The Hills Are Greener: Fire! Fire!

The Hills Are Greener: Fire! Fire!

Sep 5, 2011

They’ve finally hit Android. As reported on Sunday, two of the biggest publishers on Android have launched holiday sales, with deep discounts on many of their games. iOS users are quite familiar with this practice; any significant date or holiday is cause for bargain basement prices on apps and games with some of the best production values on mobile markets.

Of course, the problem with the sale culture on iOS is that it essentially devalues higher-priced apps. As of publication, all the games in the top 25 were all $0.99 (though Words With Friends appears to be on sale as it has been in the top 25 recently at $1.99), in part because value has been so warped by two primary factors. First, Angry Birds has provided a huge amount of value for $0.99, and keeps adding value at that price point. Second, publishers like EA and Gameloft who do price their games at premium price points tend to subvert them because of their frequent sales that they hold on these games. Why pay $6.99 for a game when it will only be $0.99 by the time a holiday rolls around?

So, it’s kind of surprising to see Gameloft and Namco attempt to start up the massive fire sale on Android, just because it seems like devaluing games on Android, where the perception is that selling games on the platform is difficult, isn’t a good idea. This is also a platform where free apps and games are often the distrbution method of choice for developers, so the fire sale is often irrelevant entirely! Even with that, there seems to be little reason for Android developers and publishers to duplicate this practice on Android. The big publishers wind up selling apps at well below market value, and small developers have to underprice their apps just so they can stay afloat and competitive with those that can afford to partake in the race to the bottom.

Are lower prices ultimately good for users’ wallets? Yes. Is it good for the health of the platform long-term? No. Developers need to make money and to be paid fair value for the products they create, and if fire sales become a widespread practice on Android, then the platform could hurt because of it.