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First One’s Free: “Freemium” Games Lucrative for Mobile Developers

Temple RunHave you ever downloaded a free game on your iPhone and wondered how in the world the developer could possibly be making money with it? As it turns out, the so-called “freemium” business model is actually far more lucrative than charging money, at least for mobile.

The New York Times has an interesting article that throws back the curtain on so-called “freemium” games — the ones you can download free of charge but can ultimately cost users far more in the long run than if they had just paid up front. While free games might come with the stigma “of being low quality or full of annoying ads,” it turns out they’re a great way to hook new users — and keep them coming back.

“When you tell a friend about it and they go to the App Store and it’s free, they download it without thinking about it,” explains Natalia Luckyanova, half of the husband and wife team that created the iOS game Temple Run. “Then there’s stickiness and the addictiveness and people talking about it.”

Luckyanova and husband Keith Shepherd released Temple Run in the App Store last August as a 99-cent game where “players must stay a step ahead of angry apes while avoiding booby traps and collecting coins.” While the first month of sales were decent, it was nothing compared to what happened in September, when Temple Run was offered as a freebie through the Free App a Day website.

Since going free, the app has topped 40 million downloads, and Luckyanova says upwards of 13 million people play Tempe Run at least once every day. Currently perched at Number 14 on Apple’s top-grossing charts, these “freemium” games bait users who might otherwise not spend even 99 cents on a given title — and once they’re hooked, they’ll spend money in “a virtual store to buy new characters, different backdrops and power-ups, or special boosters.”

The concept has proven wildly successful for Zynga, the creators of FarmVille who has expanded beyond their former comfort zone with Facebook and into a billion initial public offering — proving that the drug dealer’s mantra of “the first one’s free” can apply to other types of business as well.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

(Image courtesy of The New York Times)



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GDC 2012: Hands-on with Sega's Upcoming iOS Games

Last week, amidst the mayhem of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Sega showed off its upcoming releases for iPhone and iPad, giving us a chance to go hands-on with a pair of new releases from existing franchises, plus a notable update to perhaps its biggest iOS release to date.

What impressed us the most in the pack was Total War Battles: Shogun, a spin-off of The Creative Assembly’s long-running real-time strategy PC series. Rather than port the existing experience with potentially clumsy controls, Total War Battles: Shogun looks to capture the essence of the franchise while adapting the interface and mechanics for touch screen devices — and what we saw and played really stood out in terms of scope and production values.

Upon hex-based battlefields, you’ll generate troops and battle it out in medieval Japan, with the single-player campaign comprising 40 core missions for a total of 10+ hours of gameplay, with additional side missions adding to the bulk. And beyond that, the game includes a same-screen multiplayer option on both iPad and iPhone, which lets each player command half of the display with an overhead view portraying the action. The multiplayer worked well on both iPad 2 and iPhone 4 during our demo, and the game will be released to the App Store on April 19.

Also due out this spring is Alexandria Bloodshow, the successor to last year’s free-to-play Samurai Bloodshow for iPhone and iPad. Taking the form of a Plants vs. Zombies-like grid-based tower defense strategy affair, Alexandria Bloodshow serves up fantastical battles between the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. Taking the role of either side, you’ll march further towards the enemy base across numerous missions, wherein you’ll place cards on the battlefield to spawn a variety of warriors to help your cause.

Among the pack are fire archers and falconers, along with tools like catapults, traps, and blockades, and you can expand your deck by purchasing cards via in-app purchases, if you’d like. Beyond the campaign, Alexandria Bloodshow also includes online multiplayer and local Bluetooth-enabled play, with the app expected to be universally playable. Sega’s sequel promises more troops and combat variety than the original, while still offering a faux-historical tower defense experience, and looks like another unique (and gory) App Store option.

Finally, we caught a glimpse of the upcoming update to Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing for iOS, which will add a new driver (Knuckles the Echidna) and track when it launches in the near future. But the biggest enhancement is the addition of app mirroring via AirPlay, which lets you experience the game on a large, high-definition television display while using the iPad or iPhone as a controller. It’s a pretty sizable update to a year-old iOS game, and Sega says other content additions may also follow down the line.


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iOS Gaming News: Dark Meadow Going Free-to-Play, Other Gorgeous Games on the Way

Last week brought perhaps the largest step forward that mobile gaming has ever taken, thanks to the announcement of the incredibly powerful New iPad. The device has piqued the interest of iOS gamers and developers alike, and here are some of the biggest iOS gaming headlines to appear since the announcement.

