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Free iPhone App Costs Developers

ratings.pngMy team and I created WordPop! for iPhone. Like many developers we decided to create a “free” version of our game so potential players could try it before they purchased. Over the last six months I noticed ratings for our free version was lower than our paid version. I wondered if other developers were having the same experience. I did an analysis of the top 20 best selling games in November in the Games: Word category.

I compared the ratings from the Paid version to the Free Version. If the paid version had an average 3.5 rating and the free version had a 3.0 rating, then there was a .5 negative change.

N/A     45%
No Change    10%
.5  Neg Change    35%
1.0 Neg Change    5%
1.5 Neg Change     5%
Total         100%

Not one application had a better rating for the free version and 45% had worse ratings.

Then I was curious if ratings determine if an application will be a best seller.

5       5%
4.5   5%
4    25%
3.5 35%
3     25%
2.5    5%
Total 100%

I was surprised that 65% had 3.5 or worse rating.

Although a small sample and taken from the Word Games category I came to the following conclusions.

1.  Creating a free version was once thought of as an important strategy to getting noticed and to be a top seller. Since almost half (45%) of the top selling word games do not have a free version I no longer think this is true.

2. Either players of free versions are much more critical of apps in general or the free version is missing a feature that makes it higher rated

3.  You can be a best seller without having a free version

4. You can be a best seller with lower than average ratings

All in all, as a developer I no longer believe it is critical for my team to create a fee version to drive sales or to become a best seller. And I think the costs to make the free version may not justify the return on investment (ROI).

You can read more about our game WordPop! here and the free version, Diet WordPop! here.