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What happens when you drop your prices?

By on May 22, 2012

This is a guest post by David Kalina, cross posted from his own blog at Tiger Style Games


We recently shared our lifetime sales numbers here.

The same day, we dropped price on all of our products.  Our strategy was to try and create news and attention by coordinating several newsworthy events simultaneously.  Our Waking Mars update had new jetpacks to collect and play with, and enhanced support for the iPad Retina Display.  We issued a press release and personally reached out to a number of folks in the press, asking for coverage.  We wrote blog posts to attract attention.  We dropped the price of the soundtrack on Bandcamp.  We dropped the price of both Spider SKUs for the first time in a long time.  And we dropped the price of Waking Mars from 4.99 to 2.99 for the first time ever.

It’s been two weeks, so how’d we do?

WAKING MARS SALE ($4.99 -> $2.99)

Here are the 15 days before the sale:

Waking Mars Two Weeks Pre-Sale Revenue

We earned $12946 in revenue during that period.  There was a blip in the data on 4/24-25 where we spiked upwards — we believe this was due to a piece on a Yahoo! Games blog called “Plugged In” that featured us nicely (http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/10-must-play-ios-games-182249052.html— 484 comments on that piece indicate to me that people are reading it!).  Normally single press events don’t seem to make a tangible difference — but some of the bigger ones do.  Even accounting for that spike, we were earning approximately $863 a day for the last 15 days at $4.99.

Here are the 15 days post-sale:

Waking Mars 2 Weeks Post-Sale Revenue

We earned $25733 on sale, selling an additional 12,622 copies.  That’s nearly double what we were earning over the previous 15 day window, but the trends are indicating a bottoming out.  You can see that we had one amazing day at $6201 earned, and then yesterday, we earned about 1/10 of that ($647).  That’s a bit better than the two Mondays pre-sale ($564 and $497) but we’re approaching a state of being revenue neutral, so we’re going to end the sale tonight.

You can see this trend on the charts as well.  We got as high as the #18 iPad game, hung out at a nice chart position all week (thanks in large part to another Apple feature) … and then the rank started collapsing, and hasn’t bottomed out quite yet.

Waking Mars Post Sale Store Ranks - iPad

Interestingly the iPhone charts show a much gentler bump and then a flatter curve.  We didn’t have a banner in the iPhone store, so that’s probably part of it, but I think our game is just not perceived as being “for” the iPhone.  Potential consumers see our product and can probably pretty easily imagine playing it on a 3.5 inch screen, and they (correctly) perceive that it’s “for” the iPad.  (Of course, it plays great in both places and you should still buy it!  My point is more that I think consumers are looking for something a bit more approachable on the iPhone, in most cases)

Waking Mars Post Sale Store Ranks - iPhone

SPIDER SALE ($2.99 -> $0.99)

As for Spider… we only put it on sale for a week, and the results were not amazing.  The HD version — which received a retina update — did pull in approximately an extra $900.  For a game that has been earning $30-40 a day, this is certainly welcome, but after the first 3 days, sales numbers were very close to where they started.

Spider HD - 1 Month Revenue

The iPhone version fared even worse, actually earning LESS money at $0.99 the weekend following the sale versus the weekends before and after the sale period.  We still probably came out ahead $300-400 dollars from the initial spike in attention, but it actually seems to be the case that we are better off at 2.99 for now.

Spider - 1 Month Revenue

All things considered, this effort was successful — we reached a significant number of new users, (hopefully) increased the perceived value of the product, and pocketed a nice chunk of extra revenue.  Long term, it’s harder to predict how much these efforts help.  I used to fear that sales would serve to cannibalize your potential user base — how many of the people who just bought Waking Mars at $2.99 would have EVENTUALLY bought it at $4.99?  It’s impossible to know.  iOS has definitely taught people that, if they wait just a little bit, practically everything goes on sale.

This is one reason we’re more willing to play with our pricing this time around (Spider did not go on sale for over a year after its release).  The market expects it, and there are gamers who may love our stuff who, for whatever reason, won’t buy it at $4.99.  We’re reaching new players every day, and hopefully we’ll have plenty more reasons to make news in the coming year and keep the product on people’s minds.  Staying relevant over a long period of time is, in my opinion, one of the core tricks to success on iOS.

About David Kalina

  • http://ivan.vucica.net/ Ivan Vučica

    Would another lesson be: start with a larger price so you can play around later? :-)

    Also, dropping the price to zero (as long as another monetization venue exists, for example via IAPs) is a great way to boost downloads.

    By the way, those are some nice per-day numbers (at least considering the numbers that my game sees). It’d be interesting to know how much you invested in marketing, where, and what your general approach was. Especially how you communicated with the media :-)