It comes as no real shock that Square Enix charges quite a bit for their mobile games, but the publisher isn't exactly apologetic or keen to lower their prices. For them, $30 for Final Fantasy Dimensions, $16 for Final Fantasy III or $44 for Demon's Score seem perfectly reasonable. After all, one can't argue with quality.
In a recent interview, a Square Enix exec explained just why their mobile games were so much pricier than the average iOS/Android title, even ports and remakes. Short answer? Quality. Here's the longer version:
"The games you mention [Final Fantasy Tactics, The World Ends With You, Final Fantasy III] and several of our other mobile titles were originally intended for the consoles, and we've reconfigured and optimized them for the mobile platform, releasing them at a lower price than their original console or handheld versions. Square Enix does provide other casual titles in the lower price range, and as the market evolves, we'll take all different price points into consideration on a game-by-game basis."
Square at least recognizes that the mobile market is not really the same as other platforms. For instance, none of the publisher's mobile titles are even in the top 200 top-grossing appes on iTunes, with the exception of their free-to-play Guardian Cross. Does this mean their pricing strategy has been unsuccessful?
"The mobile marketplace is maturing and frequently changing. As the devices increase in capability, the quality of gaming experiences we provide increases as well. Each game is priced individually and evaluated based on the type of game, depth and overall experience it provides for players. Some of our higher priced titles offer more than 60+ hours of game time with rich storylines, high quality graphics and challenging, diverse combat."
Of course, Square Enix also recognizes the difference between Westerners and mobile gamers in Japan. Folks in North America, they say, are just used to paying less for mobile games, and it says a lot that Guardian Cross is their most successful game out West.
"However, we are aware that the market in North America is accustomed to the lower priced or free to play games. Guardian Cross was our first significant title to utilize the free-to-play pricing model and we've been very happy with the community reaction to the title. The gameplay lent itself very well to the free-to-play pricing model.
"Moving forward, we're looking forward to the challenge of utilizing our strengths in creativity, world-building, and gameplay mechanics and matching those with a pricing model that are consistent with the market and provides players with a sense of overall value."
Some experimentation is happening. Demons' Score, for instance, has a starting price of $6.99 in the U.S., with $37 in additional paid content. Incidentally, the Japanese version is $20 total. When asked about this, Square Enix dodged the issue, stating:
"We wanted to offer U.S. players the opportunity to purchase and experience Demons' Score at a lower price than the Japanese version. This allowed U.S. players the opportunity to play the game and decide whether or not they wished to proceed by purchasing additional IAPs as they progressed within the game."
As for why they haven't implemented a universal application system for iOS -- making iPhone and iPad versions of games compatible on either platform -- Square decided not to directly comment.