Last week Apple started authorizing in-app purchase for free iPhone apps. This move was very well welcome by developers who see in this a better way to fight app piracy. I personally don’t think in-app purchase will change much to app piracy, but I might be wrong.

I am sure of one thing though: you, the buyer will ultimately be the big loser in this game. Let’s take the example of an iPhone game. Before in-app purchase, you would buy the game for let’s say $2.99. You own the game and the 40 levels it includes. If there are new updates to the game (ie. new levels), you get them for free. It’s all good.

Now with in-app purchase, most developers will give you the same game for free, except it only has 2 levels. If you want 10 more levels, it will cost you $0.99. Another 10 more levels is another $0.99. Another 10 more levels is another $0.99, etc…

So instead of paying $2.99 for the full game, you now have to pay $0.99 at a time to get the upgrades or newer levels. In the end, the full game will end up costing you more than you would have paid if you had purchased the game in one shot.

I understand not all developers will go that way but I’m pretty sure a lot of them will.

What do you think about in-app purchase? Do you think that ultimately, the buyer will benefit from this? I look forward to hearing your thoughts…

  • Juan

    I can see your point affecting mostly games. Other apps, not so much. Thus far, I have yet to make an in-app purchase.

  • I agree with you. But, at least you can still view which In-App purchases are available for the App you are going to download and decide not to buy.

  • Matthew Schrock

    Just to clarify, In-App purchase is not new – it has been available since the release of 3.0 for paid apps.

    Your example assumes that every time I buy a game I will like it well enough to play all levels. In reality, the “$2.99 up front” model forces me to pay full price to begin play and there is a good chance that I won’t like the game and abandon it at the first level.

    With the new model I get to try the first two levels of as many games as I want and only put money into the ones I like. This means I can actually get more game value for my money. This is a win for me and a win for game developers who no longer need to create a “lite” version of their game to let me try it out for free.

  • Matthew,

    I see your point and I completely agree with you on most of it. I understand that it might be a win situation for the guy who doesn’t want to buy the full game, or get tired of it after a few levels (that happens to me all the time).

    My point was if you want the full game, it’s most likely gonna cost you more with in-app purchase than if you bought it all in one time.

    I also agree that in-app purchase will finally help get rid of the lite versions that polute the App Store.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I love hearing other people’s thoughts.


  • Cayman (Attila)

    I think it’s really good, i mean your thought about how the in-app purchase will work. Cause if u like a game, for example, and u buy it, today, and then u found out u dont like the game as much as u did, and u dont play it, and a part of your money went out of the window. But, if u download a game with in-app purchase function, try 2 levels, and u think it’s good, u buy ten more, but u found out u dont like it any more, cause its probably boring to you. so, you spent just as much money as you used/as u played. Im writing this, cause it happens to me many times, i buy a game, i play a few days with it, and never more. 🙂

  • W7User

    I agree with Sebastian,
    Plain and simple what this means is that from now on, we will get half ass games ! and we want better we have to pay more. Apple has been doing this to iPOd touch users forever ! So now way do I think it will stop Piracy….Apple needs to start thiking SUBSCRIPTION, for example ….. $9.99 a month gets us unlimitted access to so and so titles. Next month we can change…. This will put the developers on top of their game. Ill give you one good example of lazy developers. The one’s that piss me off the most are the big name Devs like EA. Who launch these games at high prices and no updates at ALL !

  • henri

    If you don’t like it.. then just don’t buy it, isn’t that simple??, why would a developer keep on spending his time onto an application that ends up on Appulo ?, if I like a game, then I do
    not mind to pay for it. To be honest, I think that 99% of the people that have anything against in-app purchasing are the ones not willing to pay for the game anyway.

  • Tom

    It won’t stop pirating. There will be a backlash by buyers who will give these pay-as-you-go games and apps horrible reviews. The developers who build full versions will win out. People like to know that when theybuy something, it’s theirs. Repeatedly sticking people for more money is a bad business model.

  • It’s amazing that someone can spend

    $100/month on a cell phone
    $200/month on gas for their car
    $50/week on lunch

    Then they freak out at the difference between a paying up front for a game, or for paying for a game they’ve gotten a fair chance to try.

    If you use a pirated game, it’s stealing plain an simple. Justify it in your head 1000 different ways, your still just a common thief.

  • The consumer may be suffering by $0.99 or there abouts but currently IPhone apps are woefully underpriced. Yes, some people are making a fortune, but most are selling around 30 units a day. My own app is soon to be completed and will include in-purchase. This makes pricing tough because you have to remember that a lot of people will buy just one level pack, so in that respect the dev makes a loss. So consequentally the pricing has to strike a balance. In the world where someone takes a year, allbeit part time, to make an allocation, the app would need to sell 25,000 units to be viable as a salary replacement.

    If consumers want good apps, they have to be pepared to pay reasonable money – you can barely buy a pint for £3 these days. A pint will last you an hour if you are a steady drinker, so something with 10 hours gameplay, surely has to be worth at least twice that.

    I promise you this though. Should my app be very successful, the level packs will drop to a lower price. I’m quite happy to sell a million units for $0.99, but the reality is that I will sell more in the region of 10,000 units, and at such a low price, I won’t be earning back very much more than my costs!

  • Well, I have several comments.

    1) If the developer wants to stop app-piracy, he can now do it. There are variants of in-app purchase which are easy to implement for the developer, which are still pretty easily crackable by a hacker. But there are also variants which will making app-piracy as difficult as breaking into the online bank account of somebody. Obviously it can be done, but not by most people.

    2) I think in-app purchase in free apps is great. Somebody who likes the game/app will end up paying more, I agree. But this is how it is supposed to be, because the app has been specially developed for them. I would like to spend my time programming great apps. But for that to happen, I need to make at least $80000 a year. To be really competitive with other job opportunities, it would be more like $140000 a year, so the $80000 have already factored in that I REALLY LIKE PROGRAMMING. I would like this money to be paid by people who like what I am doing. But I also want to give people a free shot at learning whether they like my app or not.

    3) Developing a good app is quite different from making a song, it is more like making an album. This album will cost you about $10. So a good app should cost about $10, too. Of course there are apps out there which are more like songs, that is why there is a price range.