Blog Archive

8445201580_568ce5d7e8_zIt’s become a tradition. Overindulge in turkey and all of the wonderful sides that go with it, fall asleep watching a boring football game, then get up early the next day to buy a DVD player for $0.03 at the local big box store. Well good news, you don’t have to put your life in risk of being trampled by a horde of grandmas, you can stay home, eat a leftover turkey sandwich, and save a ton of money on the App Store.

Every year we search the App Store high and low for the best deals on the apps we love. This year is no different. Here’s our list, which we will update regularly all weekend.

12/2 – 8:15am — Here we are on Cyber Monday — the food coma has finally worn off and it’s time to get back to work. While I was passed out a few new app sales showed up and I updated the list as soon as I awoke. Now, where’s that coffee?
11/29 – 10:15pm — There’s an emergency here. We are out of pumpkin pie. We have plenty of whipped cream, but no pie to go with it. Too lazy to make or go buy more. Guess I’ll just find another 45 apps and games on sale for you. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll hunt and gather my way to the grocery store and buy another pie.
11/29 – 7:00am — Added another 90+ sale items. Whew, getting the sweats from the lack of turkey in the last 12 hours. Need a turkey omelet to start off the day I think.
11/27 – 12:00pm — Initial list of 45+ great apps and games on sale or free. Picking out my loosest pants for the feast tomorrow.
11/27 – 2:00pm — First update, another 45 great sale apps and games found. Turkey is in the beer brine, the best way to cook a turkey, getting ready for the big feast tomorrow.

A quick note about these sales. Some are on sale for just one day, some are on sale all weekend. If you see something you want on sale, best to grab it. And check back regularly through the weekend for new items which will always be at the top of the list.

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Hit the jump for the list of apps and games on sale!

Continue reading The Big List: Black Friday App Sale – Best Apps and Games on Sale or Free for iPhone and iPad »

It’s been about a month since the app marketing gurus at Fiksu first reported their findings on the legitimacy of all those ads we’ve grown accustomed to in the Facebook app. As our own Carter Dotson noted, there was an increase of 14.6 million downloads of the top 200 free apps per day throughout the month of May. That’s a lot of downloads, and it was pretty much all because of those Facebook ads. Now the numbers for June are in, and it doesn’t look like the trend is going away. If anything it seems to be building momentum.

fiksuloyalFiksu’s Cost per Loyal User Index, used for measuring the average cost of earning a loyal user (i.e. opens the app three or more times), shows that values have jumped back up to $1.50 for the month of June. What this means is that it’s costing advertisers more money on average – about $0.17 more when compared to May – to attract customers, which Fisku believes is due to a recent influx of developers and publishers looking to advertise on the social media platform.

fiksucompetetiveOn the other hand their App Store Competitive Index, which tracks the average download volume of the top 200 free U.S. apps each day, is showing a decrease of about 9 million total downloads for the month of June as compared to May. A loss of 9 million downloads in one month definitely sounds like one heck of a drop-off, however it’s still a one million download improvement over last year’s numbers; which they attribute to the App Store’s perpetual state of competition.

So those slightly annoying but easily ignored ads we usually gloss over while letting all our friends know what we’re eating for dinner and where, possibly with an accompanying photo, actually serve a purpose. A significant purpose. And it looks like advertisers are going to be fighting over the top spot for some time to come.


Jiva-1Jiva DeVoe is a software developer with experience going way back to learning BASIC on the Commodore VIC-20. iZen Garden was an launch day title and staff favorite on the App Store at launch. With over a million downloads under his belt, we send a few questions his way.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?

Jiva DeVoe, Founder of Random Ideas Software: The App Store has changed everything about my life. I had dreamt of having my own software business for nearly 20 years. I started working towards that goal 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until the App Store that my business really started to take off. Now, thanks to the success of my apps, I’m an entrepreneur and author, and am able to work on projects I enjoy while still working from home and being available for my family.

148Apps: You were on the App Store very early. What was it like developing
for the App Store back then?

Jiva DeVoe: I was extraordinarily fortunate because I was one of the first people who was accepted into the iOS SDK program. I received my acceptance on April 1, 2008.  I recognized immediately how lucky I was, and told myself that I had to take advantage of this opportunity and build something. Even if it was going to be small and silly, I still needed to have something in the App Store on day one.

The early versions of the SDK were pretty bad. There was no interface builder support and the documentation was a bit spotty. Fortunately, because I had already been working in Objective-C and Cocoa for a number of years, it was really easy for me to transition into it. 

I was still working my day job at the time, so I would work all day at my day job and then I would work on my iOS projects at night. I remember specifically there was at least one night when I had brought my laptop to bed with me, and I was continuing to code in bed in the dark on my lap at 2 o’clock in the morning. My wife, who had been asleep, was woken by the light of the screen. She lifted her head up and blearily said “You are a machine…” and then rolled over and went back to sleep.

I submitted two apps a few days before the deadline: iZen Garden and Tiles.

Tiles was a silly sliding tile game that I made mainly because I just wanted to build a game.  iZen Garden was a portable zen garden for your iPhone. Of the two, iZen Garden was the most important to me, because I felt like it showcased more of my personal tastes than Tiles. 

I had previously shown both apps at my local CocoaHeads meeting. Most of the developers in that group didn’t “get” iZen Garden. This made me a little bit nervous, but I think that it’s eventual success speaks to the universality of the App Store and it’s reach into demographic groups beyond just geeks.

When launch day came, my wife and I nervously looked on the App Store, and we were thrilled to see them there. IIRC, it was priced at $7.99, but as soon as I saw some of the other apps prices, I dropped the price to $4.99.  Back then, for those first couple of days, the App Store listings actually showed how many times a given application had been downloaded right on the app store itself. I forget exactly how many downloads I had that first day, but I do remember that it was a lot. I remember thinking “this must be a fluke, it must just be because it’s opening day.”

The fact that my app was selling at all was really exciting, but the thing that really made my heart leap is when I got a text message from my wife, “Did you see that iZen Garden is a ‘Staff Favorite’?”

I looked, and sure enough, iZen Garden was among the list of the first staff favorites. I literally teared up with joy and pride.  To think that Apple thought that my application, out of the thousand or so in the App Store at the time, was one of the best, was positively the best possible outcome I could have had.

Apple removed the ability to see how many downloads an application had received a day or so after the App Store launch. Furthermore, they did not provide us with sales reports until another month or so later. However, I hosted my help file on my web server. Because of the fact that I knew how many downloads there had been on the first day, I was able to estimate how many downloads I was receiving for the rest of the month based on looking at the number of hits to my help file. I surmised that the ratio of downloads to help file accesses should remain relatively constant.

Based on this data, it looked to me like the application was going to be tremendously successful. In fact, I estimated that during that first month I would actually make 2 times what I was making from my monthly salary from my day job!

This was it! Just like when I said to myself that I needed to take advantage of the opportunity that was given to me by having early access to the SDK, I knew that I needed to take advantage of this momentum as well.  I contacted a friend of mine who had many years of experience running businesses and coaching entrepreneurs on how to grow their businesses, Francine Hardaway.

I asked her who I should contact for PR about my application. I told her it looked like this thing was going to be pretty big and I wanted to make sure that I was doing whatever I could to make it a success. She told me, point blank:

“Don’t bother, no one is going to make money off iPhone apps.”

Needless to say, I ignored her, and decided I was going to give it my best shot no matter what.

Sure enough, when those first sales reports rolled around that first month it even exceeded my expectations.  I told my wife: “If the sales stay like this for the next 6 months… I will quit my day job.”

6 months later, I was indie.

(Editor note: Francine Hardaway’s take is available on Fast Company.)

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Jiva DeVoe: I have learned so much since the launch of the App Store that it would be difficult to narrow the advice down to just a few things. I’ve experimented with a variety of promotional ideas, product ideas, and so on. Some of them have worked out, and some of them have not. I would love to be able to go back and tell my former self which ones were which. It would save me a tremendous amount of time. I would also tell myself to be prepared for the Retina display devices better.  Those surprised me. ;)

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you were involved in that has surprised you most?

Jiva DeVoe: If you mean in terms of apps, apps like Word Lens and have really pushed the envelope in terms of cool things that you can do with these devices. I think that we really only scratched the surface in terms of finding out what iOS is capable of. We have Star Trek level technology in our pockets today. That’s the amazing part to me.

148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Jiva DeVoe: I’m horrible when it comes to predictions. I can tell you what I would like to see, but whether or not that comes to fruition depends mostly on Apple.

I would love to see a Siri API that allows applications to better integrate with voice commands. The ability to set an application to handle particular commands, like a To Do list application besides Reminders handling To-Dos, seems like the culmination of what the promise of Siri represents. Apple can’t do everything, and it’s through enabling third-party applications that the real success of the platform springs.

I would love to see paid upgrades in the App Store. This is a question that I would have liked to have seen answered by now, but still it’s a big question mark.

One thing is for certain, we will continue to see tremendous innovation on mobile platforms, and the center of that innovation, I think, will continue to be iOS.

Many thanks to Jiva DeVoe for his time.


DavidFramptonDavid Frampton, the sole proprietor behind Majic Jungle Software, has been on the App Store since day on with his game, Chopper. Ever since then, he’s become one of the first developers to experiment with TV gaming with Chopper 2, and took the open-world crafting genre to a mobile-friendly place with The Blockheads, which recently got a big online multiplayer update. He took some time out to answer our questions about his experiences on the App Store and what he thinks about the future of the store.

148Apps: Why did you get started making apps for the App Store, in particular Chopper?

David Frampton: Before the App Store was announced, I had a day job and was saving towards doing full time indie shareware Mac/PC game development. But then Apple announced the App Store and it seemed like a much better opportunity to survive as an indie, so I decided I had to do my best to have something on there as soon as possible. Chopper was a great fit, given it was a relatively straightforward port and suited the iPhone. So I spent every evening and weekend working on it, right up until the deadline for submitting apps for day one. Boy am I glad I did!


148Apps: You explored TV-based gaming in a significant way with Chopper 2. How did that work out for the game?

Frampton: I think it was great, it did a lot to publicize Chopper 2 before launch, gaining a lot of attention due to the unique wireless control scheme. It was a good fit for the game, and when AirPlay for the Apple TV came out later it was only natural to support that too. I’m not sure that a huge number of people still play Chopper 2 on their TVs, it was and still is a bit of a novelty. But I still think there is great untapped potential in that area.


148Apps: What do you think about future pushes into TV gaming in the market now?

Frampton: I don’t really think that AirPlay in its current form can break out of its niche, and I’m not convinced that a full blown App Store for the Apple TV is the answer either. So it’s a tricky one to predict. If Apple can find a way to make AirPlay far more seamless and accessible it would have a very positive impact. Or if an extremely popular game used TV integration very well it could have the potential to transform the space, too. Also the new iOS controller APIs hint that Apple might be looking towards future developments in the area.

148Apps: You’ve made a push into free-to-play with The Blockheads. How did you feel about making a game with this f2p model?

Frampton: I was hesitant at first, but it’s been a very positive experience. One thing that is really great about it is that there is financial benefit to keeping up on update releases. With Chopper and Chopper 2 I rapidly saw diminishing returns for the effort I was putting into making updates. With The Blockheads, every update sees a significant increase in IAP sales and ad revenue. Given I have lots of ideas for improvements and I want to keep adding to the game for some time, this is great. The other awesome thing is that such an insane number of people are playing it. To date it’s made less money than either Chopper or Chopper 2, but it has had 10x the downloads of either, and has many many more people playing it every day. This makes me really happy. A game needs to make money to pay for development, but seeing lots of people playing and loving the game is the biggest reward.


148Apps: As a solo developer on the App Store, do you think that it will still be viable in the next few years for developers who want to go solo to keep thriving?

Frampton: There’s no doubt that the quality of the best games on the App Store just keeps going up, and the bar for any game to get noticed keeps getting higher along with that. But in saying that, throwing more developers at such a problem isn’t usually a good solution. It seems pretty common for even the biggest studios to have small clusters working on each game, often only a handful of people. A small team will have a time and experience advantage over a solo developer, and big companies with many small teams have a better chance of striking it lucky with a particular game. But an experienced solo developer can spend a bit longer and if they’re lucky, still come up with something that competes with multi-billion dollar companies. It’s awesome, and I can’t see it changing significantly any time soon.

148Apps: What is your biggest wish for the App Store in the future?

Frampton: Really I just want to see Apple and the App Store thrive. New hardware and OS features are always exciting, both for the new opportunities they provide to developers, and for the new potential audience they can attract. Already we have hundreds of millions of potential customers out there that can download and pay for our games at the tap of a button. But there is still plenty of room for Apple to expand, both within the confines of iPhone/iPad and into totally new markets. And given its success, wherever Apple does take the App Store, there’s a decent chance that they’ll also take us developers along for the ride.

