Jason Citron is, without a doubt, a visionary when it comes to the App Store. His first game, along with then business partner Danielle Cassley, Aurora Feint launched with the App Store on July 10, 2008. It was, at the time, a quite ambitious game with graphics and compelling gameplay that outclassed many of the so-called larger games released at the time. Aurora Feint was the first review we posted here on 148Apps, and an early consumer favorite, reaching over one million users in the first nine months.
Aurora Feint integrated game-wide top player lists and some social interaction, also unseen at the time. Other developers were clamoring for those social gaming network features included in the game, simple as they were initially. That led to the launch of OpenFeint in early 2009. During it’s three year run under Jason Citron, OpenFeint reached a total of 120 million players through integration with 7,000 games. OpenFeint was sold to Japan-based mobile gaming giant GREE in 2011 for $104 million. Jason left the company shortly after that. GREE closed down OpenFeint in 2012 when the company changed direction.
Jason Citron has taken all of his experience and his wish of creating a core gaming audience on the iPad and recently founded his next company Hammer & Chisel. Developing a MOBA type game, Fates Forever for the iPad is their first announced game.
Let’s talk a bit to Jason about his experience in these past five years with the App Store.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?
Jason Citron, Founder of Open Feint, Hammer & Chisel: Entirely! The year before the App Store was a really pivotal year in my life. I had quit the console games industry to attempt to start my own company. This was the time of “Web 2.0″ sites. Facebook had just opened up their application platform. So I was working on these various website ideas that had elements of games in them. Fortunately, they weren’t doing so well and I switched to building an iPhone game. That project shipped and eventually morphed into OpenFeint, which was a success beyond my wildest dreams. Having the opportunity to build and run a company that employed 100 people and had such a big market footprint was incredibly humbling and educational. I compare the experience to a trial by fire Business School. Now, I’m taking all those learnings and applying them to start Hammer & Chisel, my new gaming company.
They say that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I suppose I was prepared to start a company and the App Store turned out to be the perfect opportunity. Lucky
148Apps: You were first on the App Store with the original Aurora Feint. What was it like developing for the App Store back then?
Jason Citron: I actually started developing for iPhone before the official SDK was even announced. It was using this unofficial iPhone OS programming toolchain. I worked on some prototypes for a couple of months. One was a multiplayer fighting game that used the wolverine character sprite from Marvel Vs. Capcom! When Apple released the real SDK I had this hunch that the App Store would be like a new console launch: the few games “on the shelf” on day 1 would get a ton of customers. So I got a bit more serious and teamed up with my cofounder to start on Aurora Feint. We ended up building that game in just under 3 months. It involved a lot of all nighters, sleeping in the corners of the office, and general insanity. We submitted to Apple the day before the App Store opened and got approved as one of 400 launch apps.
I actually have a distinct memory of waking up the morning the App Store opened. At 10am it was supposed to “turn on” so people could start downloading apps. I had our database open and kept hitting refresh to see if any players had launched the game. I was expected to get like 100 users in the first week. We ended up with something like 1,000 in the first hour. It was shocking. So began the crazy ride of the App Store.
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?
Jason Citron: Honestly, the whole last five years was so rewarding for me that I don’t think I would change anything. But, I suppose if I had to pick something, I think we should have made Aurora Feint use a respectful free to play monetization scheme. We had priced the first game at free and got a LOT of players. The second one we priced at $7.99 hoping to “upsell” people. We found out that first Christmas that $0.99 was the most successful price point for paid games. That failure led us to quickly pivot the company to the OpenFeint idea.
Like I said, not sure I would really change anything :-)
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps published by
you, that has surprised you most?
Jason Citron: I expected very different kinds of applications to be popular on the iPhone, as opposed to say the PC Web. It turns out that almost every successful iPhone App has been a reinterpretation or straight up clone of a PC product but with a modern twist. For example, instagram is really just “flickr on the iPhone.” The popular F2P sim games are all mostly the same as the Facebook games that came before them. Etc. This isn’t to be disrespectful to any of those apps. Many of them are awesome. But I was surprised at this. I’ve since long changed my opinion on what that means for starting new businesses on new platforms.
148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Jason Citron: Ahh predictions. Five years is a long time. Honestly I have no idea. If I had to wager a guess, not much will change. There will be many more customers. The economy will be bigger. There will be new waves of apps that have come and gone. Tablets will be much more significant then they are now. You’ll have human beings who literally don’t know what corded phone is. Who’ve never used a normal PC. Their expectations of what apps do for them will most certainly be different.
These days we tend to overestimate how much technology will change in 3 years but underestimate how much it will change in 10. Five years is comfortably in the middle.
