Subpar for the Course [ COMIC ]

The average iPhone application costs $2.75 USD and the average game costs $1.38 USD [source]. You definitely get what you pay for with iPhone applications, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s take the game Circuits for the iPhone. I downloaded this game on Saturday and have easily clocked somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-6 hours on the game. At a price of $2.99 USD that averages to about fifty to sixty cents an hour of play.  Plus, I’m still playing the game  so that number will easily decrease over time. Now according to Kotaku, the average price of an XBLA game in June was $9.05 [source]. Which means to that the average XBLA game I download must give me at least 16.5 hours worth of fun to match the current level of entertainment that I have received from this single iPhone App Store game. And lets be honest, 16.5 hours worth of fun is a lot to ask of a regularly priced retail game considering that RPGs deliver something like 30 hours of game play themselves.

Now, I’m not saying that XBLA games or PSN games don’t deliver. Hell, Shadow Complex for XBLA has been one of the finest games I have played for a very long time on any platform and in any format. And on top of that, there are tons of stuff for the iPhone that are complete and utter crap… probably most of it. Nonetheless, the math alone proves you need to get a lot more hours of enjoyment out of console downloads than you do from iPhones in order to get your money’s worth out of it.

Sorry for the single update this week. I’ve been sick since Sunday and this was the first time since then I could muster up something for the site. I also plan on updating on my SPX experience this past weekend sometime soon as well. Once again, sorry for the delay and shortened week.


  • While they both certainly have solid points, I’d prefer to save my $2-$15 and spend it on something I’d use…or save it for something that costs more, and is hopefully worth the price (this is rare, however). ;)

  • ClashMovator

    You are basing most of that math on that one data point though. First you’d need to find the average amount of play you get from an iPhone app. Based on my experience stealing my girlfriend’s iPhone, the average for me is 1-5 minutes.

  • @ClashMovator I’m using that one game as an example, but most of the iPhone games I have have given me a lot more value for my buck than that. Here’s the breakdown of games on my iPhone, their price and how long I played them.

    Pocket God ($.99): 8-10 hours
    Fieldrunners ($2.99): 10-12 hours
    Paper Toss (FREE): 2-4 hours
    The Deep Pinball ($.99): 6-8 hours
    Wild West Pinball ($.99): 2-4 hours
    Kingdoms LIVE (FREE): 8-10 hours
    Circuits ($2.99): 5-6 hours

    I guess a lot of it comes down to which games you download as well.

  • Chibi-Acer

    Is Circuits a typical example though? Is 6 hours of gameplay the average expected playtime for an iPhone app, or a high? I don’t own an iPhone, so I really have no idea. There are a few XBLA games were you can easily spend 20+ hours of playtime (Puzzle Quest comes to mind). It’s not a fair comparison to say the average game must meet the standard of this single example. If one console game matches the value of for every iPhone game, then the two are still neck and neck. If we’re comparing averages, I have no idea what the numbers would be. Just saying.

  • @Chibi-Acer I honestly which I had an average for the amount of time a normal gamer spends gaming on their iPhone and per game as well. For something like that all I can really do is list my statistics as I have above. Puzzle Quest was definitely a longer game, but Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness offered little replay value and was quick to beat. Once again, it really comes down to the title. The thing is on iPhones. You pick a game up, play it for 5-10 minutes and then put it back down. You don’t realize that that time ads up quickly. It’s a short-term investment. When you go to play an XBLA or PSN or WiiWare game, you are going there specifically play a game and not kill a few minutes while you wait for your food to arrive.

  • The Anarchyz

    There are games on the PSN and Wiiware (i don’t have a 360 so i don’t talk XBLA) that i put a lot of hours even when the game can be done in a few, like Wipeout HD, Megaman 9, Tetris Party, World of Goo, Phat Princess, Super Stardust HD, etc. And if i had an iPhone i probably would find some that consume my free time as well, but i cannot compare a console game with a portable game, i compare portable to portable, and i think the iPhone in games is still way behind the DS and PSP, but that could change if major publishers shift to the iPhone…

  • Really, I find iPhones are purely used for the “study” periods at school where everyone gathers around one person who got one and then it’s stolen and they mess about with the Apps… You get a few games, normally the puzzle ones, that get you playing a lot.
    XBL games I find aren’t all just the same puzzle game you may have played about a year ago on The games on XBL normally have more of a team of programmers go into them and the quality is much better, e.g. Castle Crashers, Braid, Pacman C.E. The iPhone has a few “useful” apps and like a few games, the rest are a bunch of crap… I find with the iPhone the hours of play mostly go up because you have to have each of your friends drain the battery once in playing it…
    But then… I don’t own an iPhone, so I’m sure I’d probably have a different view if I had one to view the AWESOME POWER.
    I also find that people with iPhones end up downloading Apps, play with them once or twice, then they never see the light of day. With XBLA, seeing as they are more pricey, you, hopefully, will be a bit more… careful with the spending instead of downloading something for the funz and then deleting it the same day…

  • Mistah Nox

    What kinda pisses me off, is the unfair priced games in general.

    Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – 56Euro as Launching Title, now 39Euro
    I beat that game in 12 hours – no walkthroughs

    Zelda: Twilight Princess: 59Euro new (1 day before official launch day, Gamecube version)
    I beat that game in 56 hours, perfect – could have done that in 30-40, but I got lost, did minigaming and treasure hunting.

    Now let’s take a look at aracade games:
    Prince of Persia: Epiloge – 10 to 15 bucks…
    Around 2-3 hour gameplay

    Prince of Persia XBarcade – 12 USD (last time I checked, which was a year ago)
    This game is beat in less than 1 hour (you have to anyway!)

    TMNT: Turtles in Time (Arcade) – 800GP (around 10Euro over here)
    This game can be beat in less than 1hour, if you’re skilled

    I don’t know how the industry can say that a game that is only worth 5-10 hours of gameplay is actually worth 60 bucks, while another one that has less than 1 hour of gameplay is 10 bucks. Not counting replay value.

    Then again, I don’t get the pricing of 1,30-2,50Euro for a crappy song on iTunes either.

  • buddahblake

    stfu all of you. if you dont want to buy content, dont. if you do, do. nobody has a gun to yer head saying “yew muss bie nao”. dont complain about prices until your the programmer who made the content. dweeeeeebs.

  • @buddahblake Publishers need consumers to buy the games they develop. If they don’t feel they are getting their best bang for their buck, they have every right to complain.

  • Miles Tormani

    The problem here is that you’re only talking numbers, when the true value of a game or movie is purely subjective.

    Take Bioshock for example. It was about $60 on release, you may spend somewhere between 5-10 hours on it, and even with the alternate ending (and the achievements), you may not even bother to play through the game a second time. Yet gamers everywhere referred to it as the s*** and it was a common winner of Game of the Year awards.

    Meanwhile, a PS2 game called Frogger: The Great Quest retailed for somewhere between $40 and $50 at the time (I can’t remember which), and lasted just about as long. That said, the /first/ time playing through was painful, and I probably wouldn’t play it ever again, even if you paid me $40 to.

    There are also a lot of RPGs these days that last 80+ hours, and I’d wish they were trimmed down to 8 at most. Sadly enough, in those cases that’d be easy: just increase the XP gained from each encounter tenfold.

    Besides, in this case, I may not know how it is for the iPhone, but on XBLA, every game has a demo version. So you can see if you even like the game way before you fork over the $10-$15 for it.

  • FluffyPanda

    Then why buy games at all? According to your maths every free web game that I’ve ever played has infinite value!

    Actually, I think that the few short hours of incredible experience that I got from Braid was far better value than the same amount of time I wasted on Ginormo Sword for free.

    To put it another way, which would you rather spend $5 on, a 2 hour showing of your favourite film of all time, or a 15-hour marathon of pure shite back-to-back?

  • @FluffyPanda I assumed that people would infer quality as being part of the equation. I did mention that most of the stuff on the iPhone was crap. Not saying that it was crap that people would still spend hours of time on, but that it was just crap.

  • FluffyPanda

    Isn’t quality a far higher portion of the equation though? A game can be amazing for an hour and be worth more to me than one that allows me to enjoyably pass 100 hours. My free time isn’t that abundant that I can afford to play every game I’d like to, so compact brilliance is by far my preferred experience.

    After finishing a game I tend to look back on the experience, not the number of hours I’ve spent. If you start thinking about the number of hours you are likely to get from a game before making a purchase (looking for some kind of quantifiable value) then you’re going to exclude some of the best games ever made. It’s for that reason that I think time/dollar calculations are counter-productive.

    I don’t disagree with you in saying that some iPhone games are good value by the way. I don’t have an iPhone so have no way to judge. I just think that if a game’s worth playing then 2 dollars or 10 isn’t going to make much difference to my enjoyment of it.

  • Vodun

    Why do people insist on using time spent playing as a measure of quality? Just because a game lasts for 60 hours doesn’t mean you’re having fun 60 hours!

    Personally, when a game flaunts offering more than 30 hours for a playthrough I start worrying…that just means most of the game is made up of gameplay and environments which feel auto-generated, like noone’s put their heart into making it. Those games are also usually the ones where you start to feel like you’re working rather than playing.

  • SomeGuyIDontKnow

    You just quantified fun…that makes me sad.

  • Seriously, how many of you have read an article about a game and read the following comment, “It was fun, but too short.” That is enough to turn a lot of people off from buying a game. If we were all downloading these games for free, then it wouldn’t matter. 1 hour of fun would be awesome. But when you’re paying $10 for 1 hour worth of fun, it’s not worth it. Go buy a few used games or see a movie. So yes, time does play a major factor in the value of a game… unless the game is Portal or ICO.

  • The Anarchyz


    That’s what people say about Heavenly Sword, “Ninja Theory made an awesome game but it’s too short”…

    About Portal, the game itself is not large, but since it’s a first-person puzzle, it has the value of replay, i am still playing it doing different stuff…