Posts Tagged App Store 5th


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5 years since the App Store launch

On Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 the App Store will celebrate it’s fifth anniversary. Five years of apps. 50 Billion downloads of well over 900,000 apps and games. To say that the App Store was a sea change would be a bit of an understatement. The impact it has made on the software market is immense.

So, all this week we want to look back on the App Store’s five year history, talk to the movers and shakers, get the insight of the veterans, and maybe even look ahead a bit to see what’s next.

 

App Store Insiders

 
We’ve got a full week talking to the biggest App Store insiders, some of the people that have been around since the beginning and have helped shape the App Store into what it is today.

Friday, July 12th:

As our week long look at the App Store turns 5 comes to a close, we have a full list of great interviews and posts to go up.

First up we talk with Keith Shepherd of Imangi, developers of the smash hit Temple Run. It wasn’t always top of the charts for Imangi.

Jamie Gotch is the CEO and co-founder of Subatomic Studios, developers of the great Fieldrunners. We talk with Jamie Gotch about their history in the App Store.

With a 30+ year career in video games, William Volk, COO of Playscreen has more experience in the industry and perspective on the App Store than most.

John Casasanta has never been one to hold back a strong opinion. We find that out in our talk with him, John Casasanta of tap tap tap, maker of Camera+ tells us what he really thinks.

David Frampton, the creator of Chopper and The Blockheads talks about his life on the cutting edge, as one of the first developers to not only be on the App Store, but to later experiment with TV gaming.

Being featured as a Staff Favorite on launch day is a pretty good way to start your mobile app company. Jiva DeVoe tells us about advice that he luckily ignored.

 
Thursday, July 11th:

Sega was first on the App Store at launch with Super Monkey Ball, a tilt enabled game that still holds up pretty well five years later. We talk with Ethan Einhorn about the App Store launch and how Sega approached the $9.99 launch price.

Jason Citron, co-founder of OpenFeint is one of my favorite people to talk to in the industry. He’s done and seen it all and is always ahead of the curve. Hint: he’s now working on games for core gamers on the iPad.

Gedeon Maheux from Iconfactory shares some interesting thoughts on how a traditional company transitioned onto the App Store.

Rovio launched a little game called Angry Birds onto the App Store in 2009. That little bird flinging game would turn into a multi-billion dollar company with over 1.7 billion downloads, more than any other game in history. We spend a few minutes with Saara Bergström, VP, Marketing & Communications for Rovio to find out their secrets.

EA could be considered the old guard in video games. It’s been around since 1982 yet has successfully transitioned from home console to digital downloads almost completely in the past couple years. Not without issues of course. We talk with Nick Rish, VP of Mobile Publishing for EA about the transition from console to digital.

Doodle Jump is one of the most known games in the world. We talk to Igor Pusenjak about Lima Sky and the App Store.

 
Wednesday, July 10th:

First up today we have Jani Kahrama of Secret Exit. Secret Exit makes some of the most original games on the App Store, we talk to Jani about adapting to the changes that have taken place in the past five years.

Namco’s Alex Adjadj is one of the few old guard at Namco Bandai Games still around from the launch of the App Store. Alex gives us a very open look at Namcos experience with the App Store.

Kepa Auwae, Rocketcat Games, the long-time developer of pixel art games with their own unique style discusses why their games are so original, and what their future on the App Store will be.

One of the App Store’s most creative minds, Adam Saltsman of Semi Secret Software discusses the impact of his games, his thoughts on current business models, and the future of the App Store.

Tapulous co-founder Mike Lee talks history and responsibility on the App Store 5th anniversary.

 
Tuesday, July 9th:

Our first interview today is with Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative, creators of Pocket God. We talk with Dave about the serial update model and that not every app needs to be freemium/free to play to make a profit.

Next up we have Ian Marsh of NimbleBit. NimbleBit created the game of the year in 2011 with the massively successful Tiny Tower and they know how to do IAP with the highest percentage of sustained IAP conversion I’ve ever heard of.

Colin Smith, co-founder of Freeverse has a lot to say about the frightening transition Freeverse made from premium to free to play. One that, in the end, didn’t work out too well for Freeverse.

ngmoco:) purchased Freeverse in 2010, just as the free to play ecosystem on iOS was kicking off. Clive Downie, CEO of ngmoco/DeNA West recounts the transition to free to play as one that was the right one for ngmoco.

 
Monday, July 8th:

We speak with Brian Greenstone of Pangea, possibly the person responsible for driving game prices down to $0.99. Read the article for the full details on that and his inside story of how app prices started out at $9.99 even though Steve Jobs told him they should be lower.

We also speak with Ed Rumley of Chillingo about how Chillingo has approached the App Store and adapted over time.

We’ll have many more interviews throughout the week.

