The countdown ended yesterday, revealing a pricey iOS port would be released today. To its credit, the game, known as the Solo Remix on iOS, does change some things up — it introduces high-definition artwork and merges the two screens’ worth of content from the DS game onto one screen (making combat work differently on iOS). There are some new songs and remixes of composer Takeharu Ishimoto’s soundtrack, and interestingly you can elect to have passesby’s thoughts pulled in from Twitter. Assuming the controls are tolerable to you, it appears to be a solid port.
There are, however, two problems here. The first is the way Square Enix handled things over the last week in leading fans to believe something more significant than an iOS port — however good that port may be — was in the works. Getting fans’ hopes up simply was not a nice thing to do. This sort of treatment would be appropriate if a 20-year-old classic were being ported to modern platforms for the first time. For a game most of the world saw for the first time less than five years ago and is playable on fairly common hardware (the DS and 3DS), this was all a bit much.
Setting that aside, what has caught the eyes of many is the price of this port: $ 20 on iPad and $ 18 on iPhone. Were this a 3DS port people would think nothing of it; on iOS, that is a lot to ask. The vast majority of iOS games are no more than a few dollars each, and many of them are free-to-play — a model that dominates the Top Grossing charts on the App Store. Among titles that don’t go the free-to-play route, the high-end for iOS game pricing has been established at around $ 7 by games like Infinity Blade II.
Square Enix is, of course, free to charge however much it wants for its games, and the fact that it continues to sell new games for so much suggests there are some people out there willing to pay these prices for iOS games (that, or it’s too stubborn to give in). Those who believe iOS games aren’t “real games” will surely applaud the publisher’s attempts to bring such titles to the platform, and it might not be such a bad thing if developers become free to create iOS titles that are best sold as $ 15 products rather than cheaper, microtransaction-based ones which are becoming increasingly common. (Republique developer Camouflaj is hoping that is the case.) The ability to purchase individual episodes of (and effectively sample) Dimensions is a good idea, though I question how much of a market there is for such an expensive game on iOS after we’ve been trained for years to pay so little for games on phones and tablets.
While I find it shocking to see an iOS game with price tags that are so high, I don’t actually have an issue with it. I like the idea that the App Store can be home to cheap but supremely fun games like Super Stickman Golf, Jetpack Joyride, Tiny Wings, and Hero Academy, but still have room for an experience like The World Ends With You. More options and variety is great, even if I personally would opt for a 3DS or Vita version of a $ 30 RPG (if available) that is sold for a similar price on the App Store. Old habits die hard and all that.
What I do take issue with is the game not being a universal app. Universal apps are ones usable on all iOS platforms with the same App Store account, meaning one purchase gets you an app that can be used on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Apps for iPhone can be used on iPad (but not vice versa), although that is not ideal as you are forced to either use an app that takes up a fraction of the screen or blow it up to fit the screen, hurting the quality of the visuals.
This is a common trend with Square Enix’s games, and it’s always been unacceptable. This is now even more problematic in my eyes as the company is expecting $ 20-$ 30 for its games. With it charging so much more than virtually every other game on the App Store, it would be a nice goodwill gesture to allow people to play the game on their iPhone and iPad — I can’t imagine that would put them out of business, and it would make the price more palatable. At the very least, it could offer a universal version with cloud save support for slightly more money; as it stands, anyone who wants to be able to play these games on an iPhone and iPad have to pay full price twice, and that is just not fair.