Xbox Sells Costlier Game Downloads. Why Can’t the App Store?

By  |  Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 6:17 pm

braidtimXbox Live Arcade is no longer a purveyor of quick-hit, $5 video game downloads, but a place where $15 games are beginning to thrive.

That’s what Kotaku found after looking at the cost of downloadable Xbox 360 games, from the console’s launch in 2005 up to last month. The average cost of video game downloads has climbed, especially in the last two years, but the reason is a shift in how many of these games cost $10, $15 or even $20 for a purely electronic copy. The tell-all chart, compiled by Stephen Totilo and Andrew Freedman, is located here.

The rise in prices on Xbox Live Arcade isn’t a bad thing. It means the kinds of available games are richer experiences, coming closer to what you’d get from a boxed title. Braid, an indie game priced at $15, is the perfect example. Same goes for the recently released Sam & Max Save the World ($20) and upcoming Shadow Complex (likely to cost at least $20).

Digesting this, my mind jumped to the iPhone’s App Store, whose free market is a mixture of zero-dollar “Lite” games, $10 offerings from major publishers and everything in between. A recent report by Pocket Gamer found that the average price of top 10 titles is $1.89, while top 100 games average $3.80. So I wonder: Will App Store games get better, causing a surge in prices?

Before I go on, let me acknowledge that I’m totally comparing apples (har har) and oranges. Not only are the two data sets different, but the gaming platforms don’t necessarily lend themselves to the same demographics or same style of play. But my point isn’t to make a direct comparison between two non-competitive marketplaces.

What interests me is how Xbox Live Arcade is cleverly evolving into a place for high-quality game downloads, while the App Store is not. Pocket Gamer notes that the most successful $10 iPhone games are big-name franchises, such as Doom: Resurrection and The Sims 3, but those are just dumbed down versions of their computer counterparts, and even they’re undermined by the amount of inexpensive and simple games available. Meanwhile, Xbox Live Arcade is bringing in entirely new games while phasing out the cheap stuff.

The difference, of course, is that Microsoft takes on a greater role in regulating its market. I’m not saying Apple should do the same, but when it comes time to spend $15 on a downloadable game, I know which market will get my money.


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Stilgar Says:

    Apple has never been serious about gamers on its platforms. Why should the iPhone be any different? Maybe the amount of people buying games through the app store will open Apple’s eyes. Every time I see a story like this I’m reminded of the oft-referenced article where Valve’s Gabe Newell says they’ve had several meetings with Apple about things Apple could do to attract game developers and then Apple “never follows through on anything.”

  2. ediedi Says:

    How could you be seriously comparing gaming on the ipod/phone and on the xbox? They’re on different levels.
    Furthermore, gaming on the ipod/phone is even more ridiculous than on ‘real’ mobile gaming hand-helds. I don’t think they can charge more for appstore games.

  3. Stilgar Says:

    Have you seen any good iPhone games? I’ve seen graphics that are on-par with the PSP.

  4. Greg Says:

    Exclusivity is key here. The biggest problem with the App Store isn’t the limitations of sophistication on the device or the particular set of customers, but rather that the bar for entering an application on the iPhone is so intensively low that the iTune App Store has been overwhelmed with garbage, making it more or less impossible to convince anyone that any particular app is worth scantly more than a dollar.

    There are other factors, like the fact that more Xbox owners are inclined to purchase games than iPhone owners (obv), and the terrible, abominable methods used to sort the App Store which make it more cost effective to produce a broken, useless ad-driven app than it is to charge any reasonable price for something of genuine effort.

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