Thanks to David for his time; it is greatly appreciated.

[ Photo Credit Jon Jordan ]


3216854610_b26c708e75_oJohn Casasanta tells it straight and by all accounts he does things his way. He’s also one of the co-founders of Tap Tap Tap and the occasional Mac software bundler MacHeist. Tap Tap Tap has released the most popular Camera replacement app in Camera+, other than Instagram.

Camera+ has had, even with it’s many months off the App Store, over 11 million downloads and is the bulk of the 14 million downloads tap tap tap apps have seen.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?

John Casasanta, Principal, Tap Tap Tap: Honestly, it hasn’t changed it that much. I’ve been creating software for much of my professional life. Before the App Store, it was for Mac. Now it’s mainly for iOS. The devices are smaller, but the principles are pretty similar. The market is definitely a lot bigger and it’s usually nice creating things for a much wider audience.

148Apps: Has the response to Camera+ surprised you at all?

John Casasanta: Before we released the first version of Camera+, I was really happy with how it was turning out and I recall saying to the team that, “we’re gonna sell a million of these!” But I was off by an order of magnitude as we’ve already sold over 11 million copies so far. And there’s no sign of things letting up.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

John Casasanta: I would’ve still taken the exact same path (well, I wouldn’t have done the Faces app :P). Even though “free to play, pay to not have your time wasted” is dominating the App Store, I have such a distaste for it that I still wouldn’t have gone in that direction. We do more than fine with paid apps and it’s the direction we’ll continue on.

148Apps: Has your success on the App Store lead to any odd real world encounters?

John Casasanta: Three words: APP STORE GROUPIES!

Um, no, actually.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps published by you, that has surprised you most?

John Casasanta: Not exactly on the App Store, but resulting from it… Angry Birds Band-Aids.

148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?

John Casasanta: If iOS 7 is anything like the steaming pile of shit that was previewed at WWDC, there’ll be no more iPhone or App Store in five years.

But if the people running the show at Apple come to their senses and don’t actually screw-up the best mobile OS, then I predict that Mac will all but go away and just about everyone will be using their mobile devices as their main devices. Since I don’t do any of the programming on our apps anymore, my need for Mac has actually gone away and I’ve retired my Mac for just over a year. It’s all iPhone and iPad for me now. This means that we’ll likely see more robust apps as people will have more of a need to replace the apps they were dependent on on their desktop and laptop computers.

[ Photo Credit: Tap Tap Tap Flickr ]


Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 2.36.00 PMWilliam Volk is the CCO of Playscreen. He has a 30+ year career in the video games industry going all the way back to Avalon Hill in 1980. In his career he as has had the honor to work on titles as different as The Return to Zork at Activision to World Carnivale at Playscreen.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your life?

William Volk, CCO of Playscreen: It’s 100% of my work.  I’ve been in the game industry since the dawn of time, or at least the Apple II, and we’ve never had a situation like this.  After-all there were only 785 different NES Carts EVER released (USA/Europe).  We’re talking about almost 1000x the number of games.  This is one of these “be careful of what you wish for” situations.  When we were doing games for the Mac and PC we used to complain about the distribution channels.  Now that we have the almost-frictionless App Store, there’s no barrier to entry and it is very hard to get noticed.  Marketing apps is a huge challenge.  Free-to-play is extraordinarily difficult.

148Apps: The App Store changed mobile app sales completely. Why do you think
Apple was able to wrestle the control of app distribution from the

William Volk: I believe this (as I wrote in 2010): 

Apple launched the iPhone in the summer of 2007. Prior to the launch, mobile content (ringtones, wallpapers, apps) were under the control of the operators. Anyone who complains about the iPhone App Store should ask developers what it was like to get an app “on deck” at AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon in 2005.

So Apple, already having launched iTunes, naturally gets the rights to sell music on the new iPhone. But what about the apps?

Well, this was Apple’s “Boca Raton” moment. So what Jobs does is launch the device with Web Apps only, as a strategy to get AT&T and the rest to cede control of the platform to Apple. Nothing to worry about Mr. Operator, honest:

“Developers and users alike are going to be very surprised and pleased at how great these applications look and work on iPhone,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Our innovative approach, using Web 2.0-based standards, lets developers create amazing new applications while keeping the iPhone secure and reliable.” – Steve Jobs, June 11th, 2007.

Of course Apple has to be able to update the iPhone’s operating system and core apps (mail etc.) and that is done, naturally, via iTunes. AT&T goes along with this, seeing that Apple already was dominating MP3 players. Precedence set with an earlier (failed) Motorola phone (ROKR*) that also featured iTunes. I mean how big could this new phone be given the failure of Moto iTunes phone?

I would have loved to been at that meeting.

So Steve pulls a Gates and wrests control of content away from the carriers. A year later, native apps and the App Store appear and by then the iPhone is too important for AT&T to really object. Hence the App Store and for all the complaints about approvals ad-nauseum, the first time a ‘open’ market for software exists on a mobile device. 200k apps and billions of downloads later, the historical importance of this is clear.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

William Volk: Move fast into a category and OWN IT.  We actually started on the iPhone the week it shipped in 2007 (see ‘iWhack’).  With ad-supported web games.  We (at MyNuMo, who’s game assets were acquired by PlayScreen in 2010) had over 20 web based games, some of which (according to Apple) were the most popular web apps on the iPhone in 2007/8.  We were crazy not to take these and simply move fast and launch them on the App Store from day 1.  

Part of the reason was we didn’t have the resources.  Hindsight is 20/20, but we should have found a way.  I had two meetings at the iFund (KPCB) and lost put to ngmoco … wish I had been more aggressive on this in 2008.  It sounds crazy now, but it was hard to convince people (VC’s included) in 2008 that the iPhone (and App Store) was going to be a huge success.

I will give ngmoco credit for a brilliant idea.  Release their first apps as FREE and use that as a channel for the rest.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are
associated with, that has surprised you most?

William Volk: How time and time again, stripping apps of complexity wins the day.  There were a bunch of ‘pictionary’ apps before Draw Something with far more features.  Says a lot.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

William Volk: Publishers will play a larger role.  You will see branded apps, some of them premium, do better … as the traditional video game business moves into mobile in a big way.  Apple will do something with TV.  The new game consoles won’t repeat the success of the prior generation.  You’ll always have new people come up with surprising and cool games, but for many developers … aligning with a publisher or brand partner will make sense.

We haven’t even begun to hit the possibilities of the device.  Learning games, if the algebra game “Dragon Box” is an indicator, may actually change education.  I sure hear good things about our “Word Carnivale” game for learners.

Finally: Real money casino gaming will be huge on phones, starting in Europe.

Many thanks to William Volk for his time.  


SubaLogoSquareFieldrunners was a first for iOS. Not the first tower defense game, but the first with amazing animation and variety in game play to really draw players in. Released in October, 2008, just three months after the App Store launch, it quickly gained a following.

It took a while, but the follow up, Fieldrunners 2 was released in 2012 and grossed over $1M in the first five weeks it was available. We talk with Jamie Gotch about the App Store, Subatomic Studios, and more.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?

Jamie Gotch, CEO & Co-founder at Subatomic Studios: The App Store has made a significant impact on the game industry and the way in which game makers approach development.  Prior to the launch of the App Store, it was very hard for a game developer to make a living creating a game that didn’t follow a particular formula, as publishers were generally not interested in distributing unproven game ideas.  The App Store changed all of that by removing most of these strict requirements.  

148Apps: Fieldrunners really took the App Store by storm when it first came out. Did the response surprise you?

Jamie Gotch: Definitely!  We never expected such an overwhelmingly positive response!  When we first set out to build Fieldrunners, we had some very ambitious goals, all of which focused on building a high-quality tower defense experience.  But some things like gameplay are very difficult to quantify before you getting the game into the players’ hands.  Thankfully, all of our hard work paid off and the players really enjoyed what we built!  And after launch, it was the fans that helped to keep the game alive.  They inspired us to continue to build new content and to grow the game into what it is today!

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Jamie Gotch: If I could go back five years, I would tell myself to throw out all assumptions of what I as a hardcore gamer and a traditional developer think a game is, and to really think hard into what a mobile user really would want in a game.  In the past few years developing mobile games, I have learned that the majority of mobile gamers want games that they can play in small bursts of time, are asynchronous so they can play with others but only when they find the time to do so, and have little to no learning curve.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are associated with, that has surprised you most?

Jamie Gotch: I am surprised by the number of people that would rather pay to win a game than play through the game as the designers had intended.  Many people, more than I would ever have imagined, just want to experience everything the game has to offer but not invest the time required to do so.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Jamie Gotch: As the number of apps available for users to choose from nears 1 million, app discovery is  becoming even more difficult.  Eventually, however, the number of apps will begin to exceed even the best methods of discovery, forcing developers to build higher quality products in order to stand out and compete with the rest of the market.  The saturation of the market will make it more difficult for indie developers to enter, and the market will shift more towards a traditional publishing model that is seen in PC and console development today.

Many thanks to Jamie Gotch for his time. You can check out all of the games from Subatomic Studios on the App Store.


imangiImangi founder and CEO Keith Shepherd is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He founded the self funded Imangi with his wife Natalia Luckyanova in 2008. Together they released a series of good games with modest success. Then in 2011 a little game called Temple Run was released. Temple Run and then Temple Run 2 quickly rose to amazing heights and now has well over 500 million players and has generated millions in revenue. Disney even came calling and licensed Temple Run to create Temple Run: Brave and Temple Run: Oz. A true App Store success story.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your life?

Keith Shepherd, Founder and CEO of Imangi Studios: The biggest change for us has been going from working for someone else to running our own company and having complete creative freedom in the things we do.  That’s been the most life changing element, even more so than the financial success of Temple Run.

148Apps: Imangi had good success in the App Store early on. But it was
Temple Run that really exploded. What do you think resonated with
users so much?

Keith Shepherd: I think Temple Run is so successful for a number of reasons.  Primarily it’s a fun game.  It’s simple enough that everyone can have fun within the first seconds of opening the game and it’s deep enough that people keep coming back – there are always objectives to complete, challenges to do, and stuff to unlock for your characters.   Ultimately, I think a lot of games share these traits, but I think the reason Temple Run stood out when it launched is because it was new and novel.  At the time there were no other 3D endless runners that used the simple swipe to control your character mechanic. Now there are dozens, but at the time it was original and novel.  People loved the idea and simplicity and wanted to share the game and compete with their friends. Once we set the game free that word of mouth exploded and the game spread virally!

148Apps: What about one thing you have done that you think should have taken
off, but never did?

Keith Shepherd: It’s hard to say.  We only aim to launch games that we think will succeed, but it’s always hard to know what will resonate with players. I think Max Adventure is one of our hidden gems, it got a lot of great reviews but was a total flop for us commercially.  If you are into dual stick shooters, I highly recommend giving it a try.  

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Keith Shepherd: I’d encourage us to stick to our original strategy of quick pick up and play games that are simple to learn yet difficult to master.  Games that we as a small studio could develop and launch in 3-6 months.  Our biggest flops have always been the games that strayed the farthest from that formula that involved levels and a lot of designed content.  Those types of projects always ended up taking more time that we anticipated to develop and in my mind aren’t the best fit for mobile devices.  I think I would also encourage our younger-selves to look into free apps / freemium long before we actually did.  Oh, and I would have also encouraged our younger-selves to make a Scrabble like game instead of our bizarre original word puzzle Imangi as our first game. ;-)  

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are associated with, that has surprised you most?

Keith Shepherd: The insane rise of Angry Birds and their expansion beyond apps to licensed products / physical goods.  I think at one point or another every developer has probably thought to themselves that Angry Birds is a fad and that people will get sick of it sometime soon.  I think to everyone’s amazement and to Rovio’s credit, it hasn’t.   Angry Birds has lasted incredibly long and has established themselves as a global brand and I think they are here to stay for a good long while.   I find that incredibly inspiring that something that started as a simple game can turn into something so much bigger, and I hope that we can achieve the same level of success with Temple Run.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Keith Shepherd: Who knows, I can barely comprehend where this industry is now, but I’m sure it will be an exciting ride! ;-)

Many thanks to Keith Shepherd for his time.

[ Photo credit: ]


Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 5.16.38 PMIgor Pusenjak is the creator of one of the most prolific games on the App Store, Doodle Jump. While it may have only received 12 downloads on its first day for sale on the App Store in 2009, it has now amassed a total of 150 million downloads across all platforms. An amazing success for a game that started off so slow.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your life?

Igor Pusenjak, President at Lima Sky: Quite profoundly in many ways. I have been able to do what I love on my own schedule from anywhere, reaching so many people and jumpstarting the creation of a really unique character brand (Doodle Jump) in the process.

148Apps: Lima Sky had good success in the App Store early and Doodle Jump really exploded. What do you think resonated with users so much?

