An iPhone game developer has learned that hard way that one of the following will get your app banned: Publicly slamming the iPhone App Store, or gradually increasing prices until someone pays hundreds of dollars for a simple time waster.
I'm inclined to think it's the latter, but let's backtrack.
According to Kotaku, Tommy Refenes' game, Zits & Giggles (a simple pimple-popping game), disappeared from the App Store this week with no explanation from Apple. Refenes isn't an unknown developer; he's part of the team working on Super Meat Boy, a highly anticipated indie game for the Wii, Xbox 360 and PC.
As such, Refenes was one of the speakers during the "Indie Gamemakers Rant" at last week's Game Developers Conference. These events encourage the speakers to vent on whatever they like, and Refenes chose the iPhone App Store as one of his targets. Not everything he said is suitable for our family-friendly blog, but he did liken the iPhone to those Tiger Electronics LCD games of the early 1990s, which often carried big brand names but weren't particularly fun to play.
Now for the other facet of the story: Refenes had been playing around with the game's pricing, noting that people continued to buy the game even as its cost reached $15, $50 and $299. Someone paid $400 for the game, the same day Apple pulled the plug.
It's amusing to think that Apple squashed Zits & Giggles because of Refenes' insolence during GDC, but I have a tough time believing the game's price wasn't to blame. It's not like Apple hasn't removed apps because of ridiculous prices before. Of course, all this speculation could have been avoided if Apple had explained to Refenes why the app was pulled, or given him a chance to settle on a price, but alas, communication isn't Apple's strong suit.
I'm tempted to dig into Refenes' comments on the quality of iPhone gaming, but that's an issue best saved for another day and a fresh blog post. On a related note, I do kind of miss those Tiger LCD games.