This week at 148Apps.com, we turkey trotted our way into Thanksgiving and the holiday season with a tremendous list of apps for sale, courtesy of site founder Jeff Scott: “Black Friday is the biggest sale day of the year for the big box stores. And the same is true for the App Store. But the good thing about the App Store is there’s virtually 0% chance of getting trampled while trying to get that $39 laptop everyone is racing for.
This week and into Monday we’ll likely see hundreds of iOS games and apps on sale at some really great prices. We’ll be updating this post frequently through Monday with the best of the sale apps and games.”
The holiday spirit continued at GiggleApps.com, with Amy Solomon’s review of Wombi Toys: “Wombi Toys – a toy workshop for kids is a new interactive app that my son is really enjoying.
My son always get so much out of immersive role-playing apps, be it mini-games or more open-ended adventures which allow my son to cook for animals, plant a garden, pretend to be a doctor, fix a car or play tea party.
For those parents who know exactly the genre of app I am talking about, it is worth getting to know Wombi, a Swedish developer with a wonderful sense of style.
They have developed a series of really fun jigsaw puzzles of different themes and other apps that I have also enjoyed, so I was super-excited for the release of Wombi Toys – a toy workshop for kids which allows children to play toy-themed mini-games, building or fixing a very nice variety of toys such as wind-up car, painting alphabet blocks or using a hand pump to inflate a ball as each of these games are cute and fun, tactile as well as intuitive.”
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-10-18 :: Category: Games
Finally, AndroidRundown.com writer Carter Dotson shared some unfortunate news: One of the biggest names of the early days of touchscreen mobile gaming is about to finally fade away: parent company GREE is shutting down OpenFeint, effective in December.
OpenFeint may not be as fondly remembered on Android as it is on iOS. It was the first real service to provide leaderboards and achievements, a much-desired feature. However, the platform failed to expand upon that core functionality once Game Center kicked in and became ubiquitous; while features like cloud saves were implemented by OpenFeint (and seen in games like INC which provided cross-platform saves) they never took off with developers or the public. However, the service was still purchased by GREE, and has been languishing recently as it transitions in to the GREE Platform.”
And, as the tryptophan kicks in, we bid you a fond adieu this week. But make sure you keep track of all the latest sales, contests, reviews and news items by following us on Twitter and Facebook. See you next week. Gobble gobble.
Bienvenidos! This week at 148Apps.com we started our Cinco de Mayo celebrations early with a special “Favorite Four” apps review from Kevin Stout. Along with several foodie apps, Stout writes, “It can’t hurt to brush up on the history of Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo: The Battle of Puebla provides users with a detailed video on both the Battle of Puebla, the military victory that led to the traditional celebration on May 5th, and the history of the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The videos include accompanying text for users impatient users that want to read ahead. The app also includes two games, a quiz and a paint game, that can be unlocked for an in-app purchase of $0.99. But the app is free and so are both videos.”
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-06-28 :: Category: Education
Amy Solomon, over at GiggleApps, writes in her review of Bean Bag Kids Present Pinocchio that, “This app, as the name implies, is a retelling of the classic story of Pinocchio, about a puppet carved from wood by a lonely wood carver who wishes that one day this puppet could become a real boy. Here each actor is played by a bean bag dressed in costume as this application is styled as a live performance that one is watching, complete with red velvet curtain and other theatre details. The adaptation of this story is very nicely done, including the use of excellent narration, as is the choice to underline the text as the words are being spoken – a very nice touch that will aid young readers in following along as these words are being read.”
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-03-28 :: Category: Education
Finally, 148Apps.biz site founder Jeff Scott writes about the latest project from OpenFeint founder Jason Citron, saying, “Jason Citron, founder of Aurora Feint / Open Feint, which sold to Japan based social games company GREE recently for $104M, just announced his new mobile games-based startup, Phoenix Guild.
Phoenix Guild will be focused on creating multiplayer games in a post-PC world. Think MMOs on your iPhone and iPad. He plans on focusing on games that would appeal to core gamers. Sounds like just what we need in a world that has nearly reached the saturation point with variations on Farmville.”
The week may have ended, but there’s more content to come from 148Apps. Just follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook to keep track of the latest news, reviews and contests. Until next week, keep your Avengers assembling!
In a surprise (to us) news release today, OpenFeint announced that Naoki Aoyagi has been named as CEO of the company. Mr. Aoyagi comes from parent company GREE, where he has worked since 2006. The press release points to nearly ten years of experience in financial operations and management in the tech sector.