Igor Pusenjak: Simple and fun gameplay custom tailored for the iPhone. Specifically, short gameplay sessions, intuitive and precise tilt controls, one hand gameplay.

148Apps: What about one thing you have done that you think should have taken off, but never did?

Igor Pusenjak: I wish there was only one thing… ha ha.  We knew there was not much volume in the interactive book segment, but decided to do one anyway. It is called “Boquitas: The Hunt for the Chupacabras“. It is visually stunning with incredible music and sound effects, and a very very cute story, but it hasn’t unfortunately done so well.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Igor Pusenjak: Don’t really think I’d actually change much of anything. We’ve grown and transformed along with the App Store. We started with a 99c price point and have adjusted for in-app purchases and looking at free to play models

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are associated with, that has surprised you most?

Igor Pusenjak: The most pleasantly surprising has been the level of success that many of the small indie teams have found over the years.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Igor Pusenjak: We’ll finally see the App Store in the living room through whatever ends up being the long rumored Apple’s TV. Sounds like we’ll be wearing it on our wrists as well once the iWatch comes out.

Many thanks to Igor Pusenjak for his time.

[ Photo credit: Jon Jordan ]


EAEA is one of the most prolific first party publishers on the App Store with hundreds of games for iOS available. While it has seen its share of problems and growing pains, it has successfully launched everything on iOS, including high-priced premium franchise games and top grossing free to play games. Let’s talk with Nick Rish, VP of Mobile Publishing, about how the App Store changed EA.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed the way EA does business?

Nick Rish, VP of Mobile Publishing, EA: Developing for the App Store was not as big of a transition as one would think, since EA was an early adopter of mobile gaming development.  In 2004, before most were considering the mobile app revolution, EA established a mobile team to develop games with access to EA veterans and IP.  Then we made a very smart acquisition of JAMDAT mobile which solidified us in the #1 position on mobile and multiplied our mobile development experience in house.   When the iPhone launched in June of ‘07, we were making games for feature phones and Apple’s click wheel iPod.  When we first saw the iPhone, we immediately saw it as a game changer and as an incredible challenge.  Although we knew how to build for shorter development cycles, the interruptible gameplay sessions, quick load times and limited screen space posed a lot of new challenges that we needed to prepare for.  Discoverability for instance.  On the carrier feature phone decks, you sat alongside a thousand unbranded games and let your brands do their work.   On the App Store, the number of games quickly became tens of thousands of games, so we had to adapt marketing practices to become more similar to the online world where the market is crowded.  We needed effective keywords, as well as icons and titles that told a story in a small amount of space. We also were presented with new development challenges such as touchscreen, accelerometer, landscape & portrait view, etc.  This meant sharing best practices with multiple teams became critical.   

148Apps: If you have one single success within EA you’d like to highlight from the past five years on the App Store, what would it be?

Nick Rish: If I’m picking one success, I think it would be the limits we pushed with Real Racing 3 for the iPhone 5.  We work closely with Apple to create the most innovative experiences for their devices, and no other company has the mobile scale that EA does to release quality content on such a short timeline for new devices.  We could have followed the market and made a freemium  drag race game or an arcade-like experience, but the Firemonkeys really wanted to push the limits of the a true racing experience with Apple’s new device.  The authenticity of the cars, the lighting effects, the detail of the tracks and the stunning racing environments make me incredibly proud to work at EA. This is the type of game that when done right, sits itself above the competition. 

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence EA five years ago, what would you say?

Nick Rish: I would say to embrace free, live services as they are our future. Build expertise internally for those models within Studio and Publishing. We were running a premium house five years ago focused on shipping a game and moving on to the next one.  Now a game needs consistent updating to keep users engaged.  The shift is evident when you look at games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out which has been on the App Store leaderboards since its launch 40 weeks ago has had 20 updates since then. It’s like we were in the music business releasing individual tracks and now we’re putting out television shows that may go on for many seasons. It’s really important to create new stories, characters and episodes that our players will enjoy.  When I looked at the App Store Sunday morning, 9 of the top 10 grossing games were all updated within the last 30 days. 

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of EA, that has surprised you most?

Nick Rish: The technology of these devices has improved greatly, yet most games have not felt the need to press the limits of these innovations.   Five years ago if you showed me the tech specs of the current Apple devices, I would have predicted big, one time download games dominating the charts.  Franchises like Need for Speed or Battlefield.   It’s been quite the opposite where well-polished, lighter strategy games are dominating the charts.  Gamers on this platform are willing to forgive a lack of deep storylines, realistic characters and epic battles in place of great text, cute characters and engaging mini-battles.  Think Clash of Clans or Plants vs. Zombies.  In fact, we’ve yet to see an FPS emerge that can stay in the Top 25 Grossing for any significant period of time.  It will get interesting when we start to see billion dollar franchises engage their years of experience and resources towards making lighter strategy games that are optimized for richer graphics, deeper stories and epic battles.   

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Nick Rish: Yes and I’d like to also give you Wednesday’s Powerball numbers…  I believe the environment will be still be full of rich content.  Probably less Publishers, but still a lot of games.  It will support different types of devices, because Apple never stops innovating and EA will continue to be there in full force. We are committed to Apple and its users and will rise to any challenge that’s placed in front of us. 

To celebrate 5 Years of the App Store, we’re giving away 5 of EA’s most popular paid games (Ed: See the full list on our sale round-up page.) The giveaway starts today and runs for a limited time.

Many thanks to Nick Rish for his time.


What can we say about Rovio that you didn’t already know? Rovio are the developers of the Angry Birds phenomenon which has translated into a business that reaches well beyond just software into real world goods, movies, and even theme parks. Those damn birds are everywhere. You see them on clothes, toys, shoes, hats, even in TV commercials. The game itself was miraculous in that it hit number one a few months after release and pretty much stayed there for over a year. We took a look back when Angry Birds had been number one for 250 days back in 2011.

With the Angry Birds franchise games now downloaded over 1.7 billion times, it’s all because of a little game launched on the App Store in 2009. Let’s talk with Saara Bergström, VP, Marketing & Communications for Rovio about their history on the App Store.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed the way Rovio does business?

Saara Bergström, VP, Marketing & Communications for Rovio: Angry Birds was Rovio’s first title that was published and marketed directly to the audience. App Store was the obvious way to go about it, which was of course a totally different process from doing business with contractors and operators. App Store was a game changer for the whole mobile industry. App Store made independent publishing mainstream for developers for the first time and apps easily available for consumers. Downloading new software became easy and commonplace. 

148Apps: At what point were you sure that the App Store would be a success?

Saara Bergström: A single point is hard if not impossible to pinpoint since there were many contributing factors to it also outside of the App Store. However, it was easy to see the growing popularity of the App Store and how the ecosystem around it started to form very quickly. App Store offered people an easy, one stop shop to get apps, and it levelled the field for independent publishers to get their material out – side-by-side with big publishers. The market has matured from those days and become more professional. The emergence and growth of the whole mobile gaming industry is partly thanks to the ecosystem Apple created with the App Store. 


148Apps: What led to Angry Birds being such a success? What made it resonate with users so soundly?

Saara Bergström: The success of Angry Birds is a combination of many factors. First of all, the characters have personality and are immediately recognizable. The whole Rovio team liked them right off the bat. Secondly, from the early days we have had a very fan-focused approach resulting in massively engaged fans which has helped us tremendously to expand our business into other areas outside of games. The third contributing factor is the polished, intuitive gameplay which we achieved through a merciless process of honing and iteration. Finally, the game offers hundreds of hours of fun for a wide demographic. 

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence Rovio five years ago, what would you say?

Saara Bergström: I don’t think there’s that much we would change in how we have done our business in the past years. Maybe I would just say: “keep dreaming big!”.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Saara Bergström: Getting attention was and is of course one of the number one priorities for any developer. When the mobile industry is growing rapidly that challenge prevails. There will probably be new mechanisms and ways for people to find what they are looking for, and for the publishers to reach their target audience and fans.

Many thanks to Saara Bergström for her time.


gedThe Iconfactory has been around since before the App Store, but the launch of the App Store made a fundamental change at the company. Their iOS launch title, Twitterrific has seen more than one major overhaul in the five years it’s been available. It exists now as a great example of iOS application and user interface design. Iconfactory has also dipped a toe into game development early on releasing Frenzic in 2008 and Ramp Champ in 2009. Iconfactory games have seen, all together, over 3 million downloads in the App Store.

Let’s talk with Gedeon Maheux, Owner of the Iconfactory about the expanding a business into the App Store.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed The Iconfactory and your professional life?

Gedeon Maheux, Owner of The Iconfactory: The launch of the App Store fundamentally changed the Iconfactory in several important ways. It changed the focus of our internal software development, but it also expanded the services we offered to clients.

Before the App Store, our primary business was icon and interface design for the web, Mac and Windows. We had done some mobile design projects of course, but the launch of the App Store clearly had an effect on technology companies around the globe. Many of our existing clients started focusing on creating their own applications for the App Store and of course needed design services. Over the last 5 years the percentage of design work we do for 3rd party clients has shifted from the desktop and web to very heavily in the mobile category and almost 100% of that is for iOS. The App Store single-handedly launched a new revenue stream for the Iconfactory in this regard, to say nothing about the new breed of software we started to develop ourselves for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Before the App Store, we would consider a product successful if it reached something like 10,000 users on the Mac desktop. These days, typical downloads reach something like 100,000 to 500,000 users which is still incredible to me. These numbers are still low for blockbuster hits like Angry Birds and Doodle Jump which is even more astounding.

Professionally, the App Store has allowed me to stretch my design skills into new areas. It’s extremely satisfying to help a client bring realize their vision for a particular app and do it in a way that helps their creation stand out amongst the competition in the App Store. The basics of designing for iOS are the same – clarity, communication, strong concepts. It’s really just the size of the audience and the medium that’s changed and that’s give me and others here at the Iconfactory a renewed interest in our day-to-day jobs.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Gedeon Maheux: Hindsight as they say is 20/20 but looking back at it, I would definitely like to have created more apps quicker back in the early days. Back before there were so many apps that basically perform the same function in a given category and the fight for eyeballs in the App Store wasn’t so fierce. When Twitterrific launched with the App Store back in 2008, there was I think one other Twitter client in the store with it. Oh, how to have that focus on one’s creations today!

Additionally, I would have liked to try and foreseen the “race to the bottom” price-wise a little bit quicker than we did. When Twitterrific first launched it was priced at $10 which seemed perfectly reasonable back then. Today, users expect a whole lot more for less or even free which saddens me
personally both as a developer and a user. Software in general has been de-valued by the launch of the App Store which is something I’m not sure we’re ever going to be able to change. The genie is out of the bottle there to be sure, but if there was a way we, and other devs, could have communicated to customers the value of software back then better, maybe things would be different today, who knows.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps published by The Iconfactory, that has surprised you most?

Gedeon Maheux: Right off the bat the thing that has surprised me the most has been the sheer popularity of the App Store and apps in general. Just a few years ago users didn’t even know what an “app” was and today our iPhones are filled with them. Apple launched a whole new universe of productivity, entertainment and novelty with the App Store and every time I see folders full of apps on someone’s iDevice, I have to smile.

More specifically, I think the whole phase of one-off novelty apps that became popular there for a while, that surprised me a great deal. The rash of popular fart apps or magic trick apps like iBeer, etc. The popularity of those kinds of apps was astounding for a while, I think we’re past that now since its all been done, thank goodness.

It’s also been fascinating to see how monetization within apps, particularly games has evolved since the launch of the App Store, and not always in a good way. Micro-payments to satisfy a user’s need for instant gratification has made some developers rich instead of designing the best possible gaming experience.

148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Gedeon Maheux: Hopefully bigger, better and 1000x easier to find what you’re looking for. It’s a real chore right now to get noticed or to even be found in the massive hallways that make up Apple’s App Store. I’m really hoping they devote some serious resources to improving search algorithms and move away from the “Top of the charts” mentality we’ve seen since its launch. There are so many great apps in the store that users simply don’t know about simply because they cannot find them. They’ll never be featured and they’ll never be in the Top 25 but that doesn’t mean they’re not wonderful apps.

I also suspect we’ll have a new section of the App Store for Apple TV and iWatch apps? A dev can dream, can’t he? :-)

Thanks to Gedeon Maheux for his time.


Jason Citron is, without a doubt, a visionary when it comes to the App Store. His first game, along with then business partner Danielle Cassley, Aurora Feint launched with the App Store on July 10, 2008. It was, at the time, a quite ambitious game with graphics and compelling gameplay that outclassed many of the so-called larger games released at the time. Aurora Feint was the first review we posted here on 148Apps, and an early consumer favorite, reaching over one million users in the first nine months.

jason_snarky_faceAurora Feint integrated game-wide top player lists and some social interaction, also unseen at the time. Other developers were clamoring for those social gaming network features included in the game, simple as they were initially. That led to the launch of OpenFeint in early 2009. During it’s three year run under Jason Citron, OpenFeint reached a total of 120 million players through integration with 7,000 games. OpenFeint was sold to Japan-based mobile gaming giant GREE in 2011 for $104 million. Jason left the company shortly after that. GREE closed down OpenFeint in 2012 when the company changed direction.

