Apple App Store, games category. A few days ago, through my iPad 2, I’ve found MyTown 2: free, available for both iPhone and Apple’s tablet, with a wide number of five stars assessments. I started the download.
From the beginning, it seems like another Sim City’s clone. Indeed, I can’t say it is not: a huge empty field, and several buildings to construct on it.
To create an empire. A military one, or economic maybe, or any other type: the tipical delusions of grandeur, the basis of many videogames. However, there’s something different in MyTown 2, that makes this game experience something unique: the spatio-temporal nexus, that links the virtual world to the real one (or, better, actual). Indeed, under the spatial point of view, through a geolocation system and a database of commercial activities, the app detects your position, and shows you a list of shops close to you. You can build them, so, and they will be part of your own town. Yes: to become the owner of the jewelry under your home, or of the coffee roasting next to it, and so on, could be a little strange, but thanks to this feature you can have a customized (and, most of all, a personal) game, based on your own life. Then, you can log in: if you’re close to your shop, you can do a check in, so you can have an economic bonus. Virtual one, obviously.
The temporal point of view, now. Here, things are simpler. Different moments of the year, a different landscape and different buildings to choose. It’s Christmas time, so you’ll find a lot of tipical decorations. Of course, this time, MyTown doesn’t need API and other software’s contents. No maps and things like this: just a calendar and an update to adjourn the “seasonal” building’s list.
And, now, a scent of social: your virtual town, is not only connected to the real world, but also to several MyTowns built by other users. Visit them, create franchisings, get in touch with thousands of other passionates. This is possible due to Apple Game Center, a social gaming network.
But, isn’t there something strange? Why an application like this, pretty complex, should be downloadable for free, and in a complete version?
Usually, when app like this are for free, they have limited functions, or annoying ads that takes a meaningful part of your display. This is not that case.
Anyway, nobody does anything for nothing, and it’s tough to find mere charity on the App Store. Booyah, Inc., MyTown 2’s producer, is not an exception.
The Californian company practice, in fact, a business model which, personally, I think it’s very very intelligent and interesting. You can sell an app on the online store, earning not more than 10 € (games with higher prices, also if very well made, could be out of business, if compared with other game softwares on the App Store), just once, clearly.
Otherwise, you can donate it, considering it as the beginning of a value chain that the user is going to compose on his own, with the items that the producer will make available, sometimes for a fee.
And now, the software producer can have his return on investment. You build a simple house, or a common building: virtual money, that you earn during the game, are enough. Do you want a villa with swimming pool, the Eiffel Tower, or maybe a skyscraper with King Kong on the top? Fine: in this case, you can’t use virtual coins, but “real” ones, and you have to give it to Booyah, via electronic transaction, of course. In this way, the producer will not have an immediate economic return (the download price), pursuant to a range of incomes, that it is going to have through time.
Possible objection: it’s not sure that the user would like to invest real money in a virtual city. Absolutely true.
However, it’s equally true that, doubtless, the number of downloads made by users for an app a fee (if its price is 79 ¢, but also if it’s 10 €), would be extremely lower if compared to a free app’s one.
And moreover, think about a very important point: the software quality. A producer could present an app like amazing, but maybe, when you try it, you find out that it’s not so funny and interesting to use. Once you pay for the download, you know that you can’t do anything. Instead, if an app is for free, the producer can have a higher income (of course, like we said before, a freeware probably will have a greater spread and, so, also earning a few euros per user, it’s possible to gain very much), but only if the app is really well made. It’s obvious: if I don’t like a videogame, also if it’s for free, I’ll not spend on it anything, even if a cent. And vice versa: many users could be happy to spend a few euros to improve its game experience.
Then, in my opinion, this business model could become a game with no losers, where customers win – because first, they can try the app, and then, they can choose if spend some money – but software producers too – because they can obtain a very higher ROI.
What’s the meaning of this story? Easy to say: if the quality wins, everybody win.
My Town 2