EA deeply discounts App Store titles, shenanigans called

Game publishing giant Electronic Arts (EA) had just discounted a whole swath of its iPhone games to 99 cents ahead of the holiday season, but there’s a feeling out there that this might not be a warm and fuzzy holiday giveaway by the company.

BusinessWeek wrote an article about the sweeping price cuts offered by EA, and called it an underhanded tactic to steer sales away from all the other iPhone games on the market.

No doubt thousands of people will wake up Christmas morning to open up a brand new iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and the first thing they’ll want to do is load it up with apps and games. But the App Store goes on freeze mode from December 22 to December 26, meaning no new apps can be added and existing apps can’t be changed.

EA is one of the few companies that manages to succeed on the App Store with “expensive” apps. That is, apps that aren’t 99 cents. So it doesn’t make all that much sense from an accounting standpoint to offer the discounts. Their games are going to sell find anyway.

But newcomers may not know the difference between a $5 EA game and a 99-cent game from an indie developer. They’ll just look at the price, and if EA’s games are the same price as the cheapy indie games, the cheapy indie games won’t sell. That’s BusinessWeek’s theory, at least.

“Why start now, a full six days prior to that freeze date? First, to build momentum. You don’t climb the charts within a couple of minutes. Such apps as Angry Birds reach their lofty perches by doing a brisk business consistently. Starting now gives the EA titles a chance to gather steam,” wrote the publication.

Perhaps it’s not such a sinister move. EA just wants people to start building a brand awareness, especially those who will be brand new to the iOS world, and may be new to downloadable video games as well.

Either way, the consumer wins, because being able to download Lara Croft for just 99 cents is nothing to complain about.