Jason Citron has taken all of his experience and his wish of creating a core gaming audience on the iPad and recently founded his next company Hammer & Chisel. Developing a MOBA type game, Fates Forever for the iPad is their first announced game.

Let’s talk a bit to Jason about his experience in these past five years with the App Store.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?

Jason Citron, Founder of Open Feint, Hammer & Chisel: Entirely! The year before the App Store was a really pivotal year in my life. I had quit the console games industry to attempt to start my own company. This was the time of “Web 2.0″ sites. Facebook had just opened up their application platform. So I was working on these various website ideas that had elements of games in them. Fortunately, they weren’t doing so well and I switched to building an iPhone game. That project shipped and eventually morphed into OpenFeint, which was a success beyond my wildest dreams. Having the opportunity to build and run a company that employed 100 people and had such a big market footprint was incredibly humbling and educational. I compare the experience to a trial by fire Business School. Now, I’m taking all those learnings and applying them to start Hammer & Chisel, my new gaming company.

They say that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I suppose I was prepared to start a company and the App Store turned out to be the perfect opportunity. Lucky :-)

148Apps: You were first on the App Store with the original Aurora Feint. What was it like developing for the App Store back then?

Jason Citron: I actually started developing for iPhone before the official SDK was even announced. It was using this unofficial iPhone OS programming toolchain. I worked on some prototypes for a couple of months. One was a multiplayer fighting game that used the wolverine character sprite from Marvel Vs. Capcom! When Apple released the real SDK I had this hunch that the App Store would be like a new console launch: the few games “on the shelf” on day 1 would get a ton of customers. So I got a bit more serious and teamed up with my cofounder to start on Aurora Feint. We ended up building that game in just under 3 months. It involved a lot of all nighters, sleeping in the corners of the office, and general insanity. We submitted to Apple the day before the App Store opened and got approved as one of 400 launch apps.

I actually have a distinct memory of waking up the morning the App Store opened. At 10am it was supposed to “turn on” so people could start downloading apps. I had our database open and kept hitting refresh to see if any players had launched the game. I was expected to get like 100 users in the first week. We ended up with something like 1,000 in the first hour. It was shocking. So began the crazy ride of the App Store.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Jason Citron: Honestly, the whole last five years was so rewarding for me that I don’t think I would change anything. But, I suppose if I had to pick something, I think we should have made Aurora Feint use a respectful free to play monetization scheme. We had priced the first game at free and got a LOT of players. The second one we priced at $7.99 hoping to “upsell” people. We found out that first Christmas that $0.99 was the most successful price point for paid games. That failure led us to quickly pivot the company to the OpenFeint idea.

Like I said, not sure I would really change anything :-) 

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps published by
you, that has surprised you most?

Jason Citron: I expected very different kinds of applications to be popular on the iPhone, as opposed to say the PC Web. It turns out that almost every successful iPhone App has been a reinterpretation or straight up clone of a PC product but with a modern twist. For example, instagram is really just “flickr on the iPhone.” The popular F2P sim games are all mostly the same as the Facebook games that came before them. Etc. This isn’t to be disrespectful to any of those apps. Many of them are awesome. But I was surprised at this. I’ve since long changed my opinion on what that means for starting new businesses on new platforms.


148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Jason Citron: Ahh predictions. Five years is a long time. Honestly I have no idea. If I had to wager a guess, not much will change. There will be many more customers. The economy will be bigger. There will be new waves of apps that have come and gone. Tablets will be much more significant then they are now. You’ll have human beings who literally don’t know what corded phone is. Who’ve never used a normal PC. Their expectations of what apps do for them will most certainly be different. 

These days we tend to overestimate how much technology will change in 3 years but underestimate how much it will change in 10. Five years is comfortably in the middle.

Thanks very much to Jason Citron for his time.


sega-ethan-einhornSega has a very storied history in video games. Home to brands like Sonic the Hedgehog, After Burner, Crazy Taxi, and of course the first banner game for the iPhone, Super Monkey Ball. Some (like me) still consider the Sega Dreamcast the best video game system ever released. But Sega was also one of the first game developers to launch on the App Store. And now with Sega games seeing well over 1.1 billion plays on iOS, we talk with Ethan Einhorn, Director of Online Services, SEGA, about what it was like to launch on the App Store and the amazing response to Sega’s first release, Super Monkey Ball.

148Apps: Sega jumped on the App Store right at launch. It was the first high profile game, and even set the bar for the initial price point for games in the App Store at $9.99. How did Super Monkey Ball come about?

Ethan Einhorn, Director of Online Services, SEGA: We had built a great relationship with Apple prior to the launch of the App Store with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog on the iPod (clickwheel). The controls on that version of Sonic were finicky, but the port was pixel perfect! We were planning to follow up that release with Super Monkey Ball, but doing 3D on the iPod nano proved challenging, so we shifted to iPhone. This gave us a chance to dramatically increase the game’s performance, and let us take full advantage of the iPhone’s tilt functionality.

148Apps: Super Monkey Ball was priced at $9.99 initially. How was this initial price point decided? Did representatives from Apple have any input on the price point?

Ethan Einhorn: We were initially concerned that the $9.99 price point was too low. After all, we were giving users nearly as much content in that game as we did in the $39.99 DS Super Monkey Ball game, and with better graphics! We asked ourselves: if we planned to bring games to iOS, DS, and PSP simultaneously, how would pricing be handled across the board? We didn’t see $0.99 as a price point that would become dominant so quickly, never mind free-to-play (which wasn’t enabled at the App Store launch). As for Apple, they gave us full control over our pricing, just as they do now.

148Apps: I remember seeing that Super Monkey Ball had sold 300,000 copies in the first month. That was pretty amazing back then, considering the price point.
Were you surprised by the initial response?

Ethan Einhorn: Yes. We expected the performance to be solid – we received phenomenal support from Apple, including participation in TV spots. But nobody knew for sure how gaming would take off on that platform. The device was still at a premium price. The iPhone 3G just launching. There were a lot of other games to choose from. But when we hit #1 on day one, and stayed there for more than a week, and we were blown away. We’re very proud to have provided gamers with the first ever #1 ranked game on the App Store!

148Apps: Super Monkey Ball took full advantage of the iPhone hardware, utilizing the accelerometer for tilt controls, which was very inventive at the time. Was any other control model ever considered?

Ethan Einhorn: We talked about offering a virtual stick option. The accelerometer control was tuned to allow for high precision, but it proved too sensitive for a lot of players. Unfortunately, there was no time to implement that. The virtual stick came up again when we worked on Super Monkey Ball 2 (a better game across the board), but by then, the amazing team at Other Ocean Interactive (our developer) had perfected tilt control on the device, so we kept with that.

Here’s Ethan Einhorn demoing Super Monkey Ball at the Apple Press Event, revealing the iPhone App Store in 2008

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has changed considerably. Number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized at the lowest possible point, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. What would happen if Super Monkey Ball were launched today?

Ethan Einhorn: It would probably look and feel a lot like the PS Vita game – higher visual fidelity, more mini-games. If you haven’t played SMB on VITA, by the way, check it out – all original content, and playable with either stick or tilt controls. It’s awesome! But the challenge is that it’s not really a game that can be shifted to free-to-play, which is where we are focused at SEGA.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Ethan Einhorn: My guess is that Apple TV will carry all of the benefits of mobile gaming to televisions, while allowing for seamless cross-play between iPhone and Apple TV. I think F2P will get even bigger, but paid games will swing back into vogue, once players spend $100-plus on a few free-to-play titles and recognize that $10 for a premium game experience is actually a steal.

Thanks to Ethan Einhorn from Sega for his time.

[ Photo Credit: Avery Photography ]


Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 3.34.19 PMMike Lee has been all over the App Store since, well honestly before launch. He helped found Tapulous, the studio that brought out the first Twitter client on the iPhone via jailbreak, before the App Store was around, and of course the hugely popular Tap Tap Revenge. Tapulous would later go on to be acquired by Disney. He was also part of the small team that brought the revolutionary Obama ’08 app to the App Store. And then there was a short stint at Apple as well as the founding of the Amsterdam-based incubator, Appsterdam.

Mike has seen it all when it comes to the App Store. Let’s get his take on the past five years and the next five.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?

Mike Lee, New Lemurs: It would be easier to say how the App Store has not changed my professional life. When the App Store was announced, I was just coming off a three-year apprenticeship with the legendary Mac developer Delicious Monster. It has worked out that my beloved mentor Wil Shipley continues to run rampant through Mac OS, and I’ve been able to carry his memes forward into iOS.

I cannot overstate the value of those skills when demand exploded. Combined with the things I learned by working on iPhone projects with people smarter than me, like Lucas Newman, Guy English, Brent Simmons, and Chris Parrish, I was able to do things beyond my wildest dreams.

I got to be co-founder of not one but two Silicon Valley startups, Tapulous and United Lemur. I got to meet legends like Steve Wozniak, Bill Atkinson, and Andy Stone.

I even got to work at Apple, had my own office on Infinite Loop, got my name on Mac OS X server, got to work on the flagship Apple Store app, then went on a year-long speaking tour around the world before settling in Amsterdam, which is just about the nicest place in the world I have found to be an App Maker.

Now, as co-founder of Appsterdam and the New Lemurs, I get to work with incredible people who continue to make me better every day, which is exactly what a professional life requires.

What we were doing on the Mac was really great, but it wasn’t Tapulous, United Lemur, Apple World Tour, Appsterdam, or New Lemurs great. None of that would have happened but for hard work, incredible luck, and little thing called the App Store.

148Apps: You were involved with Tapulous and app creation before the App Store even launched, I believe. You had to feel like a pioneer, breaking ground and doing things no one had ever done before. What were things like back then? Any official response from Apple, before the iPhone SDK was launched in 2008?

Mike Lee: I know how I felt, and I know I wasn’t alone. Not everybody felt the same way, but a lot of people did. We were incredibly eager, incredibly passionate, and incredibly naïve, exactly as you would expect. We constantly compared ourselves and each other to the original Mac team. We knew we were the successor to the Mac, the future of computing, and we felt a tingly responsibility to make sure it went right this time.

We knew we were making history, but more than that, we knew we were setting an example. There was a lot of worry at places like Wolf Rentzsch’s legendary C4 conference about the kinds of apps we should make and the kinds of App Makers we should be. For example, I am very opposed to casual misogyny, and spent a lot of energy preventing things like “Hot or Not” from making it to the App Store.

I was very lucky to be in Palo Alto, so I could drive to Apple at least once a week and talk to people there, to get their opinions, their help, and their guidance. I knew they didn’t like us, because we had been involved with Jailbreak. That was frustrating, because early Jailbreak was born of passion and it was how we learned.

Of course it’s not like Apple puts a horse’s head in your bed when they don’t like you. They just stop talking to you. By the time of the App Store, I was already a well established name on the Mac. I had an Apple Design Award and the personal phone numbers of half of Developer Relations.

Don’t get me wrong, these folks were my friends, and they continued being my friends, but on a professional level it was the cold shoulder. We were conspicuously absent from the big debut. They even failed to have our submissions up on Day 0 as they had promised.

But at the same time, Director of Evangelism John Geleynse, who is the coolest dude I know, gave me a lot of advice about having perspective and looking at the big picture. When they didn’t have us up on the first day, I just drove to Infinite Loop and bought the nascent App Review team coffee and pastries and told them I knew exactly how hard they were working, because we were going through it too.

I had faith then, as I do now, that great products rise to the top. I knew Steve would not be able to resist a great game about music. It wasn’t long before Tap Tap Revenge was on stage with Steve, and by the time I went to Apple, it hung on a 60-foot banner in the foyer of 1 Infinite Loop.

148Apps: If you have one single success within the App Store you’d like to highlight, what would it be?

Mike Lee: I’m really excited about the work the New Lemurs are doing. I’ve been trying to blend technology and altruism both on and off the App Store since before it was a thing, with everything from the Club Thievey fundraising drive that linked Mac developers with the Madagascar Fauna Group to the Obama ’08 app to Appsterdam and on into Lemurs Chemistry.

What distinguishes my work now from what I was doing 5 years ago is this: while I’m still focused on providing great products and experiences to people, that has stopped being the end in and of itself. Now I am much more concerned with spreading good memes. My abilities as an App Maker, and my ability to be an example of what kind of apps we should make and what kind of App Makers we should be, have switched seats.

My current obsession is the idea that games would not be a waste of time if they were made based on science. By replacing the arbitrary game mechanics with rules from nature, you end up with games that happen to be educational as a side-effect, instead of trying to gamify education. Lemurs Chemistry is the embodiment of that idea, and it’s the best game I’ve ever produced.