 

Even More

 

How much have things on the App Store *really* changed over the past five years? A lot, actually. Here’s a quick history.

If you were looking for a needle in a haystack. And that needle is an underrated app in the 900,000 apps in the App Store, Rob has you covered in 10 Unfortunately Underrated Apps on the iOS App Store.

“The App Store was the beginning of a long process that changed who I was and made me the person I am today.” Carter Dotson looks back at five years with the App Store.

There’s a theme here – the App Store allowed Rob Rich to start living the dream and become a freelance writer.

The App Store is a great marketplace, but it has its share of quirks. Here’s what a number of long-time, new, and potential developers think about Apple’s digital venue in Ups and Downs of iOS Publishing.

Rob digs out his Ten Biggest iOS Surprises in a look at some of the apps that have surprised us.

Our writer Jordan Minor talks about how video game journalism means business and how the App Store gave direction to his journalism plans.

Jennifer Allen rounds of a few thoughts from the new kids on the block (no, not the New Kids on the Block), the new developers, the first timers, and the future stars in The New Generation Of iOS Developers Spout Off.

Rob LeFebvre talks about how the App Store gave him the opportunity to do what he wanted to be, a full time writer in Five Years Of The App Store: Rob L’s Career Change, Soul-Search, And More.

Jennifer Allen gives us a heart felt look back at here favorite apps and games from the past five years in Five Years of App Store Favorites.

Rob LeFebvre takes a look at some the Top 20 Landmark Games on iOS. All of these games extended and improved the true state of the art in mobile gaming.

Rob Rich recaps the Best App Ever winners from the past five years in 5 Years Worth of Winners.

Rob LeFebvre takes a look at 10 Landmark Apps released in the past 5 years.

Apple is celebrating the five years of the App Store by giving away five apps and five games, both small screen and iPad versions.

Our friends over at Pocket Gamer are running down their favorite (or favourite) 50 games of the past five years. Here’s part 1: games 50-31, part 2: games 30-11. Pocket Gamer’s top 10 all the way down to number 1 is up now with an interesting pick for number 1. And our friends over at AppSpy have their Top 5 Games from the past 5 years list up now.

 

Share Your Favorites!

 

Some of our writers share their favorite apps. Starting out Amy Solomon shares her favorite kids apps. Also favorite apps and games from Carter Dotson, Jen Allen, Rob Rich, and Jeff Scott.

We’d love to know your favorite apps and games. We’re posting some of ours over on the Best App Ever Facebook wall. Please post yours there as well.

 

Over one million apps have made their way onto the App Store during its five years of existence. A million. That’s a pretty miraculous number when you think about it. However it’s not the amount of apps we have to pick from that I find so fascinating, but rather just how much things have changed since 2008. Pickings were comparatively slim at first, and many developers were just starting to dip a toe in the waters of Apple’s new smartphone.

On top of that, the technology itself has changed tremendously in a relatively small amount of time. It makes me wonder if anyone from 2008 would even recognize current iOS devices, and by extension the App Store. Would a newer Apple initiate have any idea what they were looking at if they somehow managed to take a trip to five years ago? I think it warrants a look at how the hardware, the App Store, and the apps contained within it have evolved.

2008 – The Beginning of the Beginning

appstoreevo01The App Store’s first year was a rough but promising one. The iPhone 3G rolled out to coincide with Apple’s new software venue and the original iPhone was still viable. The iPod touch was also present and accounted for, while the second generation appeared closer to the end of the year. Even at this point many developers were eager to push these early iOS devices to their limits, to make them more than just a phone or an .mp3 player with a fancy screen.

Handy apps like Pandora Radio, Last.FM, Facebook, and Yelp were to be expected, but that didn’t make them any less impressive to have on a handheld platform. Others such as the intuitive personal organizer Evernote, the eerily accurate song-identifying app Shazam, eWallet’s convenient and secure account password management, and MLB At Bat with its extensive baseball coverage further capitalized on the particulars of the hardware and its general portability. Of course there were also some pretty unnecessary options out there, too. Flashlight kind of served a purpose but was also fairly pointless. It wasn’t as bad as stuff like More Cowbell!, though.

At the same time, the games available on the App Store were beginning to show people that “mobile” didn’t have to equal “mediocre.” Sure there were a few simple ports of the odd classic such as Ms. PAC-MAN, Vay, and Scrabble, but there were also some impressive iOS renditions of popular console games like Super Monkey Ball coming out. Potential mobile gamers also had a few really special titles such as Galcon and Fieldrunners to tide them over. When all was said and done there were over 7,500 apps on the App Store by the end of the year, with more being added every day.

