F.A.S.T. will feature an extensive array of virtual goods, which users will be able to purchase once they’ve downloaded the core game, which will be free. I also suspect that many (if not all) of SGN’s games will be released for free from here on out.
The Touch Arcade forums flamed. Current customers were upset about the decision and the lack of information given. Someone from SGN tried to explain the mess:
If you purchased the game at any point (when it was NOT free), you will NOT have to pay for any of the feature unlocks.
The feature unlocks that are currently in the FREE version of the game cost a total of $0.99 cents, which is the same price the game used to cost prior to the update. (ration: underline;">does not include content purchases, those are different from feature purchases)
So, if you have purchased FAST before the Free update, you will automatically have access to ALL features without having to buy an upgrade. If you downloaded FAST recently for FREE, you must pay $0.99 for those features.
I'm still very confused and don't want to attempt to explain it. Does anyone understand the sentence underlined? In my case I bought the paid version and played with it till mission 18. When I check, I'm being asked to pay for the extra missions after the 18th. I'm not impressed. Apparently there is a method for SGN to know who owned the paid version and who doesn't, creating two different categories of gamers.
SGN isn’t going to be content to simply rest on its laurels and exploit its large audience by rehashing games that have already been successful
I hope Mr Pishevar realizes that 44% of his US customers think his new strategy sucks. Three days after the update, F.A.S.T. has managed to get 437 one star reviews. Nice record! This is a composition of a PR picture found in Google images of Mr Pishevar apparently, so I have added some of the most explicit reviews from the US Store from the 17th of December.
Please, in the future, don't compromise the reputation of your apps, company and public persona with decisions like this. We are all new in the AppStore and we are all learning together through hit-miss. But if you have managed to create a successful game, don't screw the customers that brought you up there to gain others that wouldn't bother to pay for your game in the first place. If you want to have a F.A.S.T. version with in app purchases, please submit it as a different app.
At least SGN will be remembered as example on how not to do things. Do not help to create a social gaming ecosystem of hell
. I don't want create any conflict with this post, but there are certain limits that shall not be crossed. If you don't value your customer, who is going to care about you?