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Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions will be £10.99/$15.99 on iPhone - how much is too much?
Time to mass debate
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions iPhone, thumbnail 1
 Product: Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions 
 Developer: Square Enix  
 Publisher: Square Enix  
 Genre: RPG, Strategy 
by Rob Hearn
Square Enix's long-overdue tactical RPG Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is finally hitting the App Store this week, and like several of Square's previous iOS releases it's rectum-clenchingly expensive. 

In fact, at £10.99 (the price point formerly known as £9.49) it's the most expensive iPhone game available. Only Chaos Rings on iPad - also by you-know-who - is as expensive, suggesting that the iPad version of Final Fantasy Tactics due in Autumn could cost even more.

If that doesn't sound like very much money, bear in mind that each of the apps in the UK top ten at the time of writing costs 69 pence, and Final Fantasy Tactics isn't far off being ten times as expensive as the average top 300 app.

Square's lunge for the ceiling rather than the floor of App Store pricing is bold and controversial, but what do the experts and - let's face it - paupers who occupy Pocket Gamer Towers make of it?

Let's see.

Ryan: Well, I haven't played FF but I'm actually alright with higher prices if quality increases. I'd be prepared to pay £30-£40 if the quality matched a console AAA release - and the hardware is starting to get to the stage where that's possible

Keith Andrew: I think, actually, I'm not against the high price.

Mike Rose: For once, I have absolutely no opinion.

Chris Schilling: I think it's necessary for iOS to have games at prices like that if it's to evolve as a platform.

But then I'm not sure I can see it being a success at that price

If it is, then a lot of publishers will be very pleased, because it suggests you can be successful on iOS at a higher price point, rather than just at 69p or thereabouts.

It could also lead to disaster for 3DS and Vita - because the 'premium' side of the market is currently theirs.

Keith Andrew: I think it'll probably be a more traditional success, in that people who like Final Fantasy will all buy it on day one, and it'll spike. It will appeal to fans, which means it'll sell a decent amount, but it won't sap up casual purchases, meaning its tail will be short.

Someone asked about this on Twitter, and I said I couldn't imagine paying that price for a game on iOS, but I didn't have anything against it. 

However, thinking about it, if it was a new Broken Sword game, or if one of the two remakes had come out at that price, I'd have paid it. All a price like that means is newcomers won't want to risk it in case they don't like it.

Ryan McGowan: If an iOS developer released the next Deus Ex or Halo and said, "oh, and here's a £30 price tag too", why would you say no? 

Obviously, the majority of iOS games aren't worth more than a tenner - but when we've got increasingly powerful hardware like the iPad 2, we're going to see increasingly complex development going on, and that can really only be sustained by a higher price tag.

Keith Andrew: It's the kind of price you could only apply to an established franchise or remake, or from a new game from a developer everyone knows. You couldn't, for instance, launch 'Bouncing Balls Puzzle Game' at over £10.

Chris is right, though, that it takes iOS into Vita territory.

Ryan McGowan: I think a lite version would be a necessity for any game like that, because people aren't used to paying that much. It'll take a long time for people to feel natural paying that much for an app.

Keith Andrew: I think one factor that puts off people from paying big amounts is that non-casual gamers still see touchscreen controls as a disadvantage...

Anthony Usher: I think the game is worth the price Square Enix is asking for it. If you want iOS to carry high quality titles you have to be willing to pay for them.

FFT is packed full of content and hours of gameplay, so you can't expect the devs to give it away cheaply.

The only real question is do you buy it now, or wait for an inevitable sale down the line.

Keith Andrew: ...so there's this view that big adventure games - which would be worth this fee - are automatically a bit worse on iOS, Android and co. because there's no physical controls.

Mark Brown: Prices on iPhone can't be decided in a vaccuum. The App Store is an ecosystem and games must be priced competitively or players will look elsewhere and quickly find something of equal quality, and at a significantly lower price.

There's certainly room to negotiate, and companies like 2K, Rockstar, and Cave have succesfully pushed the boundaries towards £10 in exchange for high quality games. But by pricing FFT at £11, Square Enix orbits so far outside the App Store ecosystem that it's close to barrelling off into space.

Besides, it's like £6 on PS3 so what the f*ck is Squeenix trying to pull?

Keith Andrew: But it's context, isn't it?

I'll happily spend £15 if a friend and I grab a coffee and a sandwich at Costa, but I'd panic over a £11 purchase on my iPhone. It's odd when I think about it.

In short, if you love Final Fantasy, you're going to pay whatever. If you don't, that kind of price will put you off risking it. It polarise potential buyers, basically.

Mark Brown: But you wouldn't go in a Costa and spend £20 on a coffee because the maker of those beans arbitarily decided they were worth more

You'd say "f*ck your beans, I'll have a latte."

Keith Andrew: But aren't all game prices arbitrary?

Mark Brown: No.

All the games on XBLA are between 800 and 1600 points. All games on PS3 retail are, at launch, between £35 and £45

Keith Andrew: Bar man hours, you can't actually say how much a game is worth. Every game price ever is essentially a made up figure.

Publishers only stick to those guidelines you give there because they fear it wouldn't sell otherwise. This could be a watershed moment for iOS in that regard.

If it sells, you'll see more £10 plus games - but only in the case of well established franchises, or re-releases, I'd say.

Anthony Usher: A game's price should be based on its content, and FFT has enough content to justify the asking price.

Keith Andrew: If Suzuki announced Shenmue III for iOS tomorrow, I'd happily give him my first born for it.

Mark Brown: So should Fallout 3 cost £70 and Uncharted cost £15 because of the difference in hours played?

Ryan McGowan: Mind you, I fear price inflation without the content to match - where as we get more and more used to seeing £11 apps, the culture slowly changes until developers are okay with charging a tenner for something that, in the past, would probably have been a fiver.

Keith Andrew: Mark - they can be if they sold at that price.

There's no fixed price for any of this stuff. Publishers simply stick to what's accepted because they fear we wouldn't buy it otherwise

But you can't say, 'this is what a game is worth and Square Enix has gone overboard' - only sales figures will either prove you right or wrong on that score, I think.

Mega Drive games used to be £55-£60 when I was young, for instance.

Mark Brown: So you're happy with a publisher trying it on just because they're Square Enix and they can get away with it?

There are loads of games on iOS that have as much content as FFT and their publishers don't feel the need to charge those prices.

The Square Enix tax is bullsh*t and always has been.

Anthony Usher: If I buy a 69p iPhone game I'm only expecting to be entertained for a couple of hours, but if I drop £11 I want weeks and weeks of gaming.

Which I know I'll get because I've owned the game before. Seems fair to me.

Carry on the debate below!

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Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn 2 August 2011
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