The iMafia game for iPhone is not only the first app with an approved, in-game microtransaction system, but that system also doubles as a platform to promote and purchase other iPhone apps.
The system, developed by PlayMesh, basically allows you to buy additional premium content for the MMO-esque game, where you point and click your way through life as a kingpin, but it also packages games from outside developers in with the premium content. In this case, you're essentially receiving points to "level up" everytime you buy an app inside iMafia.
What this means for you, is that if PlayMesh's model catches on in iPhone app development, you could be seeing alot more "premium apps" being sold for zero dollars. Here's why:
First, they've found a way to monetize free apps without resorting to advertising. Companies can profit by selling in-game bonus material. Apple still gets their usual cut of the profit, from any apps sold within iMafia, but then PlayMesh will take an additional (still undisclosed) cut from those developers working with them. Everyone wins.
Second, they've developed a way to promote and distribute apps outside the App Store, which gives new developers a chance to get their foot in the door against the already-established "popular apps." So if you're an up and comer in the iPhone developing world, you can basically pay for extra promotion.
That said, all apps still have to go through the usual approval process.
According to founder Charles Ju, in the two days this system has been live, iMafia has pushed two games into the top 100 of overall paid iPhone games. iMafia, which is free, currently ranks seventh among the iPhone's most popular games.
Ju says he's willing to talk to any interested developers, and hopes to eventually get this in-game marketplace working with future PlayMesh games. While it's very possible this could be a double edged sword—for every company that pays to have their quality app promoted more effectively, I'm sure there will be five others hawking really crappy ones— the idea of subverting Apple's App Store, and getting them to support it, is kinda impressive.
iMafia Launches Virtual Goods Marketplace For iPhone
iMafia Enables Parent Company Playmesh to Introduce First-Ever Virtual Goods Platform to the iPhone
San Francisco, CA - February 24, 2009 - PlayMesh, a gaming company focused on bringing the power of social gaming to the iPhone, today announced the launch of their virtual goods store in iMafia, a free graphically-enabled asynchronous massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). On the iPhone, iMafia was ranked as the seventh most popular game and is ranked the first social game and RPG.
iMafia's virtual goods store allows players to receive virtual goods when they download premium games through Apple's app store. PlayMesh founder Charles Ju explains, "The difference between our virtual goods store and those traditionally found online is that we encourage players to download fun games with real value. Our goal is to refrain from coercing our audience into useless subscriptions or credit cards. We believe that by doing this, all the parties involved will benefit. Premium game developers will receive more downloads, while casual game developers have the chance to monetize their free games. Additionally, Apple will profit from each transaction. This is a new concept that we're introducing into the iPhone's micro-economy, and we are thrilled to announce this release."
PlayMesh developed iMafia due to the disparity of social games available to iPhone users. Ju says, "I have always been intrigued by the power of social gaming. It just didn't make sense to me why any of these popular online games were not on the iPhone." iMafia hopes to take the first steps to empowering casual developers with the tools to leverage and monetize social gaming. According to Ju, "After extensive research into why social games were missing on the iPhone, we realised that there were two missing components: a social network infrastructure and an easy way to monetize through virtual goods. We took a gamble and developed both of these and it has paid off well beyond our wildest expectations."
In iMafia players do quests and compete with other real players to be the best mafia in the underworld. Games similar to iMafia are found to be especially popular with Facebook's and MySpace's audiences, taking the tenth and eleventh game spots on Facebook and the first and second overall spots on MySpace applications. Additionally, iMafia has an engaging graphical interface, a full-fledged social network, free SMS text sharing, and a never before seen twist on purchasing virtual goods.
Founded in July 2008, PlayMesh is the leader in social gaming on the iPhone and a premiere game producer that has had multiple titles break into the top 25 applications on the iPhone. PlayMesh is focusing on bringing the power social games, traditionally found on sites like Facebook and MySpace, onto the iPhone.
The most popular game produced by PlayMesh is iMafia, a fully-graphically enabled massively multiplayer roleplaying game. iMafia was ranked as the seventh most popular game and is ranked as the top social game and RPG.