“In just over 24 months, OpenFeint has grown to over 120 million users across 7,000 games. I thank Jason for his leadership growing the company and wish him well in his new adventures,” said Naoki Aoyagi, CEO of OpenFeint. “I’m excited to lead OpenFeint through its next phase of growth.”
In comments contained in the email accompanying the press release, OpenFeint mentioned that co-founder Jason Citron would be stepping down from his current role as CEO to pursue other interests, though no mention was made concerning whether he might be retained as a consultant. The email also said that current OpenFeint executives are currently unavailable to speak to the press at this time. No mention was made of an interim period, either, a typical step in transitioning between CEOs at many companies.
OpenFeint, part of GREE, Inc, reports over 120 million registered users playing 7,000 games across mobile platforms like iOS and Android. The companies plan to announce new integration plans within the next few weeks.
Other than major console mascots like Master Chief and Mario, there are few animated characters that hold quite as much weight and blindly ravenous fan support as Sonic the Hedgehog. Though we are long past the days of Sega Genesis and Dreamcast, the blue tinted blur still maintains the love and affection of the masses in the industry, so it is big news when they announce that not only is Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing coming to the iOS, but they are partnering with OpenFeint to make it all possible.
But why would Sega shun the world of GameCenter, when it is the most readily available among the iOS consumer base, you ask? The answer is simple: Cross Platform Connectivity.
“Cross platform mobile social gaming is a major goal of SEGA and we believe Sonic will continue to entertain and inspire consumers while on the go. OpenFeint offers a great platform to launch games on, whether it be through access to their enormous player community or the use of great cross-promotional features like developer announcements.” — Haruki Satomi, Vice President of Digital Business at SEGA.
What this means is that not only will the multiplayer of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing be a parallel of its console counterparts, but it will also allow you to play against audiences on competing platforms, like possibly Android. While we have no official confirmation of that, the comment above would certainly lead one to believe it to be true.
From a developer’s perspective however, this would be a godsend, because not only would cross-platform play increase the player base immensely, but it will also allow changes to be made at the server level for portions of the multiplayer, without forcing the users to download an update to the actual client game. This will be a big step forward that could lead to a greatly improved user experience.
Stay tuned, because we will have more hands-on impressions of the game while we troll the show floor at E3, next week.
This week, April 17-24, Japanese company GREE announced a $104 million acquisition of OpenFeint, the social gaming network that operates similarly to Apple Game Center. For consumers, this meanss “faster SDK updates, awesome new products, and network improvements” (official press release). 148Apps Founder Jeff Scottcomments “this acquisition seems to be a win for both parties and will allow OpenFeint to continue to do the great work that they do while letting GREE better benefit from that.”
In other news, Final Fantasy users can rejoice with gladness, for the third instalment of the popular game is now available to download natively on the iPad. “The iPad version of the game features improved 3D visuals and the touch screen controls have been adjusted specifically for the iPad” writesPhillip Levin. “Today, many consider Final Fantasy III to be one of the greatest RPGs of all time.” Follow the link below to get stuck in.
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2011-04-21 :: Category: Games
You Don’t Know Jack picked up the latest Editor’s Choice badge at 148Apps. The comical application that tests how smart you really are, by asking you inquisitive questions designed to question what you’ve perhaps always thought to be true. “Simply put, You Don’t Know Jack is the kind of experience that not only stretches the mind with challenge, but inversely massages it with humor to ease the blow of defeat” writesBlake Grundman. “Buy it for that know-it-all in your life, because sometimes it is just too much fun to see a person put in their place. Rest assured that it will be fun for all parties involved.”
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2011-04-14 :: Category: Games
You may remember in last week’s column that I mentioned Tweetbot, the new and exciting application designed to challenge the official Twitter app. Since then, Jeff Scott has taken it for an in-depth test drive and is suitably impressed. “Tweetbot does everything you’d expect a Twitter client to do … [and] has a few great unique features aimed mainly at saving you some time [like new gestures].” Although it isn’t perfect, with some animation lag and lack of response at times, Jeff has “been using Tweetbot exclusively on [his] iPhone for almost a week now. Now this review is done, [he] will stick with it.”
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2011-04-14 :: Category: Social Networking
Episode 81 of The Portable Podcast is available to download, featuring guests Dave Castelnuovo from Bolt Creative. Host Carter Dotson and Dave discuss the mobile industry and the questionable freemium price model that some developers have scrapped in favour of traditional pricing models.
That’s all for this week! 148Apps wishes you a happy spring holiday of your choosing, and we encourage you to check back frequently for the latest reviews and news when it comes to iOS and your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. See you soon!
