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!
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.”
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.”
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2011-07-28 :: Category: Education
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.”
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-10-06 :: Category: Photography
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Posted January 13th, 2010 by Chris Hall Our Rating: :: 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.
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.
As I sat back and thought about things last week, I realized that the site was missing something. Every news source worth their salt partakes in long form interviews, which are great, but for the most part aren’t read all the way through due to their length. Being the busy guy that I am, I completely understand, and in my understanding I’ve decided that four questions (4Q) is the length that interviews should take. So with that, I’ll leave you with the interview.
Being a lifelong fan of skee-ball, I decided to reach out to Freeverse via e-mail to get some important questions answered about their new app, aptly named Skee-Ball (how was this not used already?). Fortunately, my desperate pleas for answers were answered by none other than Lydia Heitman, marketing director extraordinaire, and Justin D’Onofrio, senior producer/pizza guru.
Inrix Traffic lets you predict the future (but only 1 hour in advance).
Google Voice Web App Inbound
Google is reportedly working on a web version of their recently rejected Google Voice application. The app will, if the rumors are true, have all of the features of the rejected native app. Though those features are still less than what the Google Voice application can do on Android phones where it can fully integrate with the dialer for the phone.
[via Apple Insider]
First up is a new sub hunt game with an overly obvious name, Sub Hunt! This one bumps it up a couple notches with tons of power-ups for your sub. This pretty much converts the typical submarine shooter into a chaotic avoidance game. All in all, pretty good for a buck.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-08-05 :: Category: Games :: Arcade
If you live in a busy metro area, chances are you get stuck in traffic regularly. An app was released this week that hopes to help you predict when the traffic is going to be better or worse. Inrix Traffic looks like Google Maps with it’s traffic overlay the difference is the forecast button in the upper right. Hit that and you can look at how Inrix predicts traffic will be up to an hour in advance. Too bad you can only do one hour, but it’s better than nothing at all and it’s free.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-07-30 :: Category: Navigation
And finally, I’m not a big fan of soundboard apps. Typically they are either filled with either boring sound bites or unlicensed ones. But this one piqued my interest, iStooges. A fully licensed soundboard app with a bunch of sound clips from the Three Stooges. This app reminds me of so many afternoons after school watching old reruns of the Three Stooges.
Minigore, a dual-stick survival shooter, has finally been released onto the App Store after weeks of intense hype and anticipation. So what was all the hype about? Honestly, I don’t know. Compared with its survival shooter kin, iDracula (App Info), Minigore is as shallow as a puddle. It has one map, two weapons, four enemy types, and two health points. It definitely has a unique art style going for it, but beyond that, not too much. There seems to be some sort of story, and while it is never even touched on, there will apparently be Pocket God-style episodic updates. I’m sorry, but I don’t like this approach unless it’s done with a complete game. Minigore is clearly not a complete game, and I’m tired of getting incomplete games with promises of updates that aren’t always fulfilled. There seems to be a bit of a logjam cycle going on with apps nowadays – developers won’t add to their apps unless they do well in the App Store, but consumers don’t want to pay for an incomplete app. But hey, it worked for Pocket God (App Info); it went from being a boring, mindless, stupid time waster to a… boring, mindless, stupid time waster. But seriously, Minigore is not a bad game, just an average one that without a bevy of substantial updates is undeserving of the immense hype that preceding it.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-07-30 :: Category: Games
Freeverse joins ngmoco’s Plus+ network
As I touched on last week, there is an emerging social game network competition on the App Store. And, as I loosely predicted (thank you, thank you), ngmoco’s Plus+ network has taken the lead. Freeverse, who may not be my favorite developer but is certainly among the most popular and has a large volume of games, has announced that they will be implementing the Plus+ network in their upcoming action space trader Warpgate, their incredibly popular Flick Fishing (App Info), and presumably more upcoming games. Having two of the premiere App Store developers certainly bolsters Plus+, and could induce a chain reaction of developers braking for Plus+. At this point, OpenFeint may be implemented in more games, but that catalog is very scattered, not all of those games are exactly quality controlled, and some apps were clearly not made for OpenFeint (have you ever tried to go into a Pocket God chat room?). I’m definitely putting my money on Plus+ for now.
From the developer of Trace – Gomi submitted
Bovine Dragon has finally submitted their new game, Gomi, to the App Store. Gomi appears to be a platforming game in which you, as a Gomi, replace the pollution in the world with trees and other natural things. The artwork is certainly unique, and the gameplay looks good, but perhaps the most impressive thing about Gomi is the staggering amount of content. Gomi will have over 140 stages, each lasting several minutes, spread across 8 worlds, with a boss battle for each world that unlocks a new ability. There are also 8 unique mini-games, hundreds of achievements, hundreds of playable Gomis, a complete soundtrack of 17 songs, and online scoreboards for everything. Wow, talk about a complete game! The developer estimates that playing through each stage once, without trying to unlock any achievements
or playing any mini-games, will take over 12 hours. The price for a game of this size? Reportedly just $1.99 upon release. This looks to be an incredible value and if the production values and unique gameplay of Trace (App Info) were any indication, Gomi should be an incredible game.
