Well, apparently we’ve now established what phase 2 of the successful iPhone developers’ business plan is!
(If that’s a trifle obscure of a cultural reference, what we’re making there is an analogy to the South Park underwear gnomes‘ business plan:
Phase 1: Write iPhone app.
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: PROFIT!!!
Sound like anybody’s business plan you know? Yeah, thought so.)
It seems that, perhaps not so surprisingly, Phase 2 is “charge $299 and up for joke apps”. No, seriously.
… Along with fellow prolific indie developer Adam Saltsman (Canabalt, Wurdle), Refenes developed a “joke game” for iPhone titled Zits & Giggles, consisting mainly of popping virtual pimples.
Like so many other iPhone games, Zits & Giggles launched at $0.99. Sales were never remarkable, and they eventually tapered off entirely. But rather than pursue a traditional marketing strategy like offering the game for free for a limited time, Refenes did just the opposite: he raised the price to $15, exorbitant by iPhone standards.
Shockingly, “the day I put it up to $15, three people bought it,” Refenes said.
“So,” he continued, “I said, ‘I’m going to put it up to $50.’ Four people bought it.”
After observing that fortuitous trend, Refenes decided to test its resilience by boosting the game’s selling price every time at least one copy was sold.
“I stopped paying attention to it for a while,” he recalled, then “I checked it on Valentine’s Day, and 14 people bought it at $299.”
The game has now reached a price tag of $350.
Based only on Refenes’ sales figures for a limited number of the game’s many price tiers, Zits & Giggles generated at least $4,431 at the $15, $50, and $299 price points alone. It currently holds an App Store customer rating of two and a half stars out of five, with only two written reviews, one of which reads in its entirety, “It’s hilarious.” (Its official description still claims it costs “a FRIGGIN DOLLAR.”)
“My conclusion to all of this,” Refenes said, “is that the people who you’re selling to on the App Store are not necessarily gamers.”
Not necessarily sane gamers, in any case, one suspects. We’re all in favor of preferring the upper half of the demand curve as a matter of policy … but tales like this make you wonder if it’s not actually more of a hyperbola than an actual curve. Or that people are just strange.
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