Not exactly a niche observation — the peeve rears its head in virtually every review on the App Store — but it’s even more hilarious when The Oatmeal spews it forth.
I don’t know if any studies have been done on this yet, but it appears that there is an inherent miserliness associated with engaging in microtransactions. Whether it’s the context (“free” is the baseline for software downloads) or the newness of the space, purchasing a $0.99 app appears to be a consumer ordeal equivalent to purchasing a retail good 5-10x the price.
The effect becomes less pronounced, however, when visualizing the purchase price of an app in terms of a retail equivalent. My decision tree for purchasing a $2.99 app from the App Store is:
Based on the app description and reviews, do both the quality of the app and your expected usage of it justify the price?
If not, don’t buy it or wait till it goes on sale. Otherwise, you’re probably still hesitant to buy it, so visualize a retail equivalent. Would you indulge in a $2.99 coffee if you had the opportunity?
If not, don’t buy it or wait till it goes on sale. Otherwise, you’re too lazy to go buy a coffee, so you might as well buy the app. You can afford it.
It’s fascinating that such typically trivial amounts (loose change in your pocket, really) are subjected to such scrutiny when framed in the context of microtransactions. Kudos then to the App Store design and Apple marketing that they’ve been so successful in this space.