When Apple first announced the iPad, including information on its App Store and Universal Apps, we began asking ourselves should we go “Universal”, or release two separate builds? This is a question that every iOS developer is faced with, and there are those on both sides of the fence, each with their own reasons. It also depends on the nature of the App itself. In the end, we decided to release two separate Apps: “Osmos for iPad” followed by “Osmos”, an iPhone only app. Some of our players have asked “Why?”
Strangely enough, the number one reason was download size. The maximum application size that can be downloaded over 3G is 20MB, otherwise it must be downloaded over wi-fi, so we wanted to make sure our builds were under 20MB. But the bottleneck for Osmos (and many apps) is image assets; we deliver high-res images on the iPad, and lower-res images on the iPhone, and there simply isn’t enough room for both sets. We didn’t want to skimp on iPad resolution, nor did we want to slow things down on older iPhones (loading time in particular). Hence the split.
At this point the savvy reader may say “wait! Osmos supports the iPhone’s Retina Display, which is almost the same resolution as the iPad. What’s up with that?” Well, it’s true, the iPhone build does ship both sets of images, but only part of the higher-res set, as there isn’t enough room for all of it. We cut the high-res textures that rarely appear very large on screen (roughly a third of them); and while this gives fine results on the iPhone, we didn’t want to make this compromise on the iPad, as pixel-density and screen-size are not the same thing.
Our second reason is the App Store market. Hemisphere Games is not a huge studio with the power to define platforms and markets — we do our best to develop great games, and go with the flow on the distribution side of things. Developers releasing a Universal App are faced with a difficult balance between the two stores: iPhone App prices are generally way lower than on the iPad. Take Angry Birds, the pinnacle of success in iOS games: $4.99 on the iPad, 99 cents on the iPhone. There are many examples of this. Pricing a solid game at $4.99, while reasonable on many platforms, is suicide on the iPhone; while pricing a game at 99 cents on the iPad would seriously cut into a developer’s revenue (and further deflate the iPad market). Some games have taken a middle ground, like Canabalt and Solipskier, with Universal Apps at $2.99. But given the download size issue – along with the strong trend on the App Store – we felt it made more sense for us to ship two Apps.
All that said, we feel Osmos is very fairly priced on iOS. We seriously considered pricing the iPad version at $9.99, similar to the PC version (there are many developers that have done this), but we decided to err on the low side, especially given the Universal issue. In the end both versions together are still cheaper than on PC. Yes, the iPhone is a “unique” market, and many feel they have to price at 99 cents or perish. We felt it was important to resist this however. And to quote Adam Saltsman in his Gamasutra article on The 0.99 Problem
We feel that the game is worth $2.99, and our intuition was solid there. Nearly every review (and there have been a lot) has glossed over or outright praised our pricing decision.
Ah, the psychology of the App Store. I’m not even sure if The Oatmeal is being ironic in their recent comic on the subject.
In any case, while it’s tempting to lament the iPhone market along with our fellow independent developers, we buy and play games too, and know what it’s like to be a customer. One of our principles as a developer is to do our best to make sure our players are happy with their purchase, both in terms of game quality as well as price. I feel we’re doing that.