2009 – Moving Right Along

appstoreevo02aappstoreevo02bThe following year saw even more impressive releases as Apple’s digital marketplace began to expand. The second generation of iPod Touch was the bright and shiny new toy at the time, but it was followed shortly by the iPhone 3GS in June while the latest and greatest third generation Touch closed out the year in September. It all meant better processors, better CPUs, more advanced operating systems, and so on. All stuff that developers needed to acclimate to, but also stuff that meant they could push their boundaries even further. There was no loss of steam when it came to content, either: the App Store finished off 2009 with well over 100,000 apps available.

Many of the basic smartphone necessities were covered, but there was room for so much more. Especially while the technology was improving. Plenty of people used their iPhones as phones, sure, but with the addition of Skype they were able to enjoy the added functionality of instant messaging and voice chat without cutting into their data plans (so long as a wifi connection was present). Big companies were really starting to take notice as well. That same year Starbucks and many other big businesses threw their virtual hats into the ring with their own apps designed to make life a little bit easier for their iOS-using customers. Practicality was also becoming an even bigger focus. The Kindle app gave iOS users a practical e-reading option, and Dropbox was there being Dropbox. By which I mean “an awesome and super-convenient way to transfer files between multiple platforms.” And this same level of refinement could be seen creeping into the games as well.

So many of the App Store’s most notable games and franchises came out around this time. It was almost a mobile rennaisence of a sort. This was the year Real Racing first blew mobile gamers’ minds, even causing some of them to question the legitimacy of in-game video footage until they were able to see the finished product for themselves. Zenonia was just a fledgling action RPG at the time, and while a lot of people liked it I doubt they knew just how many sequels it would spawn. The same goes for Pocket God, although with updates rather than multiple releases. Flight Control began to eat away at peoples’ free time, Angry Birds and Doodle Jump hit it big (like, super big), and Myst and The Sims 3 further displayed the potential for major releases on mobile platforms. Oh, and Canabalt almost single-handedly invented and popularized a genre.


Continue reading 5 Years and Counting – The App Store Then and Now »

 

I’ve been in love with video games for over 25 years, ever since the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System. And while the technology has been advancing exponentially ever since, one thing has been constant: my envy of video game reviewers. These were people who were paid to play video games and then write about them. How freaking cool is that??

I idolized everyone who worked for Nintendo Power, IGN, GamePro, EGM, and later Play, Game Informer, OPM, and so on. I’d dreamed of being able to do the same thing myself but it was always one of those “there’s no way, but it would be cool if” kind of dreams. At least until I actually started doing it when I more or less tumbled into writing for Crush! Frag! Destroy!

I’ll never forget the years I spent at CFD! – first as a contributor, then as Managing Editor/website mom. They were instrumental in helping me put together a sizable and diverse body of work that included console, PC, mobile, AAA, and indie games. I got to talk to game developers. I received review copies (FREE review copies) of games like Persona 3 Portable, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect 2. I went to Pax East one year and felt like a friggin’ badass. However it wasn’t until I got myself an iPhone 3GS, crossed my fingers, and sent a resume off to 148Apps that I really started to live the dream.

Much to my amazement I was brought onboard almost immediately as a freelancer. Suddenly I was making money–real money–reviewing video games (and apps). After a few months, a senior writer position opened. Then I crossed my fingers for a second time as I expressed an interest, and was again amazed at how quickly I was given the go-ahead. That was two years ago, and things have only gotten more amazing since then.

Thanks to 148Apps and the existence of the App Store, I’ve been able to write about games (and apps!) to my heart’s content and pay some bills in the process. I’ve been able to meet and interview some great developers, both from the indie scene and from big name studios. I’ve been invited to special press-only preview events. Some developers have come to me specifically so that I can critique (not just review but actually critique) their works in progress. I’ve come to understand and appreciate just how influential, creative, and downright fun iOS games can be. And I’ve made some really great friends that I’ve never actually met in person along the way, too.

If it weren’t for the App Store and 148Apps I honestly have no idea what I’d be doing now. Maybe I’d still be writing gratis while waiting for my big break. Maybe I’d have given up on the dream and focused on something a little more “realistic.” Thankfully I don’t have to worry about any of that because I’m already doing it. And I’m going to keep doing it no matter what.

 

The App Store has been around for five years, and in that time its library has grown from just under a thousand titles to over a million. Even with so many releases (and more on the way) there are still a fair number of developers – prominent, indie, or otherwise – who haven’t gone near it. Why have some embraced the App Store while others have hesitated? Why are there still so many talented people, whose games would be a great fit for iOS, not releasing their games for the platform? I reached out to a number of developers, some who have and some who haven’t released games on iOS, to try and figure it out.

