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.
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?
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.