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App Store Insiders: Colin Smith, Co-Founder of Freeverse on Market Changes

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 9th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks very much to Colin for his time.

[ Photo credit: Jon Jordan ]

Skee-Ball 2 Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on December 17th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
Skee-Ball is back and it's as good as it ever was, with features that bring it into 2012.
Read The Full Review »

This Week at 148Apps: August 29-September 2

Posted by Chris Kirby on September 4th, 2011

This week at 148Apps, writer Gianna LaPin continued the 500,000 Apps Interview Series by chatting with Colin Lynch of Freeverse. Lynch says, "There are plenty of skill-sets that are helpful in creating great apps and great games. An eye for design, an ability to analyze the market and spot opportunities, speed of thought and action to take advantage of those opportunities, great coding skills, flexibility to work around problems or change directions when events warrant."

Read the full interview on 148Apps.com.

Over at our kid-centric sister site GiggleApps, reviewer Amy Solomon took a thorough look at Practice Book, a new iPad app that uses a familiar connect-the-dot approach to helping children learn letters and words. Solomon writes, "Because my son is new to creating letters, this is an app we work on together. I may demonstrate the correct way to connect the dots in terms of the up or down motions commonly used to make letters or give him simple instructions that he can follow by himself. Sometimes I hold his hand and together we trace over template in the hope that his muscle memory for writing these letters will develop. We often use a stylus as well to get used to holding a pencil to write."

Read the full review at GiggleApps.

And at Android Rundown, Carter Dotson comments on the new that iOS superhit Instagram is coming to the Android platform...sort of...maybe...one day. He writes, "Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom has announced that an Android version of their photo sharing service is “on the horizon” for Android. The app is very close to being real, as they don’t even have a team assembled to develop the app for Android. That is also sarcastic."

Read more of Dotson's commentary on Android Rundown.

Finally, here in the states, it's the Labor Day weekend. That means scads of sales on tons of apps. Keep up to date with the latest and greatest changes by visiting our Huge Labor Day Weekend Price Drop Round-Up. There are great deals to be had, and some amazing games to play in between bites of char-broiled goodness.

That's it for this week. Want to know the latest and greatest news about everything happening in the iOS world, including giveaways and contests? Join us on our Twitter and Facebook streams. You'll be glad you did. See you next week!

Skee-Ball HD for iPad Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Chris Kirby on October 13th, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: MORE OF THE SAME
If it were a universal app, Skee-Ball HD would be fantastic. As it is, it's just extra money for basically the same game.
Read The Full Review »

Skee-Ball HD for the iPad Rolls Out

Posted by Chantelle Joy Duxbury on October 4th, 2010

Newly released to the App Store is Skee-Ball HD by Freeverse. If you like their iPhone game, you'll definitely want to check it out on the bigger screen, and more levels and prizes.

Whether they played Skee-Ball on the boardwalk or at Chuck-e-Cheese as a kid, practically everyone remembers throwing those hard balls down the lane and hoping it'll go up the ramp to the highest points rung. Skee-Ball HD tries to emulate the physics of the game so that you have the same feeling now as you did back then. The graphics are HD quality and offer a 3D style background to offer a high quality overall experience.

Not only will you have fun trying to reach and beat your own high scores, but as a part of the Plus+ network, you can try and beat other people's high scores for either ticket accumulation or points. If your friends are also a part of the network, challenge them to a duel, and may the best Skee-Baller win!

It's easy to pick up and play for the first time - simply flick your ball up the ramp towards the scoring rings. For more experienced players, tilt your iPad for spin and try to do neat tricks or harder shots to impress your friends. They'll want to try it out, too; it's an addictive game.

Just like the fun of the original, you can collect tickets to cash in for awesome prizes that include custom Skee-Balls like the Moo Ball, Sun Ball, Dinosaur Egg Ball, and must-have oddities like Vampire Teeth, Peruvian Flute Band CD, New Zealand, and more than 80 others items. Expansions and Upgrades are also available within the game!