New Infinity Blade Ready to Show Off iPad 3’s Display

Epic Games’ Infinity Blade has been the standard for how great a game can look on the iPad since its first iteration in 2010. They’ll continue raising the bar with Infinity Blade: Dungeons, which is set to drop later this year. The game aims to make the most of the iPad 3’s Retina display and show off the true power of the device, and will feature a third-person, top-down view as players swing their way through dungeon after dungeon. The game is sure to capitalize off gamers’ longing for another installment in the Diablo series, albeit viewed through the lens of the Infinity Blade aesthetic.

Dark Meadow Going Free-to-Play

The team at Phosphor Games has decided that it wants to get Dark Meadow into many more hands, and to do so, it’s wiping out the initial .99 price tag and replacing it with a free app full of in-app purchases. The update is due this week, but Phosphor hasn’t forgotten about those who have already purchase the game; early adopters that have already paid for the game will receive an exclusive upgrade that has yet to be detailed. With luck, it’ll be sizable enough to erase any hard feelings about paying for something that was eventually given away.

Ravensword 2 Coming Mid-2012, Looks Gorgeous

The original installment of Ravensword showed gamers what an action RPG could be on iOS. Now looking to build upon the success of its initial foray into mobile gaming, Crescent Moon Games has announced Ravensword 2 (via Touch Arcade). The game will offer a complete overhaul of the graphics, which look stunning in the initial shots; and the combat system also appears like it will get some tweaking, so taking on the monsters that roam the world will hopefully be that much more satisfying. Crescent Moon expects to bring the sequel to the public sometime this sunny summer, so keep your eye on the App Store for this promising release.


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Price Drop: Childlike Wonder Games

This week’s games are addictive and packed with cute animals, making them too fun by half. You’ll be fighting your kids to get back your phone just so you can have a crack at these adorable discounted apps. Got a long car trip coming up for the weekend? Well, then, you’re set.

Rocket Rush – Tappi Bear


Time for another space journey as you pilot Tappi Bear through the cosmos. Navigate your way through meteors as you fire you donut canon but watch out that the aliens don’t get you! How far can you go? This fast loading universal game is a buck off, making it free for you. Enjoy and good luck!

Kiwi Brown


Oh noooes! The evil space bubbles are set to invade and only you, Kiwi Brown, can save the day. Pop those bubbles through cycles of days and nights (bubbles don’t rest — what can you do?). Power-up for mega burst action in this charming free iPhone only app down from one dollar to just one tap in the App Store.

Little Bricks


The classic brick breaking style game gets a few twists in this update on an old favorite. It’s not just you, your ball, and some bricks. Oh no, you’ll be working in the rain, in the snow, against high winds. You’ll be finding portals and all kinds of other hidden gems in this now free iPhone favorite.

Derby & the Jellybean Adventure


Derby’s on an adventure to eat as many jellybeans as he can. You’ll fling him from peg to peg in this free iPhone physics style game. Watch out for thieving enemies who will try to steal your sweet treats. With the right aiming, you can toss this adorable little guy for hours without stop. Down from a dollar, but not forever, so what are you waiting for?



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Price Drop: Action Games

If you’re like us (trapped in tonight by predicted snow), you’re craving a little action, a little excitement, a little elbow in someone’s face gaming, swords clashing, buckles swashing, and all the rest. Well, have we got some two-fisted deals for you. BAM!

Splinter Cell Conviction™ HD


Just one of the many Gameloft titles with their price-throats cut, sinking them to their knees at .99. Whether you’re unleashing your skills on the iPhone or iPad, for a dollar you’ll be kicking butt and trying to save your daughter from a corrupt secret agency. Weapons and gadgets are at your disposal, but you’ll need your wits more than anything.



If martial arts and manga style graphics are more your speed, save yourselves 4 smackers by dropping .99 on this popular fists of fury game. Create teams that suit your fighting style, collect trading cards in the gallery, or just enjoy the beautiful graphics as you fight your way to the top.

Shake Spears!


Also rocking a free iPhone and free iPad version, Shake Spears is a game of GLORY, HONOR, and FAME! You’ll compete in knightly tournaments jousting your way into the favors of a beautiful lady through four worlds of battle against changing bosses everywhere. If the battle proves to much for your skills with lance, whip out some magic and ride to glory.




