The other day it was revealed that Apple accidentally released a GameStore app into the AppStore. I’m going to jump right ahead and say that in a 2012 we’ll most likely see an update to iOS and OS X that splits games out of the AppStore into their own separate store.
Apple likes to repeat at their events how they have a larger collection of games than any other mobile games platform. That trend is no doubt continuing, and it makes me guess that at a certain point in the future the Games section of the AppStore will be considerably larger than any other category. This could mean a lot of things, one of which being that to leverage their games market fully they need a more dedicated store, and a unique app shopping experience for them. A GameStore would separate games from everything else in the AppStore, giving them more visibility, give Apple ways of categorizing games that wouldn’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the AppStore.
A new store might also enable new payment and subscription models. With a GameStore, the architecture could allow users to download game demos and allow for a “try before you buy” model, allowing people to download game demos and more easily upgrade to the full versions. This would reduce the clutter in the GamesStore like we have now with the paid full versions games, and secondary free, “light” versions.
Apple might also combine GameCenter with a GameStore. I don’t know anyone who uses GameCenter, have only three friends on the service. I just don’t see it as it stands as being a great success for Apple. Folding the features of GameCenter directly into a GameStore makes sense though. Right now games are treated like any other app and only have comments and ratings associated with them. Integrating GameCenter into a GameStore could provide richer information like achievements, the number of players online, the number friends playing this game, and leader boards – all at the point of interest.
A separate GameStore might allow game developers to charge more liberally for their products. Studio produced games are very expensive projects and getting past the $0.99 and $1.99 price points in the AppStore would be positive for developers. Even a simple mechanism like giving users a better idea of what a game is like and getting users excited about their games by including video game trailers/preview videos could help developers justify boosting the price of their games. Many game trailers already exist for iOS games, but right now they live on YouTube.
Another thing that’s made the news lately is the idea of freemium games and in-app purchases (IAP). Parents would download a free game for their kids and be shocked to see hundreds of dollars collected on their credit card bills through in-app purchases alone. Something that might benefit the public is “Freemium” (or some other label) being added to the pair of Paid and Free types of games that already exist, to better communicate this to consumers.
What’s also conceivable is the GameStore making a differentiation between studio produced games and ones done by smaller, independent software developers. This is already done on Xbox Live, but to me doesn’t seem to like a distinction Apple would care about making.