At only $1.99, this is one of the least expensive games on the iPad and certainly well worth trying out, especially if you're already a Freeverse Skee-Ball iPhone user, or just a Skee-Ball fan in general. The all-time classic arcade game has been enhanced for the iPad and should definitely be a fun new game to play.

Top Gun 2 Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Chris Hall on August 26th, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: ACTION MESS
Top Gun 2 is a bit of a mess, with more planes on the screen at any given time than Soviet MIG's on Earth.
Read The Full Review »

Warpgate HD In-Depth Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Chris Kirby on May 6th, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: ENGAGE!
Warpgate has made the jump to the iPad with Warpgate HD, but is it worth your time and money? It's the closest thing you'll get to Star Trek on the iPad without the official license.
Read The Full Review »

iPad Game Preview: CastleCraft

Posted by Ryan Wood on April 2nd, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I was an Evony junkie for quite awhile, so I've had my eye on CastleCraft for a few weeks now. Developer Infinite Lives already has this app on the app store, just waiting for the iPad to get into the hands of the masses. The story contains three different story lines that allow players to interact with one another in a massively multi-player online environment.

Three different quest lines lead players to form alliances and train up to 16 different types of military, resource and technology units. Play against friends and foes worldwide, chat in real time, and witness your city expand under intricate day-night cycles with dynamic particle effects. Amass Dragon Crystals to power your empire with magic.

Castlecraft is a civilization builder that boasts Plus+ network support, so that you can instantly connect to a large community of friends to interact with. Like I said, this will be one of the first iPad purchases I make.

More pictures after the jump.

Zombie Cannon Carnage

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Chris Hall on March 1st, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: NEED MORE
Zombie Cannon Carnage is like perfect guacamole, looks great, tastes great, but always leaves you wanting more.
Read The Full Review »

ngmoco:) Buys Freeverse... Pricing Ruined Storewide

Posted by Chris Hall on February 23rd, 2010

Yesterday, ngmoco:), the only developer happy enough to show it, raised $25mil and acquired Freeverse, one of the largest, most successful developers in the app universe. Not only do they create iPhone apps, but they've also been Mac devs since the 90's, with some great software such as Comic Life and Lineform.

The real story here isn't just the purchase though, it's what the purchase means to us, the consumers. As you may or may not know, ngmoco:) is the pioneer of the "freemium" app. The concept is that everyone in the App Store will buy the app for free and then purchase more and more of the game through in app purchases. In a recent article in TechCrunch, Neil Young, the CEO of ngmoco:) says that “on any given day, you have about 2% of your audience paying you money” With 9 million copies of Eliminate and Touch Pets running loose, the strategy is obviously working.

With the acquisition, Neil plans on transferring all of the Freeverse apps over to the "freemium" model in an effort to juice even more money out of some insanely successful titles such as Skee-Ball and Flick Fishing.

"But dad, I just want to throw the skee-ball one more time!!!" says little Johnny. Dad scrunches his head and retorts "No Johnny, that skee-ball game has cost me $45! You told me it was free!"

Edit 11AM MST: I was just informed that the previous Freeverse games are not becoming "freemium" titles, but the titles that Freeverse are already making are moving towards the free-to-play model. I guess little Johnny is safe from playing Skee-Ball. This makes me happy.

Zombie Cannon Carnage - Coming Soon To Destroy Your Hometown

Posted by Chris Hall on February 16th, 2010

Sometimes I sit around my house, on my supple leather chair with rich mahogany accents, and think about what we are missing in the App Store. We have this great foundation going, with definite game genres becoming more popular than others, but nobody has found the real Holy Grail of app concepts... until now. Pairing peoples insatiable appetite for zombies with ragdoll blasters, Freeverse and h.grenade have created the ultimate game, Zombie Cannon Carnage (ZCC).

Not to be outdone by any other zombie game... or ragdoll blaster for that matter, ZCC has a story line that is sure to please even the most discerning concept critics.

No one has ever claimed that Zombies are very smart. They are however, very busy. In ZCC! three of these morons crash landed on our lovely little planet. With no other options, a fierce need to feed and a couple of spare circus parts they quickly build a cannon in a brilliant attempt to fire themselves back into space. This plan will never work, but at the very least they can save some hapless and unfortunate humans along the way and then eat their brains.