The Initial Draw

appstoredevs_store01With such a big install base (600 million devices sold and 575 million user accounts) and a unified operating system, it’s only natural for many a developer to find the App Store appealing. Especially if the popularity or puslisher support for certain platforms starts to wane. Daniel Steger of Stegersaurus Games has been doing pretty well on the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace, but lately it’s looking like Microsoft might be pulling the plug on the once indie-friendly venue. “iOS has been seen as one option because it has many consumers and seems to fit the scale of games I enjoy making,” Steger said, “Frameworks like Xamarin’s Monotouch could also make porting my games from XBox to iPhone fairly pain-free which is an added bonus as I could continue creating games for both platforms.”

Daniel Steger/Steger Games

Daniel Steger/Steger Games

It was the portability and popularity of Apple’s iOS devices that first attracted ISOTX‘s Jeroen Roding to the App Store. “The iPad is something you have with you all of the time, it is accessible at any given time of the day,” Roding said. “The average revenue per unit is pretty high and the whole shop backend is easy for the users.” It wasn’t just the install base, either. As a developer for Facebook games there was also cross-platform integration to consider that would allow users to “start the game on PC and Mac and finish it while on their tablet,” he said.

Both Marios Karagiannis from Karios Games and independent programmer Suraj Gregory-Kumar attribute their initial interest to the App Store’s popularity as well as Apple’s certification process. According to Karagiannis, “Companies that consider creating casual games for mobile devices cannot really afford to skip the App Store,” since he considers it to be “the biggest, more consistent app store of the 3 major platforms right now.” Gregory-Kumar agrees, but views the situation from a more practical standpoint. “I own an iPhone and wanted to venture in to unknown territory,” said Gregory-Kumar, “but more over it was a way of showing those around me the games I could produce, since the device is portable and easy to show off.”

Suraj Gregory-Kumar

Suraj Gregory-Kumar

As for getting apps certified, Karagiannis considers it to be a necessary buffer. “Remember that the lack of any kind of certification means in practice that a VERY large number of apps are utterly useless – including malicious apps.” In other words it’s like the Wild West. However, that also means getting something approved for the App Store can take a little while, as Gregory-Kumar recalls. “The App Store approval process is something which takes a lot of consideration, as the app must meet their strict guidelines, otherwise the app is declined.”

Mike Roush, co-founder of Gaijin Games, has a slightly different perspective on the matter. BIT.TRIP BEAT has been on the App Store since 2010, however he doesn’t feel like they’ve had much involvement in it’s App Store appearance. “I don’t really feel like Gaijin Games made the game, seeing as it was a port of the Wii version.” Roush said, noting that Namco’s involvement with publishing and co-developing the port attributed greatly to his feeling of detachment. He also believes they could take advantage of the shift in App Store shopper preferences from the quick and casual games of the early years to something more complex. “Nowadays,” Roush said, “it seems to me that people are interested in deeper, richer and more polished experiences.”

Reservations

appstoredevs_store02As appealing as any development platform might be there are always going to be a few aspects that give someone pause. Apple’s certification process, while a welcome buffer for some, becomes an unnecessary barrier for others. Daniel Steger had this exact problem when he attempted to move a few of his Xbox Live Indie Games to iOS. “I spent some time porting my game engine to work with Monotouch,” Steger said, “Unfortunately, after all that time I did not account for Apple’s sensitivity when approving games.” The first game he had attempted to port was rejected three consecutive times; the last of which was anything but constructive or informative. “I was told not to submit the game again, as it would never get approved.”

Jane V./Price Rhythm

Jane V./Price Rhythm

He tried to make the best of it by porting two other games, both of which did fairly well on Xbox Live and were, in fact, approved for the App Store, but it just wasn’t enough. “They were quicker ports just trying to make the best out of a bad situation,” he said. Unfortunately, while these games performed well on Xbox Live they didn’t even come close to recouping the time and money spent porting them to iOS in the first place. He’s been understandably hesitant to port any other projects ever since. Jane V from Price Rhythm was also initially put off by the approval process. “I am holding myself from developing games because I believe that in order to succeed in it and make the “killer” game, you have to make it really beautiful and engaging.” She said, “This requires a lot of graphical capabilities, marketing budgets and etc that a lot of indie developers just don’t have.”

Marios Karagiannis/Karios Games

Marios Karagiannis/Karios Games

Jeroen Roding, Marios Karagiannis, and Suraj Gregory-Kumar, on the other hand, were more concerned about the development tools themselves. Gregory-Kumar wasn’t much of a Mac user initially and was also worried about budgeting on top of his unfamiliarity. “Fortunately, my husband is an Apple fan so his Mac came in handy.” Gregory-Kumar said, “With the Unreal Engine you need a windows machine to install the software, and a mac to submit it, so developing using this process without the technology would prove costly.” Roding, on the other hand, was limited to his prior experience with developing browser-based games. “We didn’t really have the experience at the time to get our game functioning on iOS.” Roding said, “Now we are working with scaleform and Unity in order to get the game running smoothly on iOS and retaining the same value on PC and Mac.”

