Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reggie Fils-Aime Calls App Store Games "Risks" for the Industry

Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, commented on typically $0.99 App Store games, saying that most are a risk for the industry, that they give consumers the impression that video games are "disposable". He doesn't disagree with the idea that a game like Angry Birds is "underpriced", and would say that some App Store games are "overpriced" at their $1 or $2 price tags, an obvious jab at the quality of the games.

I really have to agree. I mean, I agreed before he even said it.I love saving money, but to me the price of much of the best stuff on the App Store is pushed far too low, or "underpriced".
When I first started noticing this trend of people turning away from their DSes and PSPs to game on their iDevices, it was a bit alarming. Back then, the games on the App Store simply weren't the type of games I personally enjoy most from handheld gaming consoles, and even today those types of games are infrequent at best. It's fine with me that other people enjoy those types of games more than what I like, but again this is about pricing. If someone gets into gaming through their iDevices, they'll become used to those prices. When they take one look at the prices for home console games ($50 - $60) then they'll likely never move beyond those App Store games, and generally that means the audience that buys the games that I like isn't being expanded, but rather being mentally stopped from ever expanding. I do feel that the rest of the game industry, from dedicated video game console makers to game developers and publishers, could make some changes so that the industry can shave off some of the price to consumers, but the low prices on the App Store only seem to make that change harder to get started; if no customers come on board to demand lower prices, then how do they gather that it's something that gamers might be asking for?

On another tangent, I imagine that when a customer develops this idea that all games are the same price ($0.99) regardless of quality, then they'll habitually turn to the "Most Popular" sections to determine which games they should or shouldn't buy, with the customer reasoning that stuff that doesn't make it onto the "Most Popular" sections simply isn't good. This means fun games get left in the dust. Though that isn't exclusive to the App Store gaming scene, I think it is more exacerbated, especially when you factor in the sheer frequency at which products are added to that store. I think if the price more closely reflected the amount of fun to be had with a game, much like the downloadable games services across Wii, 360, PS3, DSi, and PSP (Go) do, then it would be a healthier market.

Reggie is the president of a company that makes a living off of the dedicated games console price model, and I can absolutely see how the App Store is a direct threat to them as a company. Of course Nintendo is concerned. What I'm concerned about is how the audience for Nintendo, or Sony, or Microsoft's current video game bread and butter might deteriorate over time. Typically, new hardware is meant to last 5 or so years, and in that time I could see an out-right crash of that portion of the industry happening if the deterioration is rapid enough. For Nintendo, who only has stock in games, that means they either die or change.

The industry might recover. It probably would, and it might be a better, cheaper beast when it does, but what's a gamer to do in the down time? Play something fun like Cut the Rope, I guess...

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