Crescent Moon Games, the studio behind the lauded Ravensword series of RPGs, has recently declared that the premium revenue model has met its demise. In a public response to a one star review of their first person shooter, Neon Shadow, a staff member Josh responded to a complaint about the title being switched from a paid app to free-to-play game.
Josh offered up a rather surprising justification for the game’s shift to an ad-supported model:
“Hi Jim, The premium model is already dead, unfortunately. Its [sic] gone down 10x since 2 years ago. We made it in this game that if you have already purchased the game and played it, you won’t see any ads, so no change for those who own it. Hope that helps! – Josh”
At the time of this writing, only two titles from the developer’s expansive catalog have shifted models; Neon Shadow and Mines of Mars. When checking the developer’s Google Play Store page, it appears that the majority of their titles are still priced in brackets ranging from $1.00-6.99. Crescent Moon’s most recent release, Exiles, remains at the $6.99 mark. So it remains to be seen whether or not Crescent Moon will transition all of their titles over to a free-to-play model, or if future titles will be released under the free-to-play model.
This incident is not the first time that a developer has shunned the premium model. It was just last year that former EA executive Nick Earl had declared that the “market has spoken” on the wide spread adoption of free-to-play business models. Affirming Earl’s assertion was a report from Mobile Gaming USA. The report states that 95% of all app revenue is generated by freemium titles.
To compound matters, the mobile app space is highly competitive, with only a margin of developers earning the majority of the over $20 billion generated annually by mobile games. A recent report from Developer Economics has shown that 52% of app developers across all mobile platforms earn less than $1,000 a month for their apps. With such odds, smaller developers may find premium pricing to be a dubious proposition in their bid to build an audience for their software.
Although the situation seems bleak, there are still a number of studios that put out paid content. Square Enix is arguably the most proactive about premium pricing, selling many of their titles for $15-20. Telltale Games continues to have a string of smash hits that are sold in an episodic format. I would be remiss if I did not mention two extremely popular Disney remakes, Castle of Illusion and DuckTales Remastered, both of which sell for $9.99 a piece.
Though Crescent Moon Games may be singing the death knell of the premium model for mobile games, it may be too soon to determine whether or not mobile gaming is fated to become an entirely free-to-play business or if gamers will still be able to look forward to complete experiences for a set, one time price.