Marios Karagiannis, however, has had a fair bit of experience in designing for mobile ever since 2011. Although it was for Windows Phone. A platform he picked mostly due to the accessible development tools. “XNA was providing (at the time) an excellent game development framework for indies and Microsoft was really pushing for the platforms, which gave me a lot of perks.” He was also a little preoccupied at the time, what with pursuing his PhD and all. “Revenue as well as user acquisition was not my number one priority,” Karagiannis said, “I opted for having fun creating my games while making them available through a number of people through a centralized store at the same time.”

Jeroen Roding/ISOTX

Jeroen Roding/ISOTX

Mike Roush was mostly concerned about he and his team’s extensive background in console development, as mobile platforms are something of a different beast. The App Store is also a fairly unpredictable marketplace. “If we invest a significant amount of money into an iOS project and it doesn’t hit, then we are in trouble.” Roush said. There was also a lot less pressure for their games to succeed because they were a much smaller studio at first. “We had no fear of failing because our office burn-rate was around $1000.00. We didn’t really have much to lose and we could function on very little.”

Coming Around

appstoredevs_store03Even though they’ve had issues or reservations in the past, everyone agrees that there are some qualities the App Store possesses that made (or will make) it worth the effort. Even Daniel Steger hasn’t totally written off Apple’s mobile platforms. “I wouldn’t say an attempt to return to iOS is out of the question,” Steger said, “but there are a few places that take priority because of my experiences.” He’s been attempting to use Steam Greenlight to release his most recent project, Mount Your Friends, on PC and has been eyeing Google Play for another go at mobile devices. He’d still be willing to give Apple another shot, however. “If I heard Apple was being more transparent now on their review criteria, or heard that my old, rejected submission to the app store would be considered today by Apple that may influence a return.” Suraj Gregory-Kumar is simply looking forward to more time to learn, and hopes that Apple eventually opens up iOS to other development tools. “It would be easier being able to use a windows machine to develop for Apple (using Xcode/Objective-C),” he said.

Mike Roush/Gaijin Games

Mike Roush/Gaijin Games

Marios Karagiannis and Jeroen Roding are pretty much on-board already thanks to Apple’s install base. Since finishing his PhD last December, Karagiannis Has found that his priorities have been changing. “App Store users seem to be willing to pay more than Android users.” His biggest theory on this phenomenon has to do with the install base on Android versus iOS. “While on paper Android users are many more,” Karagiannis said, “the average Android user uses an old device and is used to getting all of their apps for free.” Of course a similar case could be made against iOS users, but there definitely seems to be a more universal acceptance of $0.99 releases on the App Store. Roding is more interested in the number of iOS users rather than the particulars of the App Store’s economics. “From a marketing point of view we really liked the average revenue per unit and the fact that we can reach a larger audience.” Roding said, “Also looking at the numbers for PC gamers having access to or owning a tablet are really good, around 30% of the PC gamers now owns a tablet.”

Karagiannis concurred. “Apple’s ecosystem proved to be quite robust and iOS as a gaming platform seems to be one step away from being the most successful gaming platform at the moment, including game consoles and PCs,” Karagiannis said. Mike Roush feels the same way, and has high hopes for Gaijin Games on the App Store. “We are actually working on the iOS version of Runner2 (it’s super amazing btw). I would be willing to bet, from here on out, every game we make will be on an iOS device.” Roush said, “You just can’t argue with the number of iOS units currently in the hands of people.”

 

When talking about the impact Apple’s App Store has had on people during the last five years it’s easy to just rattle off the numbers. But its influence goes beyond the hundreds of thousands of apps and the billions of downloads. Technology can simultaneously change the lives of entire populations and lowly individuals, individuals like me. The App Store has opened up opportunities for me to do the things I’ve always wanted to do, all while making me better at it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for writing and a passion for video games. Naturally, video game journalism seemed like the best career to pursue because it allowed me to easily combine the two. In 2007, just as I was settling into high school, I started practicing my craft on tiny fan sites about big games most players had already made up their minds about.

In 2009, though, as App Store games and the sites that covered them were coming into their own, I saw the chance to really get serious about this strange path I was on. With so many games to choose from, players were actually in need of advice. App Store coverage was a growing segment of games journalism that could really help people, so it seemed as good a place as any to launch my career. From 2009 to 2010 I wrote for SlidetoPlay.com and in 2011 I made the jump here to 148Apps. Writing about the App Store these past four years has undoubtedly driven me to strengthen my writing and provide quality analysis, although there are definitely improvements still to be made. I’m incredibly grateful for the editors who have had faith in me and my work.

