Ian Marsh and his brother David are the founders of NimbleBit, creators of such iOS game classics as the 2011 Game of the Year Tiny Tower, Pocket Frogs, Pocket Planes, and a true App Store classic, Scoops. NimbleBit games have been downloaded over 70 million times with an amazing 5 million in-app purchases.
NimbleBit has been heralded as a great developer of “non-annoying” free to play games, games that make their players want to buy upgrades instead of annoying them into purchases. Many game developers should take note.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?
Ian Marsh, NimbleBit: The App Store has had quite an impact on my professional life, allowing me to quit my day job and run our own independent studio with my brother Dave. Back in 2008 I coded up a quick little puzzle game called Hanoi to learn iPhone development. Soon after the App Store launched I was approved as a developer and I threw it up on the App Store in the hopes a few people would download it. After a few days it ended up at #1 free, and after quickly releasing a “plus” version for 99c the App Store began paying more than my day job. I gave my two weeks noticed and never looked back, probably the best professional decision I’ve ever made!
148Apps: If you have one single success within the App Store you’d like to highlight, what would it be?
Ian Marsh: Our shining star has definitely been Tiny Tower. It won iPhone Game of the Year from Apple in 2011 and has had more success than all our other games put together (and there have been a lot of them). It is commonly held as an example of “ethical” free to play game design, and even brought the spotlight of the industry on NimbleBit after it was cloned by Zynga. Having been our most successful brand we’re hoping to continue to expand the Bitizen world moving forward and should have some exciting announcements later this year!
148Apps: What about one thing you have done that you think should have taken off, but never did?
Ian Marsh: One of the most fun things we’ve ever done on an iPad was the Battle mini-game in Dizzypad HD, our first iPad title. It is this great local multiplayer game where two people each control a frog that jumps from spinning lily pad to spinning lily pad, trying to eat the other frog. It actually ends up being a really intense twitch game that would have us screaming in the office for hours. Unfortunately it was launched soon after the first iPad and was hidden away behind an in-app purchase so it didn’t have that wide of an audience. I’d love to resurrect it at some point, maybe for a different platform though, (would work great with controllers)!
148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?
Ian Marsh: If I could go back in time and talk to our past selves I think I would advise us to stop most new development after we had the success of Tiny Tower and really double down on building it into as big of a brand as we could. I think having recognizable brands and IP are going to be even more important going forward and I don’t think we’ll be creating any new ones that have the kind of appeal Tiny Tower does (I hope I’m wrong though)! I’d also try to convince ourselves to have switched to Unity3D development a few years before we did as self-publishing our previous games on Android would have been very valuable.
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are associated with, that has surprised you most?
Ian Marsh: In the past year or two I’ve been surprised at the range of success small indies have had, we’ve watched Imangi’s Temple Run come out of nowhere and take over the world while other indie’s release quality games that fall completely flat. I don’t think you’re guaranteed any kind of success on the App Store these days, even with an incredible app.
148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Ian Marsh: Given how much has changed in the last five years that seems like a hard thing to predict, but I expect the basics will remain the same. I don’t see Apple restricting access to the App Store but I do expect there will be a number of new platforms we’ll be developing for 5 years from now. I think each new platform will be another type of gold-rush but this time you’ll have to compete with some very seasoned and skilled developers. I certainly don’t expect things to get any less exciting in the next five years!
Thanks to Ian Marsh for his time. You can check out all of NimbleBit’s games on the App Store.