So some time has passed since the release of Marty. My expectations were met in that it hasn't sold very much. Maybe about 30 copies. But the free version is some where around 600 sold. Still not amazing numbers but for an individual person, that's not too bad. This tells me a few things though...
First and obvious is that people like free things. They will grab just about anything to give it a try if its free. That being said though, you run a risk of killing your market if you release a free version AND a pay version. Most people, if they like the game or not, will only grab the free version. If the game is spectacularly addictive then a good portion will probably return to buy. But most will fiddle with the free version while they are bored and that's about the extend of it.
Now at this point, you ask yourself the question. How many of these people would have been willing to spend 99 cents if there wasn't a big ol "FREE" staring them in the face first? From my personal experience (and granted this can only be an assumption based on my game and reading) a free version is actually hurting your chances at sales. People will grab it up before paying money some wont like the game and will never return. Some will like the game but not go through the hassle to buy the full version. After all, they have a free version to mess around with until they are tired of the game's core idea. And a few will like the game and go the extra mile to buy it.
This obviously changes with game quality, how you introduce mechanics, etc. But I do believe there is a base knowledge to be had here in the concept of free and pay games.
So at this point you have to ask yourself. "Do I make it free or pay?" In my personal experience it may have been more advantageous to just make Marty a 99 cent game and leave it at that. In a realistic approach of what the game is (and if any of you have been reading this blog from the start (probably not) you would know that this first game is more an experiment than an attempt at fame.) it isn't that amazingly ground breaking and could use a lot of polish. Mechanics are given to you all at once. There aren't really any bread crumbs to make you want more past the free version other than more levels and maybe the jet pack and gravity orb. The tools aren't handed to you one by one to help learning. There are a mess of things with Marty that could be improved and Marty will make a return in a later game that promises to be more polished and fun.
So my solution to the current problem of Marty is to eventually make the full game free and throw ads in it. The current free version will live its life in quiet solitude. This should spike sales again for the last time and maybe get some ad coverage.
So is iAd the way to go?
Well, ads do pay money. My free version apparently has an issue on the 3Gs (the most widely used one still) where the ads don't show up fully and this doesn't' count as an ad hitting so I'm not the best model for it. But if you look at companies like Zynga (words with friends, Hanging with friends, and just about any other time sink game you can think of on the mobile market) they have ads on just about anything they can fit ads on and their pay versions only offer no ads becase you know they are annoying as hell.
But what they do offer is a genius platform that makes you load the game up over and over again clicking through ad after ad. They have connectivity with friends and basically free viral advertising by letting you find your friends through face book and twitter. Every time you close, another friends wants to play a game. You get 3 games going at once and you are clicking through more ads than my game will display in its life on any one phone.
My point is simply that YOU need to decide what is best for your app. Is it better off marketing as an app you pay for? Or is it something that is modeled in a way that will support multiple ad shows? Will you be hurting you game if you have both free and pay?
What I have learned, personally, is that if you plan to have both free and pay versions; you need to offer something more than just more levels and one or two carrots in the pay version. I think some where in the back of my mind I knew this, but launching your first game on your own is exciting and you want to get it done.
I'm sure Marty could have thrived on more levels as an incentive to buy but the polish just wasn't there. I will probably visit it again and smooth out some rough parts here and there but another thing I have noticed is that apps run their course in the mobile market quick. Marty still makes some sales each day and that's great and I'm sure it will continue to do so. But the success of your game overall is decided rather quickly. Thousands of apps hit the app store all the time so you need to hit it as hard as you can and get your name out. Ultimately, how you use that time is up to you but be sure you know your product before choosing free, pay, or both.