Reviewing over 150 games for 148Apps alone has also given me a greater understanding of video games as a whole. At least, I’d like to think so. Playing all of the different kinds of games on the platform, no matter how good, bad or crazy experimental, while trying to articulate how and why they do or don’t work has been an immensely beneficial intellectual endeavor. Video game criticism has the potential to be more than just simple purchasing advice. Like games themselves, the writing can become a true art form. As the App Store evolves, its role in gaming is increasing. By highlighting these smaller App Store games I’m hoping to make whatever tiny contribution I can to the larger field. These games can be reviewed on their own terms, without worrying about having to conform to some AAA gaming consensus or fandom pressure and that’s what makes them so special.

Of course, what also make the App Store so special are the people behind it. To get a better understanding of the industry, I’ve recently been trying to talk with more developers and other members of the press. Before leaving Chicago and coming back home for the summer, I had dinner with Tom Eastman of Trinket Studios, creators of Color Sheep, and drinks with 148Apps’ own Carter Dotson in the same week. Both experiences were great. The App Store itself may just be a cold, technological service set up by a massive corporation, but the communities of developers and writers that have come together because of it more than proves its value.

At just five years old, though, the App Store still has a bright future ahead of it. As I prepare to enter my last year of journalism school, I can’t wait to see what that future is and start covering it as a true professional. Writing about games is important to me and that’s not changing any time soon. So thank you App Store, 148Apps, and the wonderful people behind them both for helping me make my insanely frivolous dream an insanely meaningful reality.

 

Over the past five years, many thousands of developers have tried their luck in creating the next big hit for iOS gamers. While some were there right from the beginning, others have found success in only the last couple of years. I took the time to chat to four relatively recently successful developers to find out exactly why they were so interested in pursuing the App Store route, and how they’ve found the experience so far.

“First and foremost it was the ease of development and getting things…running quickly, with no development kits and long processes of approval,” explained Simon Flesser of Simogo (most famous for the rather exceptionally spooky Year Walk). “That coupled with us being interested in the iPhone as a gaming platform and the different features it provides, touchscreen interaction, motion controls, constant internet connection…”

Simogo's Year Walk

Simogo’s Year Walk

Barry Meade of Fireproof Studios (makers of BAFTA award winning The Room) had similar views: “As a small team with little resources to draw on, the fact you could self-publish on the App Store was a huge enabler for us…The Room might never have been made if we’d had to rely on a publisher as it was a bit too unusual…they would not have believed in the game like we did.” As he pointed out, “the App Store allowed a team from nowhere to make a small game and see big success.”

The Room‘s Fireproof Games is one such team made up of ex-AAA developers, with the studio formed by six ex-lead artists from Criterion Games’ Burnout franchise. Similarly, Warhammer Quest‘s Rodeo Games came from such a background. Formed from executives previously working for the likes of EA, Lionhead, Criterion and Codemasters, Rodeo Games were provided the opportunity to pursue something new, thanks to the App Store.

“Well, we’d been in the AAA games industry for many years and had been talking about how to take steps in setting up our own company. The App Store was just flourishing at the time. It was this awesome, new, bold place for smaller dev teams to put their games in-front of a huge audience. So we crafted a plan with the mindset of making the very best turn based strategy games on iOS, and Rodeo Games was the result,” Ben Murch, co-founder, explained.

Fireproof Games's The Room

Fireproof Games’s The Room

Neil Rennison of Fighting Fantasy developer, Tin Man Games, enjoyed a similar revelatory moment, after a move to Australia, gave him the chance of starting his own indie development studio, just as the iPhone and the App Store came to fruition: “I was originally running a small games art outsource company in the UK and then…I…moved to Australia with the dreams of starting my own indie and making my own titles instead of working on other people’s games.”

How different do they all think things would be if the App Store didn’t exist, though? “Very! Certain types of business models and certain types of games would probably not exist without the App Store,” Simon reckoned. Ben offered similar views, although noted the loss of the “middle tier” of gaming: “The gaming world would be a very different place right now. Just think about how many small companies and jobs have been created just from iOS gaming alone. Before the App Store, there was this surge towards “middle tier” gaming, i.e. titles coming out in the £10 – £20 bracket. I guess that market would have grown more and become an eco-system in itself. However, thanks to the App Store, creators who were interested in that model shifted into the mobile market, effectively crippling the whole “middle tier” gaming sector.”

Rodeo Games's Warhammer Quest

Rodeo Games’s Warhammer Quest

Mention was also made, by Neil, of the fragmentation of the mobile phone operator universe, something that was a significant problem before the advent of the App Store. “Apple’s stock would be worth a lot less”, noted Barry. All quite rightly pointed out that none of them would be in the position they’re in today, if it wasn’t for the ease of the App Store.