OpenFeint has just announced its newest iOS venture, Game Channel. The new service promises to offer lots of great features, including a free game of the day spotlight that will help users discover great free apps they might have otherwise missed. The main draw of Game Channel though is going to be Fire Sale, a new service which is taking the Groupon model of group sales and bringing it to iOS.
According to OpenFeint, Fire Sale will present a premium app that is going on sale every week. Much like Groupon, users who are interested in buying the game at a discounted price can vote, and when enough votes are reached the price will drop. Fire Sale will then send out a push notification to everyone who voted on the app, letting them know the title is available at a discount. The first game going on sale is Jaws from Bytemark Games, and users can start voting on the title on December 17 at 12:01 am PST.
“We have a motivated community that has proven time and again that they’ll come back for great deals. This happens every day with Free Game of the Day,” says Jason Citron, CEO of OpenFeint. “Fire Sale is a truly social, community-based promotion, that is a perfect way for game developers to get their games downloaded.”
So how well will this new feature go over? That largely depends on the quality of apps offered and how deep the discounts go. For instance, Jaws is currently available for $2.99 and will drop to $0.99, is that good enough for consumers? Of course, the price can’t go much lower than that so the quality of the game will likely play a major factor in many potential buyers’ decisions.
We’ll also have to keep an eye out on which publishers opt to support the program, as that will be a big determining factor. If OpenFeint can convince major players like Chillingo/EA, Namco and Gameloft to come aboard then things should go very well, but if the big companies decide to sit this one out then the appeal of Fire Sale may be quite limited. In any case, it will be very interesting to see if this group sale model can catch on for iOS. Could it be possible that we’re witnessing a revolution in digital distribution?
On This Episode: OpenFeint currently stands at a crossroads – with Apple taking on OpenFeint in the metagaming space on iOS, they find themselves trying to remain relevant in the long-term. And as of today, it appears as if OpenFeint is looking beyond iOS for the future of their products. Today, OpenFeint is announcing that they are launching their service and Feint Spotlight app for the Android Marketplace, along with launch month titles such as Fruit Ninja from Halfbrick, MiniSquadron from MrFungFung, Flick Kick Football from PikPok, and Mega Jump from Get Set Games.
The CEO of OpenFeint, Jason Citron, was kind enough to sit down and speak with me about this announcement and what OpenFeint is doing in the future on iOS. According to Jason, OpenFeint’s goal is to unify the various platforms – for people to be able to play games with their friends on other phones, to bridge the gap between the various hardware that people have. As well as their future on Android, OpenFeint is launching tools for developers to let their OpenFeint scoring and achievement systems work with Game Center easily while still taking advantage of OpenFeint features that Game Center does not provide, such as replays, asynchronous multiplayer services, and the upcoming voice chat feature PlayTime, launching with OpenFeint 3.0.
Jason Citron spoke at length with me on the new episode of The Portable Podcast to discuss what they’re doing on Android, the challenges that Android’s various devices bring, and the perception of the Android market versus the reality of the situation. On the iOS side, we talk about how Game Center and OpenFeint can coexist (including Jason recommending that developers take advantage of Game Center), and how iOS fits in the future of OpenFeint.
OpenFeint announced today that their social gaming network SDK has been released for Android developers. They have also announced some heavy hitting iPhone games that have been ported to Android and will be out this month. In addition, they will be working with game developers to help promote the best games that utilize their SDK both to consumers and to carriers.
OpenFeint is the leader in social gaming networks for the iOS platform with over 28 million users. They hope to bring this kind of success to the Android platform by releasing their SDK at the same time as a slew of iOS games that support OpenFeint are ported over. Time will tell if it will take off on Android like it has on iOS, but the launch is really strong.
As I am sure you know all to well, today the folks over in Cupertino have a bit of an event planned. It is suspected that they will be discussing new Apple gaming initiatives such as their recently announced GameCenter. While you would think that larger over-arching services like this would be good for the iOS platform, it may spell doom for smaller cross-game communication platforms like OpenFeint. So how do such niche services hope to survive? The keyword of the day is: Diversify.
Earlier this month the leadership over at OpenFeint let slip of plans to open their platform to Android users. This was a complex system of inviting friends to play games via email and to put it quite frankly, seemed a bit cluedgey. Well it looks like they were listening and went back to the drawing board a bit, as today they are ready to announce their newest development for cross-platform gaming: PlayTime.
Cross-Platform gaming is no big deal, right? Wrong! This is a huge step forward that looks to dodge the earlier stumbling blocks of exchanging emails and the like. Here is what the platform is bringing to the table:
It’s the first ever real-time multiplayer gaming system that functions between Android and iPhone.