Parachute Ninja

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Chris Hall on February 2nd, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: NINJA SKILLS
Parachute Nina is a colorful new twist on the "Doodle Jump" genre. With sharp graphics and easy to grasp gameplay, it is certain to be an App Store hit.
Read The Full Review »

Freeverse joins App Relief in Support of Haiti

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on January 18th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: ADDICTIVE :: Read Review »

Freeverse has met with much success on the App Store, and their Skee-Ball game is no exception: it's racked up over a million downloads since October and is currently perched at #4 on the US Paid Apps list. But while it might be tempting to revel in their success, the folks at Freeverse have chosen another path. From now until Wednesday, they will be donating 100% of all their profits from Skee-Ball, SlotZ Racer, Flick Fishing, Plank, and Grunts to the Haitian relief effort.

To do so, they've partnered with AppRelief.com, a group of App Store developers who are all donating their profits to help Haiti in wake of the earthquake. All money goes to the Red Cross. The word "disaster" doesn't even begin to describe the devastation in Haiti; fatality estimates range from 50,000 to 200,000 according the BBC and untold Haitians are still without food, clean water, medical supplies, and shelter. The Red Cross estimated that as many as three million people have been affected.

The magnitude of the disaster makes Freeverse's contribution all the more important. Freeverse's president, Ian Smith, said in a press release that, "We are eager to participate in this relief effort and excited to see some great developers from the community banding together to help in any way possible. I hope together we can leverage the popularity of the App Store to bring more attention to the need in Haiti."

Keep in mind that if you want to donate, doing so directly is probably better—for ever dollar you spend on an app, the developer only get seventy cents—but this is an excellent contribution regardless. It's inspiring to see developers joining together to truly make a difference. Head over to AppRelief.com for more information and to see the other apps participating in the effort; if you were considering buying any of them, now's the time to do so.

NBA Hotshot

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Chris Hall on January 14th, 2010
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SIMPLE FUN
NBA Hotshot is a worthy entry into Freeverse's Flick lineup with a simple game that will surely please arcade sports fans. If you enjoy games like Skee-Ball and Flick NBA Basketball, this one is for you.
Read The Full Review »

In App Purchase Now Available For Free Apps

Posted by Chris Hall on October 15th, 2009

Since the launch of 3.0, I've seen just about 0 successful attempts at in app purchasing. With the pricing scale the way it is, and customers unwillingness to buy things that cost more than a dollar, I wonder if it will ever take off, unless the in-app purchases are going for something around a nickel.

To beat this lack of use, Apple, unwilling to let anything not named Apple TV whither away and die, has decided to let in-app purchasing be available on free apps, making way for a new 'buy it if you like it' system.

You can also simplify your development by creating a single version of your app that uses In App Purchase to unlock additional functionality, eliminating the need to create Lite versions of your app. Using In App Purchase in your app can also help combat some of the problems of software piracy by allowing you to verify In App Purchases.

The app industry seems to have mixed feelings but all see somewhat excited about the change.

"This announcement changes the landscape of the App Store as we know it," said Colin Smith, co-founder and vice president of Freeverse. "It's not clear just yet how quickly it will change, but you can be sure that this will be significant. Freeverse is currently discussing how to incorporate this change into our development plans."

Bryan Barletta, Developer Relations for Medialets and former Editor in Chief of 148apps, has an interesting take on the subject. "Part of me is excited. The ability to do one app that is both a lite and full version will reduce some clutter going forward once adoption has taken place and we'll most likely see more free apps hit the store knowing that they can charge at a later time." He warns though that "the App Store could easily turn into a pay-to-play market, where you download a shell of an app with no content in it until you purchase a DLC package. There will be people who use it right, and they will be showcased for it, but I'm still not sure this was the best idea. So few apps have actually implemented in app purchasing on a paid side."

So is this the beginning of the end for lite versions of apps, or will this just become a really annoying way for apps to appear free, even when they aren't? I can just envision the day that The Sims 4 comes out, for free, with no furniture or clothing available... I can't wait.