iPhone game developer Tommy Refenes recently had his app pulled from the app store after making disparaging comments about Apple’s iTunes App Store. Or that’s the story he’s throwing out there, at least.
Here’s what we know.
Tommy Refenes had an app called “Zits and Giggles” that up until recently was available on iTunes. A few weeks ago at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Refenes went off on Apple, exclaiming that he “absolutely f*cking hates the iPhone App Store.” He then went on to compare the quality of games available to the low quality Tiger handheld games of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Edit: Hey, I loved those games!
It was this tirade that Refenes believed led to his apps removal.
But as is often the case, there’s a little bit more to the story.
Over the past few months, Refenes took what can only be described as extreme liberties when it came to pricing his iPhone app. Five months ago, Refenes raised the price of his app to $15. Shortly thereafter, he raised the price to $50. Next, he raised the price to $299 which reportedly netted Refenes 14 purchases and $2930 in profit after Apple’s 30% cut. Not yet satisfied, and perhaps curious to see just how far his pricing experimentation would lead, Refenes upped the price of his app to a whopping $400, which surprisingly attracted one lone purchase.
“My conclusion to all of this, Refenes stated, “is that the people you’re selling games to on the App store, they’re not necessarily gamers. There are some games that sell very well on the App store, but for the most part, when you have stuff like Street Fighter and Assassin’s Creed, the are a way to sell a brand, just like the Tiger handhelds were.”
The app was subsequently removed, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what rubbed Apple the wrong way. Remember that the first app store controversy involved a useless $999 app called “I am Rich” that provided no utility whatsoever, save a glowing picture of a red diamond. Apple quickly the app after customers reported being duped into spending a boatload on what was arguably a scam to make a quick buck at the expense of gullible users. It also didn’t help that Apple was receiving a lot of bad press due to the apps mere presence on iTunes.
That said, and for as much vitriol that gets directed at Apple on a daily basis, it seems pretty ludicrous to think that Apple would vindictively remove an app because of one developers off-handed remarks at a game conference. Truth be told, Apple most likely just didn’t like how Refenes was, dare we say, abusing the app store with his constant and upward pricing changes
Refenes, though, is unconvinced.
“They gave me no explanation at all as to why they took it down,” he stated, “I’m guessing they are mad that I said their store sucks and the iPhone is a Tiger handheld and they took it down.”
Below is Refenes talk from the GDC.
On another note, for as much hype as gaming on the iPhone receives, some of the more popular iPhone games are indeed reminiscent of the Tiger handhelds of yore.