We’ve been asked if, like we did with Hungry Birdz, we will be releasing a free or lite version of Stacked Sevens. The answer, unfortunately, is ‘probably no’. Let me explain:

Apple’s rules say that you can’t release a ‘demo’ of your app; that is, you cannot omit any key features or components that are central to your game, and you can’t time limit or play limit your app (ie, that the app eventually is rendered unusable). Any free or lite version must be ‘fully functional’ and stand on it’s own.

If your game features level based progression then it’s easy. Just offer levels 1 to 5 of 50 in your free/lite version. If people want to play the other 45 levels, they have to buy the full version. But neither Hungry Birdz nor Stacked Sevens are level based games… with either, it’s your cumulative progression through the game that determines the outcome and make them fun to play!

Sure, both Stacked Sevens and Hungry Birdz have multiple game modes, and I suppose we could give away one of those game modes to play to it’s conclusion, which would at least give the user a much better idea of the overall gameplay experience. The problem is, while that’s good for you the player, it’s not good for us. The whole point of a free or lite version is to make you want to upgrade to the full version… and where is the incentive to do that if we just gave you a full game that you enjoy?! Many people stick to their favourite game mode in games they play a lot.

For instance, I only ever play ‘Classic’ Bejeweled. If that, in its entirety, were the ‘demo’ version, I wouldn’t have any reason to buy Bejeweled. The demo version of Bejeweled though, is time limited. It gives you 60 minutes to make up your mind. Note there simply isn’t a free or lite version of Bejeweled (2) on iPhone/iPod, presumably precisely because you’re not allowed to time limit the functionality of your app… and what other limitations could you impose on a game like Bejeweled that would still adequately demonstrate the game?

That’s the problem with Hungry Birdz FREE – because we’re not allowed to, say, let you play the full game for an hour, or play through 10 times, we’re having to impose a completely different end-game scenario to the full game which is roughly the equivalent to saying ‘the game ends when you make your first chain’ in Bejeweled…. and to be honest, we are of the opinion that releasing a free version of Hungry Birdz at all did more harm than good for precisely this reason. Whilst it might give a player a brief idea of what is involved, it really doesn’t give you a good feel for how fast, frantic ‘n’ fun the game becomes as it progresses, and how the dynamics of the game change quite drastically depending on how well you’re doing.

We don’t want to make the same mistake with Stacked Sevens. We don’t think that there is any way we could ‘cut down’ the game that would do the full game justice, so while we acknowledge that many people want to evaluate a game first, we would rather hope that people will take a chance on buying the game, given that it’s less than a dollar to buy anyway, than run the risk of ‘putting them off’ with a lite version that can be shoehorned into Apple’s rules.

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