Why we’ve killed IAPs in Table Tennis Touch

In-App Purchases (IAPs) – you either hate them or tolerate them. No one ever loves them. Why would you? They cost you money. Some would label them evil, and why not? Often they serve as a tax on fun.

But IAPs aren’t inherently evil. In the right hands they can work well for both the gamer and the developer. Sadly, IAPs are sullied by their worst implementation: the paywall.

So why did we launch Table Tennis Touch (TTT), our premium game, with two IAPs?

Background

We began work on TTT over two years ago. It was our first game. Back then the app market was quite different. We were planning to release two versions of our game: one freemium and one premium. The former would contain advertising, unlockable levels, power enhancing Boost and other goodies – all optional, all IAP. That seemed fair. The player got a good free game and chose to pay more if they wanted to.

As we got closer to completion we didn’t want to reduce our game to a collection of purchasable components. We decided to go solely premium. And then our naivety stepped up a notch – we also decided to keep two of our IAPs: Boost and the Arcade Key.

Our In App Purchases

Boost allows the player to hit the ball harder achieving greater speed and spin. The Arcade Key allows the player early access to all of the Career Mode’s mini games.

The Arcade Key is no big deal. It’s for those who don’t want to work through Career to play the excellent mini-games that TTT has to offer. Is it a cheat? Absolutely not. Arcade-based mini-games don’t contribute to the Game Center scoreboards; the key just allows people to have fun.

But Boost is a different kettle of fish. Is it a cheat? In my opinion, no but some would argue differently. And worse, still more would argue it serves as a paywall. This was absolutely not our intention. We’ve spent considerable effort reassuring people that there are no paywalls in TTT and that Boost is not required to win. As I wrote on Release Day to the good people on the TouchArcade forum:

(Boost) simply allows you to hit the ball faster and add more spin. It’s never required to beat any player. If you can’t beat a player at first, that just means you haven’t yet figured out his/her weakness. Every opponent has a weakness, some are complacent, some get tired in longer rallies others get frustrated and end up hitting the ball too hard. If you choose to use Boost it’s totally up to you!

So what’s the problem?

Table Tennis Touch is a challenging game. If you can’t beat an opponent you could say you need more practice, or you could blame the game for being too difficult. But if the idiot developers allow you to buy an elixir that suddenly enables you to vanquish your foe, you cry paywall! And that’s a reasonable conclusion.

So why did we keep Boost in the game?

In short, naivety. TTT was our first game and we wanted to see how the IAP market works but also, we quite like Boost. It makes what can be a very fast game even faster. Also, some players may be genuinely stuck against a given opponent and need a helping hand. Is this a paywall? Absolutely not; it’s prolonging the fun. It would only be a paywall if no one could beat a given opponent without Boost and that’s demonstrably never the case.

Whatever will you do?

As the title of this post alluded, our first update to Table Tennis Touch kills its IAPs! The Arcade Key is no more. Gone. If you’ve already bought it then it will of course still work but there’ll be no more purchases. And as for Boost … it’s now completely free!

As I said, we quite like Boost. And we’re not alone. Its only problem is its perception as a paywall device. Not anymore … in Quick Game, Boost is now infinite! And in Career Mode you earn Boost by winning achievements and by, well, playing the game (you’ll see).

But I already bought Boost!

When you upgrade TTT to v1.1 we preserve your past purchase, and you’ll only use that Boost in Career Mode, not Quick Game. And to make life super fair for everyone, we dish out Boost retrospectively for the achievements you’ve already won! Anyone who’s progressing through the TTT Career Mode should get a healthy top-up of Boost when they upgrade. It’s up to them whether they use it or not.

This is a big, bold step for us. We really hope it’s received in the way it’s intended: to remedy our past mistake and to make Table Tennis Touch an unarguably premium product with zero paywalls, be they real or perceived.

James Gratton


CTO

James had a long career coding trading software for big banks. He quit it all and learned how to make games. He’s the the technical brain behind Yakuto.

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