148Apps: What about one thing you have done that you think should have taken off, but never did?

Mike Lee: Well, of course, the Tapulous story is an interesting one, because the original design and engineering team ended up separating from the management team and forming United Lemur. There was a lot of great stuff we worked on before we left that ended up going nowhere once the company focused only on Tap Tap Revenge.

I still think a lot about those projects, and some of the projects we worked on as United Lemur other than the Obama app. Puzzllotto was the only cash contest to ever run on the App Store that I’m aware of, since they were banned after that, but I don’t know that the world would be a better place if that game had taken off. We spent a lot of time worrying about what would happen if it did.

The one that breaks my heart to this day was the one that never shipped: Pyrangle. Because of my non-profit work, I ended up making the acquaintance of an incredible group called the Gear Up Foundation. Their founder was a firefighter who had been trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center, who had resigned himself to death, and who, upon being saved, had dedicated himself to the good of his brothers and sisters still fighting.

When it turned out there weren’t many 9/11 survivors to help, he repurposed his foundation to provide equipment and training to fire departments around the world. Pyrangle was a game about fire safety whose proceeds would have financed bringing the Gear Up Foundation into Madagascar.

Then the world financial system collapsed, taking my retirement savings and ability to pay my team along with it.  To top it off, Madagascar descended into a civil war, and I descended into burnout. The team had to go get jobs, seeding the next generation of App Store wonders like Square and Black Pixel, so it’s not like things didn’t work out.

But still, Madagascar burns.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Mike Lee: Let me say this flat out: I hate what has happened with monetization on the App Store. I think it’s immoral to drain money out of people’s pockets through their children, and I think that while the tools Apple provides can be used to make a great experience, most people aren’t using them that way. The experience has become about the monetization, which is backwards and wrong.

I refuse to make money this way, and have spent five years fighting this practice with every fiber of my being, from the presentations I give, to the business plans I write. The New Lemurs have a promise to parents not to upsell, advertise, nor mine data for money. We have made our revulsion into our strategy.

But that’s not really the question, is it? I can hardly go back and give myself 5 years of hard-won experience, but there is one mistake I made that could have changed everything, had I known what was going to happen with App Store pricing.

We thought we could bootstrap United Lemur on game sales. We turned down funding from Kleiner Perkins, unwittingly damning ourselves into an unsustainable business model. If I knew then what would happen, I would have taken the help from Kleiner. They could have saved the team, and Madagascar might be better off.

While we can’t go back to the past, we can make the past mean something by learning from it. My business plans now are all about how to make money regardless of game sales, without selling our souls. It’s not easy, and it is only sustainable because I live a very simple life, often supported by side work like teaching people to make their own apps at the Big Nerd Ranch.

I might go down as the idiot who keeps walking away from money because his morals get in the way, but I consider myself lucky. I get to wake up every day and do my little part to make the world a better place, and I feel my impact in other people’s lives. My work may leave the App Store, my name may be forgotten, but I will die knowing I have taught, inspired, and worked with some of the best people in the world.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are associated with, that has surprised you most?

Mike Lee: I think five years ago most of us were very naïve about information warfare. We had no real inkling of what it meant to own information. We didn’t know or understand that China had already had a cyber warfare division in training for five years. We didn’t know how pervasive governmental and corporate information gathering had become. We didn’t realize how naked we were before incomprehensible power, nor how thoroughly our dreams played into their plans.

I never thought I would see drones controlled by an iPad go from being a great demo to being a worldwide nightmare. I never thought I would see ubiquitous presence of data via the cloud become the means by which they intrude into our lives in an attempt to control us. I never thought I would see the Internet become the ties that bind and strangle.

I have always believed that openness and transparency were important, but have never allied with the likes of Linux or Android, because I do not believe openness makes products great by itself. Being open is like being nutritious or being educational. You have to find a way to make those features part of the best products, rather than declaring that those features make products best.

My business plans and personal projects for the development year running between WWDC13 and WWDC14 revolve around open source. I know I will be considered late to the party by many, but I can say with surety that this shift in my thinking is a direct result of what I think is a wide awakening to the new realities of the Information Age.

Never has it been more important for us to ask ourselves what apps we should be building, and what kind of App Makers we should be.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Mike Lee: Among the many adventures the App Store has afforded me was climbing a bit of the Great Wall of China. They really should call it the Great Staircase of China, because it is an incredibly challenging hike. The one moment I will never forget is looking behind me at how far I had climbed, and looking ahead of me at far I had to go, an infinity in both directions.

It’s incredible to me that we can talk about the App Store five years from now in a way we could not have foreseen five years ago. Even among the true believers, I think I would have been embarrassed to talk about five years from now five years ago. Certainly I should have been. But now? It would be more controversial to suggest the App Store wouldn’t be here in five years.

When I was in China, I asked an old man if he ever thought about something so grandiose as the future of China, and what he wanted for his children. With tears in his eyes, he spoke of how he had starved, as generations before him had starved, and in that instant I understood Chinese culture more than I ever had, despite growing up surrounded by Chinese people in Hawaii.

My children will have enough to eat, he said, and the rest is up to them.

Huge thanks to Mike Lee for his time. Mike’s latest app Lemurs Chemistry: Water is available in the App Store and is free today in celebration of the App Store 5th anniversary.

[ Photo credit Tom Hayton ]


AdamSaltsmanAdam Saltsman is one of the most talented, intelligent, and opinionated developers working on the App Store nowadays. He’s worked on a selection of titles on the App Store as diverse as the influential endless runner Canabalt to the abstract touchscreen game Hundreds. However, there are reasons why he thinks Canabalt isn’t quite as influential as it appears to be, and his concerns about the future of the App Stores and the indies working on it.

148Apps: Canabalt remains one of the most influential games on the App Store as one of the first high-profile endless runners, and the one that seemingly sparked a million more games. What do you think of the game’s legacy, though? Do you see it in similar terms?

Adam Saltsman: So the funny thing about Canabalt to me is that it hasn’t sold as well as a lot of people think. We’ve probably sold maybe 250,000 or 300,000 copies or something, and a lot of those were during sales over the last few years combined. That’s nothing to laugh at, and I’m super thankful and grateful for that response from people, but I think the game had a bigger impact on journalists and other game developers than it did on the general public. Not to mention the hordes of games inspired by the games that Canabalt seems to have inspired, which probably outnumber Canabalt’s direct influences by a few orders of magnitude!


It’s important to remember that lots of games influenced Canabalt too, though, as well as Wurdle. These were not things created in a vacuum! All the same I could not be happier with Canabalt’s reception and impact. It feels like a huge honor, all the time, forever.

148Apps: The way that developers make money within the App Store has definitely shifted in the past 5 years, yet you have remained an outspoken critic of the way that many games use in-app purchases. Why is that? Has your position shifted at all over the last few years?

Saltsman: I don’t think my position has changed much. Most of the approaches to IAP or “free to play” style designs that are deployed on the App Store, especially in financially successful games, remain fairly corrupt or coercive in a way that makes me pretty uncomfortable. Some of these approaches have actually been outlawed in Japan, so I don’t think their coercive nature is completely imaginary. These approaches have even become formalized enough to have actual names (treadmills, energy systems, tight loops, etc).

I think players in general are at least slightly more aware of these systems. This is important, especially for kids. Many of these games still target children with schemes like “give us $5 or your virtual fish will DIE.” It’s good for people to understand that a “game” on their phone might operate that way.

But also there have been games with large IAP components that don’t really feel particularly coercive, like ShellRazer, which I think is cool. These games actually speak to the promise of IAP and F2P as a way of engaging a broader or different type of audience in different ways. These games are very definitely the exception to the rule, though.

148Apps: What do you think about the viability of the App Store over the next five years? Will there be any changes, or any directions that you would like to see the marketplace go in?

Saltsman: The App Store to me seems to really strongly favor a particular kind of approach (if you don’t do IAP of course), which we used on Hundreds. This approach goes something like this: “work on the game in relative secrecy for like 1–2 years, then launch it and hope it gets featured and impresses everybody enough to get the critical mass you need to get good word of mouth and a good long tail in the future.”


As a member of a small team, and somebody with a growing family, this approach freaks me out pretty bad, and there are a lot of platforms (especially PC/Mac) where you don’t have to take that kind of crazy all-or-nothing path. I would love it if the App Store could support preorders, and bundles, and a lot of these other things that help sustain small teams through risky development on other platforms.

On top of that, launching on the App Store first places certain price limits on your work in some people’s minds, and selling at a higher price point on other platforms later can be a challenge. For small teams, it seems like designing for PC/Mac first, with potentially touch-screen friendly controls in mind (e.g. favoring the mouse over gamepads), is a really superior way to approach things, from a business and tech perspective.

In the “old days” (ha ha!) it felt like you could just think up a real good game for the only model of iPhone/iPod Touch that actually existed, build it in a reasonable period of time, and kind of blow people’s minds. Prices weren’t quite as low back then either. It’s totally natural and understandable that those early successes would draw in more competition, but at this point, as a small team of 2 or 3, you have to be pretty receptive to the idea that you are up against teams of 10 or 12, with 1–2 years of publisher-backed runway. You can still compete, indies can ALWAYS compete…but if you are trying to make games commercially and take care of your family, you have to be cognizant of these things, and more considered in your approach in the future.

Thanks to Adam Saltsman for his time; it’s always a pleasure.


RocketcatLogoRocketcat Games’ titles have been a unique presence on the App Store. While many pixel art games exist on iOS, theirs have had a special look and feel to them that just hasn’t been matched by others.

Also, gnomes. Lots of gnomes.

I spoke to Kepa Auwae, who is in charge of “Planning, Business Stuff, Design” and is the public voice for Rocketcat Games, and was previously a registered nurse before Hook Champ allowed the him and the studio to make games full-time. We discuss why their titles remain so unique, the future of the studio, and just why we don’t hear from the other two members of Rocketcat.

148Apps: There are a lot of pixel art games on the App Store, but Rocketcat Games seems to have a voice and style all its own with games that have attracted a loyal fan base. What do you attribute this to?

Kepa Auwae: Our games have a pretty clear voice, probably because there’s so few people working on them and everyone contributes. I think it’s also easier to build a fan base when you’re working on a small niche that others don’t really touch. There’s not a lot of people making our sorts of games on iOS, with our level of difficulty and scope.

148Apps: Your grappling hook games (Hook Champ, Super QuickHook, and Hook Worlds) are actually only a few titles using the grappling hook mechanic at all on mobile. Is this due to the challenge of using the mechanic well?

Auwae: It turns out that level design was really difficult for our grappling hook games. The placement of every bit of ceiling was important to the flow of the level. It’s kind of like designing a level for a platformer, except imagine you control each leg and you’ll trip if you don’t step on the floor exactly right.


As for how few games use the genre, I think it’s mostly just how genres work for videogames. You need a huge hit to really provide incentive to cloners on a big scale.

148Apps: Reminisce back to the time of Hook Champ and its cosmetic IAP. How did the response and reaction from people then compare to the reaction you got for the IAP in Punch Quest? How have your fans responded to your evolution in titles you’ve released?

Auwae: We get as many complaints about Hook series IAP, still, as we get complaints about Punch Quest IAP. And because the Hook games are out longer, we have a bigger amount of complaints total. It’s bizarre, since the Hook IAP was almost entirely cosmetic, hats and such.


That said, we didn’t get many complaints about the Punch Quest IAP at all. I think fans knew that we were trying to do things right. Trying to anyway, I’m not happy with how the design in Punch Quest turned out. In the future, I’d like to completely avoid the concept of people paying to skip in-game progression.

148Apps: Your games have largely been core-gamer-friendly genres; do you see your future mobile titles going down this path, if you even have a future on mobile at all?

Auwae: It would make a lot more sense to make casual-friendly games, as the “core-gamer” type of games we make take big amounts of time to work on. This next one we’re releasing, our randomly-generated action-adventure game, is getting to the 2-year mark. These are the types of games we’re interested in making, even if it doesn’t add up from a business standpoint.


Our plan for the future is to release on multiple platforms, especially PC. The big differences are that there’s a much bigger audience for such games there, and you can feasibly charge more than $5 per copy. Definitely not leaving mobile, any game that makes sense on iOS will be developed simultaneously for it. As an example, I’m starting work on a project with the Punch Quest developer (Paul “Madgarden” Pridham), and that’s being worked on for both PC and iOS so we can make sure the controls and graphics are perfect on both platforms.

148Apps: You, Kepa Auwae, have served largely as the public voice of the company. Who are the other members of Rocketcat, and why do you keep their voices silent? Do they even exist?! Or are they actually gnomes?

