My 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.
No Change 10%
.5 Neg Change 35%
1.0 Neg Change 5%
1.5 Neg Change 5%
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.
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).