One of the most noteworthy iPhone-related events last Christmas was the Appvent Calendar – an initiative started by several developers where a game was made free for a day. I have admired their devotion and grabbed a few titles myself. Apparently, this has been quite profitable for the developers involved as well – only a month had passed before the 3 original founders of the Appvent Calendar teamed up with Openfeint and started the FreeAppADay.com website that followed a similar path. But it seems they are not the only to do so.
One of the competitor sites was actually started by the member of the FreeAppADay initiative – Openfeint. It is called FreeGameOfTheDay.com and lists the freebie sponsored exclusively by Openfeint. You can also follow their deals by downloading the OpenFeint: Free Game of the Day iPhone App.
The other couple of sites that I have recently noticed are freeAppCalendar.com by Mind Juice Media Inc and GreatAppADay by Qwiboo (Thanks to devoted TMA reader Thunderclaw for bringing it to my attention). And while their offerings don’t have any high-profile games yet, I’m confident they will get their supporters. Finally, I have seen quite a few games being made Free in conjunction with the French site FunTouch.net, though with my limited French, I wasn’t able to find a dedicated section there.
It’s quite clear what the developers gain by setting their app free for a day – visibility. Apart from getting lots of retweets, announcements and other types of promotion, the high number of donwloads almost instantly put any app in the Top 10. One thing the developers should take into consideration though is that once the free app goes back to being paid once again, the amount of downloads accumulated while Free will cease to count towards the total tally (hence bringing it back down almost instantly)
But what do the site holders get from this? Apparently not only ratings, though the FreeAppADay is rumoured to get almost a million daily pageviews. As it turns out, being featured on such a site is actually NOT free for the developers. In addition to making their app/game free, they have to pay the site owners in order for their apps to be announced. The said FreeAppADay, for example, charges $600 for being the app of the day and $1200 for being on the featured tab. That makes a minimum of $18K per month, which not too shabby. Especially since running such a site doesn’t require much work.
What should we, the users, take away from all of this? Sadly, having really good titles on sale is still an exception rather than a rule, so it may not be worth constantly checking out the sites. Almost all noteworthy sales will be reported on the mainstream iPhone weblogs like TMA and the rest are probably better off left unnoticed. And while as a user I love to see games drop in price to FREE, I feel this brings down the value of the developer’s work even more – especially with the existing $0.99 game stereotype. Perhaps it’d be better in the long run to see more money spent on bringing out quality titles rather than on advertising the game on sites like FreeAppADay.