Less than three months after launching its popular iPhone game Tap Tap Revenge 3 as a 99-cent app on iTunes, developer Tapulous made the game free a few days ago. The game was downloaded 300,000 times in 24 hours, overwhelming the Tapulous servers so much that the company had to turn off the online playing feature of the game. Tap Tap Revenge is now the No. 2 most popular free game on iTunes.
Making Tap Tap Revenge 3 free is another high-profile bet on the power of in-app purchases. Tap Tap Revenge 3, which is a Guitar-Hero style game, comes with free music tracks, but you ca also buy new tracks through the game. So far, as a paid app, it’s sold about 1 million songs, but it believes it can sell a lot more by making the game free. The Tap Tap Revenge series of games have been downloaded more than 20 million times, and the company claims 4 million active users per month.
Games do a better job than other categories when it comes to in-app purchases, although nearly all of the top-grossing apps in iTunes are still paid apps. But another iPhone game company, ngmoco, is shifting its entire strategy to from paid to free games with in-app purchases. It is not clear whether Tapulous is moving to this model as well, or launching new apps for 99 cents and then making them free once sales begin to die down. When it launches its next game, Riddim Ribbon, we’ll see if it is paid or free. If it is paid, one advantage of making Tap Tap Revenge 3 free now is that it can flood the market and then be used to cross-promote Riddim Ribbon. The shelf-life of an iPhone app is so short that it makes sense to sunset a paid app early to help push sales of a newer game.