Square Enix's new original iPhone title, Chaos Rings, is a qualified hit; it's currently sitting right on top of the United States' top grossing apps list and at number 18 on the top paid apps list. The reviews are terrific as well, which means that Square Enix has pulled off a hit iPhone game at the surprising price of US$12.99. The company hasn't missed the message, either. It's bringing Chaos Rings to the iPad soon, and is also hard at work on more original titles for Apple's handheld systems. We don't know how the iPad version, Chaos Rings HD, will be priced, or if it will be included for those who have already purchased the game on the iPhone (that'd be great, wouldn't it?). Clearly, though, there is still a market for well-done, top level games (even at high price points). We don't know if Square Enix actually made money on this one (the craft on display certainly didn't come cheap), but App Store customers are certainly buying.
At the same time, other big-name developers aren't so sure. Crytek (makers of Crysis for the PC) CEO Cevat Yerli claims that App Store pricing has been nothing but a burden for game developers, and he says that, even outside of Apple's ecosystem, game prices in general are being driven down by the App Store. "It's pushing out games at such a low price that it distorts the perception of what a game should be priced at," he said in a recent interview. "IPad and iPhone are both doing a real disservice to game prices by allowing games at such low price points – it is an issue the industry has to address."
That's an interesting take. There are certainly a number of factors involved in lower game prices lately (not the least of which is digital distribution, which has grown immensely in the past few years). However, a game like Chaos Rings seems to prove that it's still all about the gameplay. If game developers can make a great game that players want to play, they can more or less name their price.