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iOS Games Weekly Roundup: Soulcalibur Comes to iOS at a Hefty Cost

After months of waiting we’ve finally got access to awesome fighting-game classic Soulcalibur on iOS. However, we’ve got some major reservations about the state of the final release. Luckily, we have far fewer reservations about the other two stellar-looking games we’re spotlighting this week: JAZZ: Trump’s Journey and Smash Cops.

Adventure Bar Story Coming to US

Some of you may remember a little PC game from a couple years ago called Recettear. It wasn’t a smash hit, but the game garnered a lot of press for its unique concept: it takes place in an item shop from a stereotypical Japanese role-playing game. Adventure Bar Story follows a similar premise, only it takes place in a bar where adventurers come after their journeys to rest. Your goal is to create the best bar in all of the kingdom. To accomplish this, you’ll need to go spelunking in dungeons to get the best ingredients to make the finest ales.

Scribblenauts Remix Gets 20 New Levels for .99

One of our favorite games from last year just got a little bit bigger. Scribblenauts Remix picked up a solid 20 extra levels this week in a new downloadable content pack, and while it’s unfortunately not a free update, the in-app purchase will set fans back just .99.

Q.U.B.E. Might Come to iOS

Q.U.B.E. (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) was the first game to be financed by the Indie Fund, a financial group set up by successful indie developers to help finance and release quality indie endeavors. The game made its initial ,000 investment back in mere days on PC, and now the group is considering an iOS release. Toxic Games managing director Daniel Da Rocha told Joystiq this week that they are currently prototyping an iOS version, with Mac and OnLive iterations expected soon.


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Price Drop: Games for Kids

Well, the biggest party of the year is coming up and if you’re traveling or if your the only parents at the party, you’re going to need a little something for your kids to play. Or maybe your kids have already busted through the iTunes gift cards from their stockings and they’re looking for something new in the App Store. In our final installment of the year, we’ve got games for the kidlets lined up for you.

Save the Doons 


Free from Jirbo, Inc., the people who brought you the Tap Reef family of games comes this Snood-style shooter, Save the Doons. Some of you may already know the Doons — well here’s your chance to save them. Line up your shots, then rack up your points. Deceptively easy, games like this are also easy to get addicted to. Save a buck and get it for free.

Tap Tap Spring – Tappi Bear


Another dollar price drop down to free, Taplay Limited puts cute little teddy bears on pogo sticks. Running universal, these cuddly bears will JUMP JUMP JUMP their way to spring powered excitement. Tap Tap Spring – Tappi Bear may not be the only tapping game brought to you by the developer, but it’s the cutest.

Lumi for iPhone / iPod Touch


Probably this week’s most gorgeous game, Lumi will cost you one of the bucks you just saved, as this light based game from Foundation Mobile Games is down from .99 to just .99. You’ll travel the world from jungles and deserts to caves and even the Netherworld as you repel the forces of darkness. Built-in game modes make this a treat no matter how you play.

Times Table Lab

times table lab

Feeling a little guilty about your little one staring mindlessly at their iOS device, shooting zombies or bouncing bears up to the sky? Well, Simulant has just the thing for you with their universal Times Table Lab. Help the pint-sized scientist in the game as he sorts the numbered balls into their correct location. Goes all the way up to 12×12, and before you know it, your kids are little math geniuses. And it won’t even cost you a dime. 




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Price Drop: Games Games Games

As always, the holidays brings out the big guns when it comes to app price cutting. This time around is no exception, with some familiar developers going crazy with the discount action. Why wait for Cyber Monday when you can get your game on right this very minute?

Electronic Arts


This one is huge. A thank you to the fans who’ve stocked their iPads and iPhones and iPods with their games through the years, Electronic Arts has slashed prices across the board. Like what, you ask? How about Battleship for the iPad down four dollars to just .99. Or pick one of the Monopoly for the iPad versions, either regular down from .99 to .99 or Monopoly Here & Now with the same price drop. Scrabble for the iPad takes a similar nose dive on the price. Get it and The Game of Life (.99) and Trivial Pursuit Master Edition (.99) and you’ll still be ahead of the game for buying the games full price. Fun for the whole family at the board game table. And the list goes on and on, so you’ll definitely want to be checking out this action.