Auwae: There’s Jeremy Orlando (Programmer) and Brandon Rhodes (Artist). All three of us are incredibly shy. We had to pick which one of us would have to interact with everyone. I’m not better equipped to talk to anyone, it’s just that I lost when we drew straws. After a few years I’m now ok at the whole “public voice” thing. Also they’re gnomes and I’m really ashamed of that.

Thanks to Kepa Auwae for his time; it’s truly appreciated.


NBG_logoSince the App Store launch in 2008, Namco and now Namco Bandai Games has published over 100 apps. The company was there at launch with Ms. Pac-Man (and Pac-Man) and continues to be there today with both favorite franchises and new properties. We took a few moments to speak with Alex Adjadj, the Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America, Inc.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed the way Namco Bandai does business?

Alex Adjadj, Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America Inc.: The video games industry is currently going through challenges on different fronts. Hardware transition on the console side. Exponential user and device fragmentation as well as standardization of development tools and fast growing marketing costs on the mobile side. It’s exciting, challenging and requires more attention to planning and execution.

The App Store has accelerated and accentuated these challenges. When it comes to a major publisher with thousands of employees, it’s always a bigger challenge because of the scale involved. But Namco Bandai Games knows mobile well, and has started doing mobile games with Apple back to the early days of the iPod Click Wheel (remember PAC-MAN?). It’s been great to have had their support to improve the quality and market relevance of our creations along those years.

148Apps: If you have one single success within Namco you’d like to highlight from the past five years on the App Store, what would it be?

Alex Adjadj: We’ve had highs and lows. As I said, for a bigger publisher it’s just a question of more time, more planning, more investment, more internal communication. But there’s one thing that only a very few other publishers have today, it’s market knowledge and capacity to increase product development and segmentation without compromising on quality. In 2008, we were all about cost-conscious developments, with most of our releases being good ports, but also not taking full advantage of the iOS platform and hardware at the time. Fast forward 2013, we’ve got universal games that play well on iPad and iPhone, that are visually extraordinary thanks to Retina Display, that are fun to play with friends on Game Center, and that offer great value for money for gamers willing to pay or play for free.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence the path of Namco Bandai five years ago, what would you say?

Alex Adjadj: Actually I personally did contribute back in the summer of 2009 by further evangelizing in Europe and the US teams about the benefits of bringing dedicated products rather than ports to App Store. It changed a lot of perceptions back then, especially since we were still strongly driven by our feature phone business in overseas (i.e. Non-Japan) territories.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of Namco Bandai, that has surprised you most?

Alex Adjadj: It’s been a challenging, but a logical and relentless organic evolution. Apple has changed the world of digital content distribution and mobile gaming by annihilating barriers to entry, cutting a lot of (often, but not always, useless and costly) middle ‘men.’ By imposing its own standards, it has accelerated the growth of a young mobile video games industry, it has made it possible for the unveiling of incredibly successful and clever small production houses, and changed the perception of mobile gaming with the masses. My biggest surprises are the very little opposition Apple have faced from pre-existing market entrants, the incredible success it went through and the time it took for their competitors to come up with relevant hardware and retail ecosystems.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Alex Adjadj: Personally, I can perceive further device fragmentation in the iOS hardware line – very similar to what’s going on with Android right now. Device fragmentation will increase differences in usage and accordingly product & genre segmentation, a bit like what the iPad has done in terms of ‘console quality gaming for mobile.’ Following smartphone penetration growth in emerging markets, I also see further challenges to properly address consumers around the world, in terms of UX, billing, the relevance of content offering and the risk, already present, of content saturation and chart stagnation. I see 3 ways where this might go: first Apple might need to customize their App Store UI a bit differently per region, so that non-local publishers still get a chance to, at least, show their best content in new markets, without occurring prohibitive production costs. The second route must be to introduce more flexible billing routes so that all users can pay for content the way it fits their spending culture. The third, though unlikely given Apple’s necessary but very tight control on its ecosystem, would be to allow the ‘best’ publishers to get more control of how their content offering is tailored to end users.

Alex Adjadj wishes to add the following disclaimer: Mr. Adjadj speaks of his personal experience and opinions, and while being a full time employee of Namco Bandai Games America Inc., Namco Networks America Inc. and Namco Bandai Networks Europe since 2006, this article isn’t meant to be read as general consensus across other divisions of Bandai Namco Holdings. Alex is currently Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America Inc., San Jose, California.

Thanks to Alex Adjadj for his time.


janiJani Kahrama is the founder of Secret Exit, begun in 2006. Secret Exit is the developer of some of the most innovative–and some of my favorite–games on the App Store, perfect examples of what you can do on the iOS platform like Zen Bound 2 and Stair Dismount. The company’s latest game, Eyelord take a slightly more metal tack. All in all, its games have been downloaded 13 million times.

I fired off a few questions to Jani to get his take on the App Store 5th.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?

Jani Kahrama, Founder at Secret Exit: The App Store is the single reason we (Secret Exit) exist as a gaming company. In our early years we evaluated the different options that were available, and App Store made the most sense for us because of its short approval time, monthly reporting and payouts, and iPhone itself, which was an interesting and unexplored territory for games.

148Apps: Since the release of your first app on the App Store, what has changed with the way you release a game.

Jani Kahrama: Probably far less than should have! It seems these days app discovery has polarized to either being featured by platform holders or to buying your users. We’re not in a position to influence the former or rich enough to attempt the latter, so we’re trying to find new ways to spread the word.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than man expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Jani Kahrama: At heart I still naively wish for a world where a quality game would be recognized and appreciated by an audience willing to pay a good price for it.

But when I put on my time-traveling bizdev hat, what else could I say but be the first to drop the price to one dollar, be the first to go free with IAP, and beat Supercell at clashing clans together :)

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps published by
you, that has surprised you most?

Jani Kahrama: The overall randomness and variance of successful titles. Coming from a console gamer background, I was stuck with certain preconceptions on how games should look, feel and play. The App Store has time and time again proven me to challenge those notions.

Zen Bound 2 intro trailer

148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Jani Kahrama: I am concerned with the ability of big companies to simply buy their way to the top of the charts with paid user acquisition. Unless that practice is limited in influence by platform holders, it may change the landscape to such where developers need big marketing companies or rich publishers to promote their games. Smaller independent companies will find it ever harder to compete in a business where the marketing costs of a game are higher than the development costs.

Thanks very much to Jani for his time. I enjoy it every time we speak.

[ Photo credit: Jon Jordan ]


Clive-headshot-2-2-200x300Launching over 110 apps as ngmoco and then DeNA, this company has seen it all. Originally hyped as the “Nintendo of the iPhone” and grabbing the lion’s share of the iFund, ngmoco made some groundbreaking games. The games released by ngmoco did not lack quality, but they did lack sales. So in 2010, ngmoco made a big push into free to play. While it was rocky at first, the decision really started to pay off in 2012 with the release of Rage of Bahamut.

We talk with Clive Downie, CEO of DeNA West, about the transition from paid to free to play, and some of his thoughts and experiences of the last five years with the App Store.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed the way DeNA/ngmoco:) does business?

Clive Downie, CEO of DeNA West: The App Store hasn’t changed the way we do business. ngmoco was conceived to take advantage of the new App Store ecosystem. We were leaders in its early days, creating some of the original premium games such as Rolando and Skee Ball that paved the foundation of gaming on the iPhone. 

148Apps: If you have one single success within DeNA/ngmoco:) you’d like to highlight from the past five years on the App Store, what would it be?

Clive Downie: Pivoting the company to freemium to take advantage of Apple offering IAP in free apps. We were there on day one with Eliminate and Touch Pets Dogs. Then we followed up quickly with We Rule and Godfinger and received excellent promotional support from Apple.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence ngmoco five years ago, what would you say?

Clive Downie: I wouldn’t say anything new. We were shrewd to get out of paid, seeing the lowest average price plummet for apps and piracy negate the value we put into creating paid apps. In a market economy where the lowest price is zero that is always going to happen.

I’m proud that we pivoted the company the way we did to focus on the engagement multiples that going free allowed.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of DeNA/ngmoco:) companies, that has surprised you most?

Clive Downie: I’m surprised that it’s not smarter at personalizing what I as a consumer might want. Genius looks like it’s removed from iOS7, and while there will be some new location capabilities, it seems like there’s an opportunity to enhance the functionality around interests.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Clive Downie: On a watch…

Personalized to me (Amazon on steroids) 

Many thanks to Clive Downie for his time.


ColinSmithIn the 18 year life of Freeverse, it developed nearly 100 Mac and iOS apps. Purchased by ngmoco:) in 2010, the Freeverse founders recently left the company to pursue other opportunities. We talk with co-founder Colin Smith about Freeverse and the App Store.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your life?

Colin Smith, Original Co-Founder of Freeverse: Freeverse had been a boot-strapped Mac game developer and publisher, pretty well-known among Mac folk, but largely ignored in the larger games industry.

We had a booth at MacWorld where the iPhone was announced and a front-row seat when the world changed. Certainly ours did. 

With our long history with Apple and familiarity with its culture, aesthetic and tool-sets, we were perfectly positioned to have titles ready when the App Store was announced. MotoChaser was a launch title at $9.99 on Day 1 of the App Store.

We had multiple #1 hits over the next couple of years, including Flick Fishing, and Skee-Ball. And suddenly the larger games industry was starting to wake up to the potential of the iPhone and the companies producing the best titles for it.

We were acquired by ngmoco in 2010, and shortly thereafter, they were acquired by DeNA.

So the App Store took us from a backwater developer and put us at the very leading edge of the industry as it has been utterly transformed. The touch disruption, the mobile disruption, the Free-To-Play disruption. We lived all of that.

I personally got to see the inner workings of an aggressive venture-backed start-up in ngmoco, and a multi-billion dollar publicly traded Japanese corporation in DeNA. I learned so much that I could never have learned any other way.

Freeverse as an entity ultimately didn’t survive all those upheavals and acquisitions, but I think and hope that some of our own culture lives on in the guys who worked for us, and their connections with each other. We were a special place, with truly special people.

148Apps: If you have one single success within Freeverse you’d like to
highlight from the past five years on the App Store, what would it be?

Colin Smith: I think the work we did with Strange Flavour on Flick Fishing. The game is still remarkably fun, and still sells well. Those guys really nailed the fun that touch and the accelerometer could bring a title when used smartly rather than gratuitously. I still love spotting someone on the subway casting their line. :)

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence the path of Freeverse five years ago, what would you say?

Colin Smith:Yes, we saw our games go from $10 to $1 within a matter of weeks. And ngmoco saw Free-to-Play was coming very early and convinced us as well, which was a major factor in our decision to sell when we did. It was so counter-intuitive at the time that “free” was more lucrative than “paid.”

There’s a lot we might have done differently, but really, I think I’d just want to make better, smarter, and cooler apps if I could go back 5 years. I’ve learned so much about design, the market, how people play on mobile, a thousand little things. I think we all have.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of Freeverse, that has
surprised you most?

Colin Smith: The Line, WeChat, WhatsApp stuff is really fascinating to watch. I’m curious where that’s headed. 

148Apps:Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Colin Smith: The beauty of the App Store is that its such a great platform for disruption. Back in the day we had to print CDs and boxes and warehouse them and ship them to Apple Stores to get them on the shelf, and then maybe sell a few copies for $40 a piece.

Now you can give an app away, or sell it for $.99 and (if you’re lucky or good), get millions of users all across the globe almost instantly. It has just accelerated the pace of innovation tremendously. So I’m excited to see what comes next, and wouldn’t even try to predict!

Thanks very much to Colin for his time.

[ Photo credit: Jon Jordan ]


ianmarshIan Marsh and his brother David are the founders of NimbleBit, creators of such iOS game classics as the 2011 Game of the Year Tiny Tower, Pocket Frogs, Pocket Planes, and a true App Store classic, Scoops. NimbleBit games have been downloaded over 70 million times with an amazing 5 million in-app purchases.

NimbleBit has been heralded as a great developer of “non-annoying” free to play games, games that make their players want to buy upgrades instead of annoying them into purchases. Many game developers should take note.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?

Ian Marsh, NimbleBit: The App Store has had quite an impact on my professional life, allowing me to quit my day job and run our own independent studio with my brother Dave. Back in 2008 I coded up a quick little puzzle game called Hanoi to learn iPhone development. Soon after the App Store launched I was approved as a developer and I threw it up on the App Store in the hopes a few people would download it. After a few days it ended up at #1 free, and after quickly releasing a “plus” version for 99c the App Store began paying more than my day job. I gave my two weeks noticed and never looked back, probably the best professional decision I’ve ever made!

148Apps: If you have one single success within the App Store you’d like to highlight, what would it be?

Ian Marsh: Our shining star has definitely been Tiny Tower. It won iPhone Game of the Year from Apple in 2011 and has had more success than all our other games put together (and there have been a lot of them). It is commonly held as an example of “ethical” free to play game design, and even brought the spotlight of the industry on NimbleBit after it was cloned by Zynga. Having been our most successful brand we’re hoping to continue to expand the Bitizen world moving forward and should have some exciting announcements later this year!