For the most part, all four of our interviewees were very positive about the App Store’s impact. Each citing how it’s “paved the way for many small developers”, as Simon eloquently put it, and enabled them to try riskier material. As Ben pointed out, “Without the App Store, it would be nigh on impossible to get your strange little game idea in front of….well, thousands of people would be a struggle. Suddenly, anyone can release something that has exposure to HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of potential buyers. Just thinking about that blows my mind.”

Financial barriers are also lowered, as Barry explained: “The relative cheapness of mobile games development allows niche ideas to thrive.” Neil reinforced that point, citing how the games industry “was slowly becoming a bloated AAA only console game market and traditional game developers were beginning to struggle as the mid-point of the market was getting squeezed. The app revolution helped give developers options and in a way created its own new market in which everyone had the same opportunities from the big publishers to the lone bedroom coder…[it] was a perfect springboard for budding entrepreneurial devs like us.”

Tin Man Games's Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom

Tin Man Games’s Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom

Simon was slightly more cautious, enjoying the risks that were possible to take, but also citing how it’s “paved the way for some very questionable money-grabbing schemes… the market place has been somewhat flooded with low-quality software. It might have lowered the quality bar for what is considered to be a release-able piece software.”

That’s clearly a thought that runs through each of the developers’ minds, given that each recommends changes that make it easier to find good apps and games. Ben would appreciate a better quality Related Apps section and a twist on the Genius section, “Some form of “We recommend these Apps for you based on what you’ve downloaded already” type thing.” Discoverability is a big thing for Barry too, “There should be a lot more ways to format the lists of games when browsing the store. A chart by user rating is very needed for those smaller companies who make great games but get buried by the marketing clout of richer but arguably less skilful publishers.”

Higher “quality control” is an important wish for Simon, while Neil would appreciate a way to reply to App Store reviewers.

Rodeo Games's Hunters 2

Rodeo Games’s Hunters 2

For the most part, though, all four developers were, understandably, happy with how the App Store is performing, both in terms of business and personal use.

“I think Apple does a marvellous job at finding and promoting good games. It’s so nice that they can give small developers, such as us, a big spotlight if they find something that is good…it’s almost…unbelievable that something as strange as Year Walk can get the same type of exposure as a mainstream game from a big publisher,” beamed Simon.

The “open territory” of the Store was appreciated by Barry, also, “You can upload a game to the store and be published in 150 countries within 24 hours – this is really quite incredible when you compare it with how difficult it was to get a game onto other platforms only a few years ago. It’s pretty much a revolution in terms of enabling creativity,” with Neil offering similar views.

Simogo's Bumpy Road

Simogo’s Bumpy Road

As a consumer, it’s also proved quite the hit with Ben pointing out, “it’s that feeling of being able to browse a huge catalogue of games from your sofa, eventually finding something that’s right up your street. They have great landing pages in the App Store making it easy to find great games that you may not have heard of previously.” Neil appreciated the vast wealth of games, too, “it’s enabled me to play games that I haven’t played in over 20 years and also experience new innovative game designs from some truly talented people that wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to shine.”

While it’s clear that the App Store isn’t perfect, mostly in terms of offering great visibility to the titles that deserve it, these four developers have clearly found it an overwhelmingly useful experience. Each of them, from different backgrounds, have found great and deserved success, highlighting the best of what can come out of the App Store in terms of original efforts.

We’re certainly fascinated to see what will come next from these relatively new developers, part of the next generation of exciting game makers.

Thanks to Simon Flesser, Ben Murch, Barry Meade and Neil Rennison for taking the time to answer our questions.

$3.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2013-02-21 :: Category: Games

$4.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2013-05-30 :: Category: Games

$0.99
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2012-09-19 :: Category: Games

$5.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2013-06-11 :: Category: Games

 

Being asked to sum up the past five years of the App Store, on a personal level, is tough. Partly, because I have the memory of a goldfish, but also because so much has happened in those few years. How do you highlight what’s so great about a device and service that you can’t imagine being without? My iPhone and the App Store, by proxy, has been immensely important to me in this time. It’s given me so much information, enjoyment and even been a great outlet in times of need. Here’s a feeble attempt at trying to sum up how vital it’s all been for me.

Memories

Launch day: Despite the goldfish analogy, I do remember when the App Store first launched. I’d had an iPhone for a couple of months previously and had dabbled in jailbreaking, but didn’t feel too comfortable with it. The day the App Store started was genuinely exciting stuff. It’s hard to believe, for those newer to the Store, but it was possible to browse from start to finish, thanks to there being a mere 500 apps available. I did that, regularly, until it got to a point where there were just too many titles to look at. Like with any launch day event, these apps didn’t show off everything the technology could do, but they did offer a glimpse of a thrilling future.

