Paid apps aren't dead in the era of free-to-play, Capy co-founder says at GDC

Reports of the death of paid apps have been greatly exaggerated, co-founder and president of Capybara Games Nathan Vella said in a talk at GDC 2013.

The Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP developer acknowledges that 2013 will likely be crowned "the era of free-to-play." As proof, he offered charts showing that 66 percent of apps published in 2012 were free-to-play. That's the inverse of the market as it was in 2010.

According to Vella, the free-to-play model is in ascension because of the pricing model's recent success stories. Developers follow trends, he said. In 2010, many chased Angry Birds. Today, developers are chasing successful free-to-play hits like Clash of Clans because they see in-app purchase pricing models as the "next cash cow."

But acknowledging the success of free-to-play apps is different than saying that paid apps are dying, a sentiment he's been hearing a lot lately.

"I'm going to have to call some bullshit," he said as he set out to disprove the hypothesis.

Vella sees the theory as familiar. To him, it sounds a lot like the theory that consoles and PC gaming is dead or dying, both of which people have been saying for years, even as the predictions failed to materialize.

Vella said that developers intending to charge for an app need to acknowledge the potential of the game itself as a first step. In his estimation, developers shouldn't worry about the top grossing charts, just as they "probably" don't need to worry about in-app purchases.

"To be brutally honest, I don't think you have to know about business until you know what you're making," he said.

Vella also believes that there are successful games that demand a paid model by their very nature. He offered examples including Fireproof Studios' puzzle game The Room and Telltale's episodic adventure game The Walking Dead.

Building studio loyalty with the games you produce is also important, he said, but it's all in service of making the best games possible.

"Quality's all that matters."

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