A Market of Woe


Like most folks, I turn to my phone to help pass the time. I don't carry around my DS and my laptop's battery is good for about 20 seconds without being tethered to a wall-outlet, so my phone becomes the default timewaster when I'm out and about. Usually, this involves mundane texting of contacts, random questions to Google's txt-based search service, and an occasional clearing of my voicemail. But games hardly ever come into the equation.

That's because my phone is a four-year-old relic. It is one of the lingering pre-iPhone creations, representative of a bygone era where phone-based marketplaces (known to modern man as "App Stores") were savage lands of wordy textual descriptors. Usability was second-fiddle for the chance of making a quick buck. Does anyone know if the version of Guitar Hero: World Tour in the Verizon store is any good? I don’t see how anyone could, considering the infoblurb sounds like something taken from a marketing release. How could anyone resist taking a $6.99 leap of faith on a game for unlimited uses? (Unlimited! that's, like, forevertime!). Just make sure you don't upgrade your phone anytime soon -- games are tied to your hardware and don't carry over. Sorry.

Perhaps the price of ownership is too rich for your blood? Verizon's considerate enough to offer a subscription-based plan. $3.50 a month, renewable from your phone. Just think of it as renting the application. (additional charges may apply)

It's odd to think that this was ever considered a viable sales model, and it's a bit humbling to think that this was the trajectory that phone-based stores were on: closed systems, tyrannically dictated by carriers, designed to squeeze precious dollars from an unwary subscriber base. I have a sneaking suspicion that the games marketplace on my phone is little more than a pump-n-dump of tie-ins and impulse buys. Metal Gear Solid, G.I. Joe and Avatar all have offerings, but god only knows if these are rhythm games, sidescrollers, or first person shooters.

Or it could just be a monumental case of hubris. Anyone with the stones to charge $8.00 for [b]Tetris[/b] is either a financial shark or an insane idiot.

I'm not eager to find out, either way.

I’ve only purchased one game from my phone’s store – a Chose Your Own Adventure romp through high school that, surprisingly, included weekly DLC. It wasn’t anything revolutionary, but it was a perfect diversion and had a large enough backlog of scenarios that I felt the $5.00 I spent on it was well wasted.

And then, in 2008, I was advised to perform a “free update” of the game. Miraculously, I lost the license to the 2007 edition of the game and was instead provided with a sneak peek of the new and awesome 2008 iteration. I could purchase the ’08 version of the game for the low, low price of $8.00. What a bargain! I’ve been wary of paying for anything on the thing since.

It’s enough to make a guy take up reading again.


I hear ya - I dumped the enV and Verizon's insane "app" store for the iphone last year. I was always extremely skeptical of Verizon's offerings and shocked anyone would pay their prices.

I had a sh*tty Verizon cell phone during the period of my life when I was working 3rd shift as a security guard. I bought the Prince of Persia: Two Thrones game on there thinking it would fill up some of the dull hours, and while it wasn't great to play with my phone's number pad as the only input, it was actually a serviceable platformer. What made me sad was three minutes later, when I finished level 4 and the game was over. I'm still shocked to this day that they had the nerve to charge money for that.

I actually had a really decent version of Mr Driller on my pre-iphone Verizon phone. But yeah, everything else was scary.

I totally relate to your experience and frustration. Although, it's not certain that we've even graduated from that system. App Store and Android Market are like wolves in sheep's clothing in that regard. The same non-standard pricing and subscription models appear at the whim of the developers. Look for an RSS app on the Android Market. They range from Free to $10 with the paid ones not necessarily being the better.

Ah yes, the Mobile Dark Ages. When you had to pay real money to have a ringtone that sounded vaguely like a midi version of a pop song from the radio. I'm glad we are moving away from that.

Now if we could only get the phone plans themselves to not be such a rip off, then we'd be making real progress.

This sounds extremely familiar. If I keep chanting "Bejeweled WAS worth $7" as I play, will that make it come true?

I think many people fail to appreciate the significance of the app store. Before this there was a dark age, filled with carrier portals and WAP storefronts that charged insane prices. In the US, at least, the carriers were simply having none of anything else.

Then along came Apple, which had not only the means to provide a storefront themselves, but also the clout to shove it down the carriers' throats.

Whether or not you like the iPhone or Apple, at the end of the day this is a massive win for the consumer, as it has paved the way for Android, Palm, and even Windows Mobile 7 to do similar things. With consumer expectations now firmly planted, the carriers are unable to stem the tides.

I bought WAY to many versions of Wolfenstien.

This is partly why I hate cell phones. Well, that and the terrible "system access fee" BS and borderline illegal contracts. The only reason I have one right now is because I'm still on my parents plan after moving out, and the reason I'm still on the plan in the first place is because they can't get rid of me for another two years because the three year contract renewed when my brother upgraded the plan to get a Crackberry. I can't wait to give this old piece of sh*t up and smash it with a baseball bat...