An across the board price cut by developer Pangea hands you the entirety of their catalog at .99 a pop. So Enigmo 2, award winning 3D puzzle game, down from .99. Warheads finds you shooting rocket launchers to stop an incoming missile invasion and at .99 you’ll be saving a buck in this addictive fast-paced fighter. Why should Mario and these modern day racers have all the fun when for just .99 you can get yourself some primite fun with Cro-Mag Rally, with multiplayer racing and voice chat. With three dollars off, it’s some cheap racing. On that same tip, Nanosaur 2 lets you pilot a dinosaur from the future as you bring awesome firepower to blow up and shoot down other nanosaurs, and again, just a buck puts these big guns in your hands.

Telltale Inc.


Care for a bit more narrative element in your games? Well, then TellTale has got just your ticket with this batch of story-based games with steep discounts. Puzzle Agent 2 HD loses four dollars from the top down to .99 where you can help Agent Nelson Tethers solve a case that everyone else has written off. Fan of the Hector series? This lewd, crude law enforcement story game is a hit with critics and comes with three great episodes. We Negotiate with Terrorists is down four bucks to .99, as are Senseless Acts of Justice and Beyond Reasonable Doom. The whole Back to the Future series and Wallace & Gromit: The Last Resort see a similar price cut and more.


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iOS Games Weekly Roundup: A Look at Judge Dredd, Snuggle Truck Goes Free-to-Play, and Jetpack Tests Blasts into the App Store

Snuggle Truck goes Free-to-Play

You may remember that Snuggle Truck (a game about racing around with a truck load of stuffed animals) actually started life as a rejected app called Smuggle Truck, about driving a truck full of illegal immigrants over the Mexican-American border. Despite all odds, Snuggle Truck just wont go away. After some decent success on the App Store, the app is now going Free-to-Play with microtransactions supported as in-app-purchases.

Jetpack Tests Arrives on iOS

The developers of the awesome app High Flyer Death Defyer have released a light-weight and cheap iteration of the HFDD formula. For .99 (half the price of HFDD) you can get Jetpack Tests which sees the hero of HFDD testing out a prototype of a jetpack in his early days. 

Ticket to Ride Pocket Released

The amazing boardgame Ticket to Ride did fairly well with their iPad version, and now the game is coming to iPhones as well. Ticket to Ride is a very popular boardgame which sees players trying to build rail lines to connect far off parts of the country. The game currently costs .99, and features the pass-and-play mode that iPad TtR fans wanted so much. However it does not include online play.



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Epic Games Demos Infinity Blade 2 During iPhone 4S Announcement

Few would argue that Epic Games’ Infinity Blade was one of the most impressive games ever released for iOS — but that’s only the beginning, because the company has announced a sequel coming December 1, with a sneak preview on the iPhone 4S at Tuesday’s “Let’s talk iPhone” event in Cupertino.

Epic Games and ChAIR Entertainment have announced the forthcoming release of Infinity Blade 2, the followup to the groundbreaking original which showed off the potential of iOS as a gaming platform. The sequel will launch exclusively for iOS on December 1, taking advantage of iOS 5 features such as iCloud, enabling profiles and saving games for seamless transfer between devices.

Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller, opened the stage at Tuesday’s “Let’s talk iPhone” event to Mike Capps from developer Epic, whose Infinity Blade was a massive hit on the iOS platform with more than million in revenue.

“Infinity Blade allowed us to demonstrate the true potential of triple-A handheld gaming by delivering mind-blowing graphics and awesome gameplay to millions of mobile users,” said Donald Mustard, creative director, ChAIR Entertainment. “With Infinity Blade 2, we’re pushing the boundaries of everything achieved to date and adding a ton of new content and unique new features to create the must-have gaming experience on iOS.”

Infinity Blade 2 builds upon the addictive gameplay and breathtaking visuals of the original game with dozens of new locations set across expansive 3D environments. Delving further into the story of this mysterious, timeless adventure, players will explore an evolving game world filled with new types of rewards and treasures as they battle scores of new powerful enemies and bosses. New fighting styles and weapon classes coupled with deep role-playing elements provide even greater gameplay variation. New online features, such as Clash Mob, will allow players to participate with fellow gamers in unique “massively social” challenges to unlock rare weapons and exclusive items.

Pricing for Infinity Blade 2 hasn’t been announced yet, but based on the brief demo at Tuesday’s iPhone 4S announcement, it’s going to be a long wait for this one to arrive on the App Store come December 1. Stay tuned to the company’s website — as well as — for more details.

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