November 24, 2009
Apple's decision on October 15th to allow free apps to include in-app purchases certainly generated a lot of buzz among developers, and now, thanks to iPhone game developer Riptide, we finally have some results that should help other developers decide whether or not to employ this unique business model. Riptide released Gravity Sling on November 5th, and it was one of the first free games to include in-app purchases. Riptide chose to offer Gravity Sling for free with in-app purchases because they believed it was the best route to take for a small and simple game that would normally be priced around $.99 - $1.99. But, of course, it doesn't really matter what developers think, it matters what the consumers think and apparently they don't have a problem with the new system. Between November 5th and November 22nd, Gravity Sling was downloaded 66,346 times, which obviously sounds like a lot, but the game is available free of charge. Gravity Sling contains 15 levels for free, with another 15 available for $.99 as an in-app purchase. So of those 66,346 people who downloaded the game, 1,267 chose to fork over the $.99 for the additional levels. That's a conversion rate of 1.91%, so about 1 out of every 50 people chose to purchase the additional levels. According to Riptide, these results are actually more favorable than PC casual game conversion rates, which are about .7%-1%. Riptide also discovered that the delay between when a user first downloaded the game and purchased the level pack was about one day when the game first launched. Now, two weeks later, they are finding that the delay has increased to about 1-2 days before a user decides to make the purchase. Regions apparently matter as well. Although users in Japan (25,705) and Italy (18,434) have downloaded the game most often, users in the U.S. (13,709) have done the bulk of the in-app purchasing. The U.S. conversion rate sits at 2.96%, with Japan being a relatively close second at 1.8%, but apparently Italy isn't all that big on in-app purchases because their rate is a very low .78%.
The last notable statistic is the conversion rate for OpenFeint users. According to Riptide's results, about 55% of all Gravity Sling players have submitted a score to one of the game's leader boards, which happens automatically if a player is signed into OpenFeint. They found that of those 36,980 OpenFeint users, or 55%, 3.4% of them went on to purchase a level pack, which indicates that only 1.2% of non-OpenFeint users purchased a level pack. Gravity Sling has only bee available for about two weeks, so all of these statistics could still drastically change over time, but at least it is a good gauge of what to expect. Riptide intends on submitting an updated version of Gravity Sling very shortly, and they hope to learn even more from this new version. In v1.1, they believe they have done a much better job making the in-app purchases more obvious to the user, and they will be including two new level packs, which should give them even more data on how people react to multiple in-app purchases. They also intend on releasing a "premium" version of Gravity Sling that won't include in-app purchases, but will be available for a one-time fee and come with everything unlocked. This version, they hope, won't cannibalize sales of their free+in-app purchase version, as it is merely meant to be for OS 2.2.1 users and those who aren't willing to make in-app purchases. This version should also help in the review department since there is no way to give out promo codes for in-app purchases, and many sites don't review free games.