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Daily iPhone App: Marvel Pinball is a great app hindered by a bad model

Zen Studios is very well known for their pinball titles, which all feature great graphics, well-made themes, and excellent pinball table mechanics. Just today, Zen has brought their very popular Marvel Pinball game to iOS, and you can now download the app itself for 99 cents.

Unfortunately, that price is a strange one -- all it will get you is one Avengers-based table, which is interesting enough, with its various Avengers-style pinballs that you can send out into battle as you play for points against Loki. But there are 14 other tables to play with, and all of them need an in-app purchase of $1.99 each. That's it -- there's no way to earn or unlock tables from within the game itself, which is a missed opportunity at the very least. Charging users 99 cents to download the app for one table in this case just seems like charging for a free trial, unfortunately, and I wouldn't be too surprised if the app goes free very soon anyway.

The good news is that the pinball mechanics are great, and Zen Studios obviously knows how to make a great pinball-based video game (I especially like the "free look" mode, which allows you to browse around a table just by tilting your device from side to side). But the pricing model here is very flawed and uninviting. If you're a pinball fan, you might think about downloading the app for the Avengers table, and then maybe buying one or two that you like (each table has a trailer and a features list, though you can't play on them to even try them out before you spend the money). For everyone else, Zen Studios has done a big misstep here by hiding their great content behind an awkward pay wall. They should have considered a better way to do this.

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