This week’s sign of the apocalypse
Locating sex offenders will be rendered pointless when the ENTIRE WORLD IS DESTROYED!
Offender Locator (App Info), an app that locates nearby sex offenders, is currently sitting at #4 overall in the App Store. First of all, are people really that paranoid? And second, if you do find an offender in your area, what are you going to do? Move away? Complain to your neighborhood police patrol? Set up barricades? No, you are just going to be more worried than you were before.
App of the week
So normally, I would list more than one app of the week, but this week, there is basically only one app deserving of the honor, only one game I have been playing all week:
Space Invaders Infinity Gene
I have to admit, after seeing SIIG appear on the App Store, I was skeptical. After all, how fun can a remake of Space Invaders be? It might be fun, but for $4.99? I figured they just slapped some neon backgrounds on the old tried and true gameplay. Well, after reading the 148apps review, I decided to buy the game, and, happily, I was utterly, completely, and unequivocally wrong. TAITO brings a shining example of how to remake retro games for the App Store. The graphics are fantastic, the action is frantic and heart-pounding, the music is techno bliss, and the controls are perfect. The evolution concept and implementation is fantastic, with unlockables aplenty. And on top of all of this, there is the ridiculously awesome ability to generate completely original levels based on your iPod music. I really need some good songs for this mode, so if anyone has any suggestions, post away! This isn’t just a great App Store shooter, this is a great shooter period. Probably in my top three iPhone games ever, and at $4.99, if you’ve ever enjoyed a shooter, you owe it to yourself to buy this game.
Brian Akaka, CEO and Founder of Appular just sent over a teaser for the latest game from Freeverse, Flick NBA Basketball. This is the third game in the Flick series (Bowling and Fishing with Baseball coming in the near future). The trailer doesn’t show much besides the court, with especially stunning reflection, but it’s enough to peak our interest so I dug a little deeper. Continue reading Flick NBA Basketball Teaser Trailer & Launch Date »
Strange Flavour, the developer of such games as Slotz Racer and Flick Sports Fishing, both released by Freeverse, want to send a message to the Japanese government about its sponsorship of the illegal whaling industry. Here’s a note from them:
With Japanese government sponsoring illegal whaling in the Antarctic whale sanctuary, Strange Flavour no longer feel that they can trade in a country where tax money from sales of their games is sponsoring the illegal extermination of endangered species.
Recent attacks with military acoustic weapons and metal projectiles on Sea Shepherd crew and their helicopter as well as multiple attempts to ram the Sea Shepherd’s ship the Steve Irwin have shown just how violent the illegal whalers are prepared to be.
As such, Strange Flavour Ltd. will be donating all their proceeds from their games, including the best selling SlotZ Racer and Flick Sports Fishing from the Japanese iPhone app store to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
“While donating our proceeds from the Japanese App Store is very minor in the scheme of things, we’d like the Japanese government to see that the antics of its illegal whaling industry are both embarrassing Japan and its people and causing it to lose face in a world where modern nations are realising the need to protect the environment and work together to avoid the extinction of critical species. All we can do is show our disgust at the illegal whalers and the government that wastes its tax payers money in propping up their loss making industry.
We hold our Japanese gamers in the highest respect, so we decided to do this rather than penalise them by removing our games from sale in Japan.” – Aaron Fothergill, Managing Director Strange Flavour Ltd.
A very good cause. Here’s hoping that it brings a little more light on this issue.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Posted February 16th, 2009 by Jeff Scott Our Rating: :: RECOMMENDED
Slotz Racer is a great representation of a childhood favorite, slot car racing. With a built in track editor, over 20 tracks, and the ability to play up to 4 player multiplayer on one device, it's a winner.
Freeverse today announced Flick Fishing for the iPhone. A lush 3D fishing game that utilizes the accelerometer in the iPhone and iPod Touch to act as a virtual fishing rod.
While there are already a few fishing games in the app store (iTunes Link), this fishing games utilizes rendered 3D graphics to a greater extent than we’ve seen thus far.
Here’s a video from Freeverse showing a beta build of the game:
The game will hopefully be out the first week of November. We like what we see and look forward to getting our hands on it and throwing out a line to two. Keep an eye on our new apps page, feed or twitter stream for release info.
Stone Age: The Board Game is celebrating its one year anniversary since the game released. From now until December 15th, the game is available to download at a discounted price of $2.99, which is a drop from its regular price of $6.99.