148 Apps on Facebook 148 Apps on Twitter

Category: App Store Insiders »

The Big List: Black Friday App Sale - Best Apps and Games on Sale or Free for iPhone and iPad

Posted by Jeff Scott on November 27th, 2013

It'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.

Share this list: Like this list? Share it with your friends through Facebook or Twitter by clicking the share buttons above.

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

Facebook Ads are Still a Big Deal for App Marketing

Posted by Rob Rich on July 31st, 2013

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.

Fiksu'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.

On 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.

App Store Insiders: Jiva DeVoe of Random Ideas Software

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 12th, 2013

Jiva 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 Glasses.com 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.

App Store Insiders: David Frampton, Creator of Chopper and The Blockheads

Posted by Carter Dotson on July 12th, 2013

David 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 ]

App Store Insiders: John Casasanta of Tap Tap Tap

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 12th, 2013

John 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 ]

App Store Insiders: William Volk, CCO of Playscreen

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 12th, 2013

William 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
carriers?


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.  

App Store Insiders: Jamie Gotch, CEO and Co-Founder of Subatomic Studios

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 12th, 2013

Fieldrunners 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.

App Store Insiders: Keith Shepherd, CEO and Founder of Imangi

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 12th, 2013

Imangi 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: Pocketgamer.biz ]

App Store Insiders: Igor Pusenjak, President of Lima Sky, Creators of Doodle Jump

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 11th, 2013

Igor 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 ]

App Store Insiders: Nick Rish, VP of Mobile Publishing, EA

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 11th, 2013

EA 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.

App Store Insiders: Saara Bergström, VP, Marketing & Communications for Rovio

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 11th, 2013
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: GREAT :: Read Review »

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.

App Store Insiders: Gedeon Maheux, Owner of The Iconfactory

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 11th, 2013

The 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.

App Store Insiders: Jason Citron, Founder of OpenFeint, Hammer & Chisel

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 11th, 2013

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.

Aurora 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.

App Store Insiders: Ethan Einhorn, Directory of Online Services, Sega

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 11th, 2013

Sega 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 ]

App Store Insiders: Mike Lee, Co-Founder of Tapulous Talks Responsibility on the App Store

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 10th, 2013

Mike 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 ]