FlightControlHD-ss3

Flight Control: Excluding a dabble with the no longer with us, Bejeweled 2, Flight Control was my first great iOS love. It showed me how great the touch controls of the iPhone could be, and how quickly one could gain satisfaction from a phone game. My past experiences with mobile gaming had been fun, but lacking that certain something that made me think it could rival handheld consoles. Flight Control changed that, for me, and I loved spending ages battling to improve my high score. Not that I was any good at it, though!

Exploration: I like apps that enhance my life, and I’ve used many in the past. Star Chart sticks in my mind, however, thanks to it enabling me to learn more about an area. While at the summit of an ancient ridge, Cefn Bryn, I could load up Star Chart and work out exactly what stars were above me and where. It was pretty magical.

Highlights

c_screenshot3

A career path: It’s a pretty significant one, but if it wasn’t for the App Store, I wouldn’t be writing this. In fact, I’m not entirely sure what I’d be doing, given throughout my freelance career thus far, the App Store and iOS have played a very big role. It’s changed my life for the better. It’s been nearly three years since I wrote my first review for 148apps, Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter, and I’m immensely grateful for how far I, and the site, have come.

The indie uprising: I always passively appreciated the efforts of indie developers, before the advent of the App Store, but my love for them has definitely grown. Perhaps more excitingly, I feel enabled to give it a go myself at some point. While I haven’t yet found the time spare to really pursue it, Xcode, Stencyl and Gamesalad are waiting for me, reminding me that the era of the bedroom coder has returned. That’s got to be a good thing for creativity, right?

Beloved Apps and Missed Titles

KOTOR_5

Favorites: I’ve struggled to narrow the list down. Really struggled. The memories of one Saturday morning avidly playing Game Dev Story in bed, before realising it’s practically lunchtime are particularly strong. Much the same as my hundreds of hours spent with Fairway Solitaire are fond, if tarnished by the time it inexplicably lost all my data and progress. Or how about the time I demonstrated the power of the iPad to my mother with the double whammy of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and XCOM: Enemy Unknown? The former being one of my favorite games of all time.

Out of them all, though, a select bunch are used nearly every day. I take photos each day to track my life and have some fond memories to look back on, so Instagram is a must have for me. I like to back up such things, as well as my social networking sharing, so Momento is always at the forefront of my recently used apps. As a writer, iA Writer completes the selection, thanks to its cloud syncing ensuring I can always write up a quick idea, no matter where I am. New Star Soccer remains the key game that I regularly find myself returning to, living my fantasy as a world class soccer player.

image_9

Apps I miss: There are a couple of apps I miss, though. Puzzle Quest being one such title, given my love of the Match-3 genre and the fact I’ve played it to death on all other formats. Similarly, I adored Big Blue Bubble’s use of the Fighting Fantasy license, although at least Tin Man Games is doing a brilliant job of taking over that mantle.

It’s been a fun five years, and given how far the App Store has come in that time, I’m excited to see what the next five years will bring. It’s looking like a pretty rosy future to me!

 

Celebrate the App Store’s birthday with us — share your favorite apps and games on Facebook.

AppStoreTurns5It’s hard to believe that just half a decade ago, apps weren’t a “thing”. If you wanted to game on the go, or be productive while mobile, your choices were few, you were usually limited to the in-built software for your phone. With apps though, pretty much anything’s now possible. You can use your phone to write documents, find recipes, DJ, play all manner of games, oh yeah, and call and text.

So with this in mind, we’re celebrating this landmark along with our friends at Pocket Gamer, PocketGamer.biz, AppSpy and beyond, over on the Best App Ever Facebook Page. Our editors and regular contributors will be documenting their five favorite apps and games of the last five years, along with their hopes for the App Store in the future.

We’d love for you to be a part of it too. Share your favorite five games, and your wishes for the store moving forward, over on the Best App Ever Facebook Wall.

via: Best App Ever at Facebook

 

Update: 11:00am The time that Apple took the original 10 free apps live has come and gone. Perhaps this isn’t an Apple promotion after all. But, it’s still some great free, and historic apps.

We told you Sunday of the first round of apps and games set free in celebration of the App Store 5th Anniversary. Early indications look like Apple is about to swap those out for 10 new apps and games as the following have just gone free.

Peggle Classic HD - price returned to $0.99, was on sale for FREE!

Peggle Classic - price returned to $0.99, was on sale for FREE!

Dead Space™ for iPad - price returned to $4.99, was on sale for FREE!

Dead Space™ - price returned to $4.99, was on sale for FREE!

Flight Control HD - price returned to $4.99, was on sale for FREE!

Flight Control - price returned to $0.99, was on sale for FREE!

Mirror's Edge™ for iPad - price returned to $9.99, was on sale for FREE!

Mirror's Edge™ - price returned to $0.99, was on sale for FREE!

Make sure you head here and grab the first round too, if you haven’t already. There’s a chance they could go back to paid soon.

 

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.

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