August 10, 2012 2:00 PM | John Polson
In a rather novel pay-once, cross-platform experiment, Galcon developer Phil Hassey has offered a limited deal to give iOS purchasers of Dynamite Jack free Humble Store codes for PC.
The App Store's fierce restrictions on game codes limits this experiment such that consumers must pay for the iOS version first to get the Windows, Mac, and Linux versions free. Whereas Humble Store and Steam developers can get virtually unlimited codes for their games to distribute, Apple only gives 50 free codes per update.
To make this sale reciprocal for PC, Hassey would have had to buy the codes himself, so Apple could keep its 30% profit. Prepping for this promotion with 10,000 iOS codes would have cost him around $9,000 instead of $0.
Despite not being able to reciprocate this sale to PC owners, Hassey said he has received no complaints or backlash so far. "I reassure them that they can give their extra desktop code to a friend, so they still get benefit from this promotion."
In the first day of this promotion, consumers redeemed 342 codes. During the Universal iOS update yesterday, when Dynamite Jack launched on iPhone, Hassey made 870 sales. Total sales including iPad have been 6,064, meaning roughly 6% of iOS users have redeemed the promotion.
Visibility of the promotion may be an issue. Users must navigate to the game's community map area to fill out a form for the free PC versions, which includes DRM-free links and a Steam code. "I wanted to give it more exposure by having a popup when the game starts up, so that people who hadn't read about it online would also know about it, but unfortunately, my popup interface was the one feature of the game I forgot to convert over to the iPhone, so the text is unreadably small."
Hassey only thought of doing this promotion a few days ago, and by then it was way too late for him to update his iPhone version with a fix for the popup feature. The cross-promotion originally had a 48-hour span, but Hassey says he's likely to leave it up for the rest of the weekend.
This tight window makes full media coverage tough before the deal expires, compounded by past coverage for its staggered PC and iPad releases. Notable iOS sites TouchArcade, AppleNApps, and AppAdvice have all covered his promotion so far, though.
Since the sale isn't completely reciprocal, Hassey felt getting coverage on iOS sites was more vital than PC sites, along with getting coverage for the universal update. "Twitter and my own mailing list were also significant contributors to the awareness of the sale," he shares.
When asked if the sale would have been more effective if it accompanied a simultaneous cross-platform launch, Hassey replied, "Good question, I really don't have any idea! I've staggered my releases from platform to platform so that I'd be able to release as early as possible. The port from PC to iPad took over a month, and the port from iPad to iPhone took over a month. So doing everything at once would have pushed the game back quite a bit."
One thing is certain: until Apple releases its hold on codes, indie developers face a tough challenge in taking this type of pay-once, cross-platform promotion to the next level.