148Apps: What about one thing you have done that you think should have taken off, but never did?

Ian Marsh: One of the most fun things we’ve ever done on an iPad was the Battle mini-game in Dizzypad HD, our first iPad title. It is this great local multiplayer game where two people each control a frog that jumps from spinning lily pad to spinning lily pad, trying to eat the other frog. It actually ends up being a really intense twitch game that would have us screaming in the office for hours. Unfortunately it was launched soon after the first iPad and was hidden away behind an in-app purchase so it didn’t have that wide of an audience. I’d love to resurrect it at some point, maybe for a different platform though, (would work great with controllers)!

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Ian Marsh: If I could go back in time and talk to our past selves I think I would advise us to stop most new development after we had the success of Tiny Tower and really double down on building it into as big of a brand as we could. I think having recognizable brands and IP are going to be even more important going forward and I don’t think we’ll be creating any new ones that have the kind of appeal Tiny Tower does (I hope I’m wrong though)! I’d also try to convince ourselves to have switched to Unity3D development a few years before we did as self-publishing our previous games on Android would have been very valuable.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are associated with, that has surprised you most?

Ian Marsh: In the past year or two I’ve been surprised at the range of success small indies have had, we’ve watched Imangi’s Temple Run come out of nowhere and take over the world while other indie’s release quality games that fall completely flat. I don’t think you’re guaranteed any kind of success on the App Store these days, even with an incredible app.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Ian Marsh: Given how much has changed in the last five years that seems like a hard thing to predict, but I expect the basics will remain the same. I don’t see Apple restricting access to the App Store but I do expect there will be a number of new platforms we’ll be developing for 5 years from now. I think each new platform will be another type of gold-rush but this time you’ll have to compete with some very seasoned and skilled developers. I certainly don’t expect things to get any less exciting in the next five years!

Thanks to Ian Marsh for his time. You can check out all of NimbleBit’s games on the App Store.


The Pocket God app can really be considered a case study of how to do everything right on the App Store. Released originally in January 2009, Pocket God became a serial with regular updates all the way through 2012. After 47 new releases of Pocket God and total sales for all Pocket God apps at over 9 million, Bolt Creative has one of the best known franchises on the App Store. Let’s talk with Dave Castelnuovo, the owner of Bolt Creative.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?

Dave Castelnuovo, Owner at Bolt Creative: The major thing the App Store allowed me to do was to create a business where I can be creative and sell my ideas straight to consumers. Before the App Store I was a contractor, which is cool in its own way, but I would much rather work on my own ideas than be paid to implement someone else’s.

148Apps: Was the amazing response to Pocket God a surprise to you?

Mr. Castelnuovo: Sure. When the App Store became available, I could tell it was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities, so I immediately started to work on stuff for the platform. I had no idea when or if I would find huge success but I was fairly confident that I could earn enough of a living to keep things going. Pocket God was meant to be an early experiment whose purpose was to create an engine for more traditional games. I attribute Pocket God‘s success to being at the right place and the right time. I would have never guessed it would do this well.

pocketgod148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Mr. Castelnuovo: Based on the resources I had 5 years ago, I would probably stay on a similar path. I don’t believe that every game needs to be freemium to be successful. The thing that makes the App Store more stable than other competing platforms is that there are a lot of opportunities across different business models. There is definitely great success among freemium titles but most people don’t see the effort that goes into those titles when it comes to user acquisition and balancing their economy. The $0.99 price point is nice in the way that if the game has buzz, you will have sales. There is no danger in making it to the top of the free list yet not making money because you failed to balance your currency systems. Paymium is starting to take root as a good alternative to freemium. Also, many games are doing well at the premium price point such as Warhammer and XCOM.

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you were associated with, that has surprised you most?

Mr. Castelnuovo: My biggest surprise is how stubborn large publishers are in not bringing premium content to the App Store. I really don’t understand why a publisher would create a Vita or 3DS game and not plan on bringing it to iOS. Even Square Enix, which has a pretty good iOS portfolio of games, chooses to not bring their latest and greatest to the platform. Final Fantasy Dimensions is an incredibly lame game compared to what they release on other platforms.

148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Mr. Castelnuovo: I don’t see any major shakeups happening. I hope to see more premium games, the release of XCOM was heartening but the port quality was somewhat lacking. I also hope that Apple improves discovery. I would like to have a system that is similar to how Spotify works. I want to be able to publish lists of my favorite apps. My favorite Runners, favorite RPGs, favorite developers, etc. and give our fans a way to subscribe to those lists.

A big thanks to Mr. Castelnuovo for his time. Bold Creative has published Pocket God, Pocket God: Journey to Uranus, and the Pocket God Comics apps on the App Store.


Chillingo is likely the largest third party publisher on the App Store. With over 10 years of experience publishing mobile games and hundreds of games in the App Store, they have pretty much seen it all. Chillingo was acquired by EA in 2010 but has been pretty much left to their own since then. We take a few moments to talk with Ed Rumley, COO of Chillingo about the App Store and the past five years.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed Chillingo?

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 4.48.00 AMEd Rumley, COO of Chillingo: Well, when Chillingo started out we were dealing with a hugely fragmented marketplace. If people think they know fragmentation now, they should have tried publishing games back in the Java/Pocket PC days. The App Store changed everything. It created a single marketplace where it was easy to get your game to consumers. Our focus shifted to almost 100% iOS shortly after the advent of the App Store and stayed that way until pretty much a year ago.

148Apps: Chillingo has published some of the biggest games on the App Store. Huge success with games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Was the massive level of success of these games a surprise to you?

Mr. Rumley: We’ve always had a pretty good eye for something special, and we work with the best indie developers in the world. Obviously you can never tell if something is going to live up to the success you want for it but I think in almost every case over the past few years, whether it was Cut the Rope, Catapult King etc we’ve been quietly confident that we were onto something.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence the path of Chillingo five years ago, what would you say?

Mr. Rumley: I think if we were told what the App Store would be like between then and now we probably wouldn’t have believed it! I’m not sure we would have changed an awful lot, to be honest. We’ve always been good at spotting the rising trends in the mobile industry and what’s on the horizon. We did that effectively with the advent of the $.99 price point and we’ve always kept a close eye on the App Store, changing our business when and where appropriate. Since then, various free to play business models have emerged and you can see we’ve been embracing that—but on our own terms. Pixel People is a great example of a freemium title that people loved to play. It has the level of quality we have a reputation for, and was praised widely for putting the fun before the business model.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 4.47.44 AM

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps published by Chillingo, that has surprised you most?

Mr. Rumley:I still can’t believe games like Real Racing 3 and Infinity Blade 2 are running on tablets and phones. The visuals, size and scope of games like these are console-quality, yet they all have the sort of gameplay that makes them totally unique as mobile titles. At the other end we are consistently blown away by what the indie developers is are capable of; games like Tiny Wings being made by just one person is amazing and I’ve lost a lot of time on games like Clear Vision and Stickman Base Jumper.

148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Mr. Rumley:Different, that’s for certain. Judging by what has happened over the last past five years I would be mad to predict anything specific but will say that the quality of the games is only going to get better and the talent of the indie developer will never fail to surprise us!

Many thanks to Ed Rumley for his time.


Pangea Software was one of the more prolific early iPhone game companies. Quickly porting their Mac catalog over while re-inventing the games for touch controls gave them an early windfall as they filled a void for great games on the platform. Since then, Brian Greenstone, the President of Pangea, has remarked how they have had a much harder time getting games to sell at those amazing early levels.

I sent a few questions off to Mr. Greenstone about his experiences on the App Store in the past five years. We get some great stories about the first decisions for pricing of games, Steve Jobs’s input on that, and the skinny on how Mr. Greenstone is sometimes thought of as the person the kicked off the drive to $0.99.

148Apps: You jumped on the App Store right at launch. What made you so sure of the App Store?

Brian Greenstone, President of Pangea Software: Actually, I wasn’t sure of it at all. I got into it simply because I had always wanted a “handheld” version of some of my games, and my attempts at PSP and Gameboy versions never panned out. The iPhone looked like my chance, so I got into it just for fun. Never had any intention of making any money at all.

When we were at Apple before the 2008 WWDC Keynote preparing our presentations, I said to the Apple guys that I expected Enigmo and Cro-Mag Rally to maybe sell 10-20,000 units over their lifetimes. They responded, “No, they’ll probably do 50-100k”. Well, we did 100k units in the first few days! It really wasn’t until then that we realized this could actually be a business for us.

148Apps: Pangea games were originally priced at $9.99; how was this initial price point decided? Did representatives from Apple have any input on the price point?

Mr. Greenstone: Back in 2008 there was a lot of speculation about what the price of the apps would be, and a lot of people were predicting $24.99 since that was about the price of the cheapest console or Gameboy game you could get at the time. During our rehearsals for the WWDC keynote I talked a lot with the Sega guys who were equally unsure what to charge. One day we decided to do an informal survey of coworkers and people we knew to see what they’d be willing to pay for our games on the iPhone. We came up with the same figure that Sega did which was “$15″. That’s what most people said they’d pay, so we decided that we’d both announce that price in our presentations.

However, the next day we did our presentations for Steve Jobs and he asked each of us what we were going to charge for the games. When I told him $15 he said “That’s too much. It should be more like $4-$7″. I wasn’t about to tell Steve that I thought he was crazy, so I thanked him for his advice and that was that. After thinking about it we all separately decided that $10 was probably a good starting point. We thought $4-7 was insane, and that $10 was still crazy. I mean how could we sell a game for $4 on an iPhone that we were selling for $30 on other platforms? Seemed insane at the time.

Anyway, it ends up that $10 was a great starting point because at launch there were only a few dozen games, and people were hungry for everything so they were willing to pay $10 easily. Sales were so strong that first week that we had estimated that we were making a profit of $1.10 per second. It didn’t take long, however, before all the Fart and Beer apps drove the prices down, and within a month we had cut our prices in half in order to remain visible in the rankings.

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 3.09.43 PM

148Apps: What has surprised you most about the App Store in the five years since launch?

Mr. Greenstone: I’m shocked at how big it got. Even Apple was shocked at how things exploded – nobody expected that. I’m also shocked that it hasn’t self-imploded from all of the competition. Back in 2007 there were around 2,000 PC games that came out every year, and that was considered to be crushing on the industry. Nobody was able to make any money, and everyone was complaining that the PC gaming industry was going to collapse. That all seems silly now because there are probably 100x that many iOS games each year yet the industry keeps growing and growing. True, only about 5% of all of those games ever make any money, and even fewer of them make enough to sustain a business, but it’s such an easy and inexpensive platform to develop for that people keep trying. That’s really the key to it all: throw enough darts at the dart board and eventually something will stick and you can go buy that Ferrari.

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has changed considerably. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps have stabilized at the lowest possible price point of $0.99, and free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If current you could go back five years and talk to 2008 you, what would you say? What chances would you take?

Mr. Greenstone: I don’t think I would have changed anything. I only wish that we’d had more than just Enigmo and Cro-Mag Rally out at launch, but there was no way. I was working 16 hour days for most of 2008, and we got as many of our Mac games over to iOS as quickly as we could. Had Nanosaur 2 been out at launch, however, we would have easily made another $10 million I’m sure!

148Apps: I consider Pangea as the first big company to take advantage of the ability to put apps on sale in the App Store. As early as September, 2008, some Pangea games were put on sale for $1.99. Then for “Black Friday” of 2008, all Pangea apps went to $0.99. You could be seen as the first developer to contribute to driving prices down on the App Store. Do you get any pushback from other developers about that?

Mr. Greenstone: So, Andy Hess, the Games Partnership Manager at Apple always blames me for starting the price war (partly in jest), but what I always tell him is that all I did was fire the first shot in a war that had already started. The prices were coming down whether I did anything or not, but I saw the chance to make a killing so I took it. Our best week ever was actually the week after Thanksgiving in 2008. We were making a profit of around $50,000 a day once we did that Black Friday sale. I really had expected everyone to do a Black Friday sale like that, so I was shocked when Pangea was the only company to do it. That week we had 5 our our games in the Top 10 apps list. Only EA has ever done that since then as far as I know.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Mr. Greenstone: I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and say that Apple will have redesigned the App Store such that it’s easier for customers to find things. I’d like to think there’s a way to sell an app there without being in the Top 25.

148Apps: Thanks for you time, Mr. Greenstone.

Pengea currently has 22 apps and games in the App Store including the multimillion selling Enigmo, Enigmo 2, Air Wings.

Users of the Facebook mobile app may have noticed that the app now features more ads prompting users to download certain apps. Whether they be ads in the news feed itself or placed on the sidebar, these ads are just a new little blip for Facebook users to contend with.

However, these little blips could be actually having a significant impact on the way that marketers try to sell apps to iOS users, according to ­­a company called Fiksu that tracks app downloads and performance in the context of marketing.

What happened is that since Facebook launched these ads in May, there was an increase in the average number of daily downloads among the top 200 free apps (which are among the most-heavily marketed), from 5.61 million per day in April to 5.9 million per day. That might not sound like a lot, but think: plus an extra day in May, that’s going from 168.3 million downloads to 182.9 million downloads. That’s more potential customers to spend money on the in-app purchases that help make these games so profitable. There’s a reason why there’s so many free-to-play titles.

That's right - thanks to Facebook's ads, there's been the most downloads per day since January, where the post-holiday rush of new devices drives lots of app downloads.

That’s right – thanks to Facebook’s ads, there’s been the most downloads per day since January, where the post-holiday rush of new devices drives lots of app downloads.

This has all come at a good cost to marketers, too. Despite the increase in downloads, the cost to get a loyal user, defined as someone who opens an app three or more times, dropped from $1.50 per user the month before to $1.33. If Facebook mobile ads and the increased inventory they offer are to thank for this, then expect more of them.

Yet, it's also been cheaper to get loyal users. Expect this to go up as the success of Facebook app marketing spreads. For you, that means that ads aren't going away in Facebook or possibly other social networking apps any time soon.

Yet, it’s also been cheaper to get loyal users. Expect this to go up as the success of Facebook app marketing spreads. For you, that means that ads aren’t going away in Facebook or possibly other social networking apps any time soon.

FacebookAdSidebarThat little sidebar that features sponsored apps? It’s staying, and could expand. Expect to see more apps advertised in the news feed. While Fiksu says that some of the increase could be related to changes in behind-the-scenes tracking, Facebook still likely plays a major role in it. It’s still one of the most-downloaded and most-used apps out there, and it represents a big opportunity for Facebook to start making some actually money from mobile (where they’ve had trouble making money before), and for those developers that want to give you a new way to spend money on virtual coins and gems to break more blocks or build more buildings in their free-to-play games. It’s a potential union that is all strengthened by your desire to keep seeing funny memes and have political arguments with people from high school.

Here’s a quick rundown on how earning in-game money in Real Racing 3 relates to real dollars and time and what it would take to finish the game. What we found is rather shocking, doubly so if compared to current day console racing games.

Before we get to the details, we should note that these numbers are current at the time of writing. But like most free to play games the in-app purchase prices, timers, and values can change at any time the developer wishes. In the two weeks I’ve been playing, changes have already happened twice. So, the numbers reported could be different than they are when this is read.

In Real Racing 3, to get to 100% a player needs to win every one of the 961 current events. As there are races restricted to each one of the 46 cars in the game, to enter those races the related car must be owned. So to get to 100% in Real Racing 3 players must buy every car and win every race. What will it take to do that?

Also take note that like many free to play games, Real Racing 3 is tuned to allow players to earn everything without paying. But a player really has to want to put the time in to earn it. The developer doesn’t charge anything for the game with the hope that players will spend some money in the game to speed up their progress.

To earn enough money to buy every car in Real Racing 3, what would it take? Our numbers show that it would take over 472 hours to earn enough money to buy all of the cars in the game. Or to purchase all of the cars with real money via in-app purchase, it would cost $503.22 at the current best rate.

To earn all of the cars in the game rather that buy them with real money, a player would need to finish 6,801 races with an average (per our RR3 stats) of 4:10 per race earning R$3,700 per race. That would equal 472 hours to earn the R$25,163,573 it would cost in the in-game currency to buy all 46 cars. That does not include the cost for repairs, maintenance, or upgrades which can be rather expensive.

If a player wanted to take the shortcut and buy all of the cars in the game with real money, that would cost $503.22 in in-app purchases. That’s assuming the current best rate of R$50,005 per US$1 when buying R$5,000,000 at a time.

Let’s compare the cost for Real Racing 3 to modern day console games, what could be purchased for that $503.22. For one example, a player could get a 4GB XBox 360, Forza Horizon (one of the newest racing sims on the 360), all of it’s DLC including over 127 cars, and a 22″ Vizio flatscreen LED TV. And still have $17.22 left over.

I think I can safely say that the way that the cars and the in-app currency are currently structured in Real Racing 3 right now seems a bit out of whack. It seems extreme to think that players have the choice of playing for well over 400 hours or paying over $500 to unlock everything to complete the game. Or most likely, some combination of the two.

And these numbers are not counting any of the promised expansions that will deliver new events and new cars. Those will increase the time and money required to get to 100% complete.

Nor are these numbers including upgrades that could be required to win races. It is very unlikely that any player can win all races without upgrading at least one car in each series. And those upgrades can get pricey as fully upgrading a car can cost more than the base cost of a car. So while on paper it could take 472 hours to earn enough in game currency to buy all of the cars. In practice that number could be as much as doubled to pay for upgrades that would be required to win each race.

Free to play games are tuned to balance the fun a player has vs. the developers need to get earn money to pay for the game development via in-app purchases, that’s just the way free to play works. I’m not going to say it’s wrong, but it at times like this it just doesn’t feel quite right.

For players that feel the need to get to 100% in games, take caution with Real Racing 3. It will take a lot of time, or money to make it to 100%.

Tim Cook: $8 Billion Paid to Developers

Posted by on February 12th, 2013

Tim Cook is being interviewed today at the Goldman Sachs event in San Francisco. Fortune has the details, live blogged by Philip Elmer-Dewitt. One of the things Mr. Cook mentioned is that Apple has now paid out over $8 Billion to app developers. A staggering number considering Apple had announced $7 Billion paid to developers just a little over a month ago.

Mr. Cook also had a non-denial of the possibility of a cheaper iPhone, and larger screens for iPhones, he stated that Apple will “never create a crappy product.”

source: Fortune - Philip Elmer-Dewitt

Chillingo in partnership with Samsung have announced their plans to develop a new indie-focused game developer portal, 100% Indie. While on the surface the message is to create a resource to inspire game developers to create great games, the end goal is to promote Android game submissions for the Samsung Apps market.

Chillingo co-founders Chris Byatte and Joe Wee are spearheading the new initiative to inspire mobile game developers which they have declared is Chillingo’s “next big thing.” The 100% Indie program will be a website dedicated to bringing inspirational and informative articles to experienced and new game developers alike. Content for the 100% Indie site will come from more than just game developers though with filmmakers, musicians, and other creative types expected to contribute to the site to create a library of content all focused on helping developers make better games.

The end goal with the website is to draw the interest of developers by providing them with inspirational materials while hopefully persuading them to submit Android games to the Samsung Apps market. Fairly aggressive revenue share has been announced that ramps up, in tiers, to the industry standard 70% two years after launch of the program.

“Developers will receive 100% revenue from March 4, 2013 – September 3, 2013, 90% revenue share from September 4, 2013 – March 3, 2014, 80% revenue share from March 4, 2014 – March 3, 2015, and after March 4, 2015 on Samsung Apps, developers will begin receiving the industry-standard 70% revenue share.”

Developer submitting games to the Samsung Apps market through the 100% Indie program won’t need to be exclusive. Those same games can be released on there other Android app markets as well. It should also be noted that games submitted through this program will not go through the normal process Chillingo follows to help fine-tune the game. Chillingo will be doing just “light curation” to the games submitted in the program.

It must be pointed out that Chillingo isn’t very well known for their Android support. Until the past quarter they had just dipped a cautious toe into the Android pool. But Chillingo still feels that they are in a perfect position to build the Samsung Apps catalog with games. “[Chillingo has] great relationships with great developers. Lots of our developers are cross-platform and have experience in Android” notes Mr. Byatte.

The 100% Indie portal launches today at with the program kicking off officially on March 4th.

Kevin Dent is the newly announced COO of P4RC. A company that you may not of heard of, yet. But if our conversation below with Kevin is any indication, P4RC may just be about to crack a nut no one else has been able to thus far.

148Apps: Kevin, tell us a little about yourself and your background in games.

Kevin Dent: I started my gaming career making mobile games in Dublin, Ireland in 1998 by conning my boss. I was group head of sales at the time and I had a budget to hire 13 additional sales people and instead I hired 3 sales people and 15 developers –I actually forced them to wear suits, they loved that; no really- one day my CEO came in and said “have you ever heard of mobile games?”, he showed me one of my games and I knew I was caught, so I confessed. Yeah, so he had no clue and I basically “outted” myself.

He asked were the games making money, I said “about 2M pounds –old Irish currency- per month”, he called me a bunch of names, calmed down and said “ok fuck it, keep doing it”. I was ecstatic. The company was sold soon after that and as I was an early employee I did pretty great out of it. So I moved to Slovenia, started a studio, sold it, started another, folded it, started another and sold it.

At that point, I joined Hands-On Mobile.

I was kind of scarred from that experience, I had signed a golden handcuff contract; so I could not leave until I was with the firm for 365 days. Wada San the President of Square Enix reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in making a Final Fantasy game on feature phones –there was no iPhone back then- I said that I need to clear it, but I gave him a soft “yes”. Can you imagine? I went into my bosses office and said “Mr X, I have been offered Final Fantasy and it is a great deal, lets do this.” The response was “GREAT, is that a video game?”, I resisted the urge to face slam the guy into his desk.

148Apps: Before this, you lived the sweet life of an indie. Why chain yourself to a single company?

Kevin Dent: So all this basically happened because of a kid I had been working to help. It was a surreal experience, he had a golf ball size tumor removed from his head and he just about broke my heart. He will have chemotherapy from now until the end of the year. All I could think of was unless I am creating something huge that benefits both my peers and gamers, I would not be about to do sometime huge.

To be clear, games are never huge; it is the community that back them that are huge. So I went through this period of self-inspection to figure out how I could actually do something great for everyone with an amazing team. I spent a lot of nights doing crunch and one night I just did an emotional crunch and figured out if I was ever going to be able to realize my full potential I had to close my business, jump off a cliff and hope gamers and devs catch me.

Unfortunately I am not really that skilled in anything other than making games, I am definitely not smart enough to be a doctor, a civil rights lawyer or anything important in the world of philanthropy.

Then the next day a guy called me and suggested that I close my business and join his firm –which was P4RC- I loved the solution, I did not actually think I would like it at first, but I got into it in a big way. I was making a ton of money and more than one friend told me that I was the dumbest smart guy that they knew –I am not that smart- but I did it anyway. Funny side note, my accountant moved my business to his colleague and refused to talk to me after I closed my business.

I have always been a “right time and right moment” sort of guy, so I just decided to go for it. I am happy that I did.

148Apps: Ok, so then P4RC (pronounced “park”) had the goods to pull you in, what exactly what does P4RC do?

Kevin Dent: So right now gamers on mobile can engage in different rewards platforms, most of these firms reward gamers for having “moments” I am not making this up. Once you hit that “moment” you get a bag of Pop Chips etc. Now I am sure there are people that enjoy Popchips! P4RC is different in that we go in altogether different direction. We created a platform where gamers accumulate points regardless of whether they have their “moment” or not. With those points they can spend them on whatever they want, we are empowering the rewards business.

They are your points, it’s your choice and they are your rewards.

Also we do not cap the points so you can go big, medium or small; they are your points.

148Apps: So users gather points by playing games and redeem them for real world prizes. We’ve seen things similar in the past, but none have really gained a foothold. What does P4RC have that others don’t, and will that make it successful?

Kevin Dent: Similar yes, but there is always a catch, a deadline or an expiration in terms of the points. Not so with P4RC, your points accumulate so if you don’t like what is in the store, you don’t have to settle. This is key for me personally as I don’t want gamers to settle, as a game developer myself, I never want gamers to have to settle ever. The data supports this argument, we currently have 1.7M users who are racking up points, we are giving away mid five figures in prizes weekly. We have investors, it is their money so hey that makes me pretty happy. We want to give away 100X that figure daily.

The second thing we have is that we have all made games at some point, personally I have made a little over 300 titles on various platforms; some were well received and others not so much –hello Ironman on feature phones- my point is, is that we are uniquely positioned to know what developers and gamers like. We have lived the nightmare that is crunch, we have lived the horror show that is looking at your game and thinking to yourself “wow this is a total piece of crap”. Perspective is incredibly important. Since we came out of private beta we have signed up 65 games and we will be announcing those as they go live if the developer wants us to and this leads me nicely into my final point, every other rewards program seems to be want to be the star. It is a fool’s errand, I want the in game experience to be the star. With P4RC you do not even have to leave the game and even when you finish playing there is nothing to do, you bank your points without doing anything.

Signup is easy, I was at a bus stop the other day and I paid an old guy $10 to sign up to P4RC just so I could witness someone go through the process. It took him 37 seconds.

Hit the jump for the rest of our talk with Kevin Dent.

Continue reading Kevin Dent on P4RC and Their Plan for User Engagement Through Rewards »


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