Unlike Apple’s Game Center which is planning to provide a real-time gaming solution and requires peer to peer connections, PlayTime will keep games in play even if one gamer drops connection due to AT&T for example. The game continues with artificial intelligence computer opponent. This is the ideal scenario for mobile game play due to inconsistent network connectivity. Apple’s solution will disconnect the entire game if one player loses connection.
The one-day install SDK makes this technology available to the masses i.e. indie and mid-level developers who otherwise couldn’t implement it.
It enables voice chat for trash talking between Android and iPhone gamers.
PlayTime is fully compatible with Apple’s Game Center
The first point that just jumps out at me is the odd irony that thought his is a product that will compete with GameCenter, it still will be fully compatible with it. I am guessing that this will help to take the guess work out of matchmaking between other iOS devices. But this product isn’t about just competing with Apple, it is about expanding the reach of the mobile gaming community and unifying them under one platform.
Initially PlayTime will launch in two tiers: Casual and Core. The “Casual SDK” as it is being called, will allow you to either turn traditionally single player games into a multiplayer experience by adding in leaderboards, or compete in turn-based games such as what you would find in a game like Words With Friends. This will also integrate into OpenFeint’s existing Achievement system, which will in turn handle the heavy lifting of integrating into Apple’s GameCenter. When you consider that they are also adding in voice chat between devices and a unified matchmaking platform, this is beginning to look like a fairly intriguing package. The scary part is that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With the “Core SDK” developers will be getting the identical feature set of the casual tier, along with a more impressive multiplayer offering. Partnering with networking engine developer Exit Games, PlayTime Core will allow for up to sixteen players to simultaneously engage in multiplayer action. OpenFeint is trying to get their new service as close to par with Systems like Xbox LIVE by also roping in VoIP service to these matches as well.
“The most successful games have one thing in common: they bring people together. Whether a simple board game or a stunning 3D console game, games are always better when shared with family or friends. Traditionally, multiplayer technology has been accessible only to top tier developers. It’s just too complicated and time consuming. So we invented PlayTime, which literally takes one day to integrate into a casual game.” – Jason Citron, CEO of Aurora Feint.
If in fact PlayTime is something that can be integrated into an application in less than a day this is something that everyone should be excited about. Just think of it this way: If you are a developer and you have the option to down the road expand your application’s install base to the Android, with only a day worth of work for the netcode, you would be insane NOT to.
The most appealing part of this entire package is that the SDK will be scalable to the needs of an individual developer. Prices have not been announced yet, but I am guessing that they will scale accordingly as well, with the “Core” level being the more expensive of the two. Either way, this looks like it could be an impressive development to multiplayer gaming on the iOS, as long as Apple doesn’t do something to elbow them off the platform all together. But then that would be a monopoly, right? And we all know how much corporations love anti-trust lawsuits. Here’s looking at you Microsoft.
At the end of the day it comes right down to wondering if this is the wave of the future with respect to the portable gaming platforms. I would argue that not only is it the future, but it is an inevitability. The Android and iOS platforms are close enough in form that they could easily compete against one another. I guess we will have to see what happens then PlayTime launches as part of OpenFeint 3.0 later this year.
If you are a developer that is interested in seeing what all the hype is all about, you can sign up to evaluate a beta version of PlayTime at the OpenFeint Developer Connection.
GameCenter is Apple’s answer to the absurd fragmentation of the iPhone gaming world. It is trying to become the X-Box Live of the App Store, the go-to place for high scores, achievement badges, and game invites. Unfortunately for many of the other services out there, such as Plus+ and Crystal, if GameCenter takes off, their existence could be coming to a screeching halt.
OpenFeint, one of the pioneers in social gaming in the App Store, has another idea. Instead of waiting for extinction, they are tapping into a market that Apple can’t touch: Android. With many of their supported games being released cross platform, OpenFeint has decided to let iPhone users and Android users coexist in game matchmaking harmony.
The new system works primarily by SMS and e-mail, allowing for a user to invite their friends to an OpenFeint supported game. With the insane expansion of the Android market, having the ability to play against someone over there seems rather tempting.
“One glaring problem with today’s mobile gaming community is how fractured it is across platforms, OpenFeint is bridging the gap between gamers,” says Peter Relan, Executive Chairman of Aurora Feint. “As we expand cross platform this summer, we’re going to roll out services that will help friends that use different device platforms play against each other.”
In my eyes, what system I am playing on doesn’t matter in the least. While I generally prefer the ease of use of OpenFeint as opposed to the other systems, I don’t choose my games based on that. Apple’s game center is appealing to me just because I expect the interface to be nice and pretty, but if I can have my high scores stacked up against a bunch of Droid lackeys, I’ll be much happier.
It’ll be interesting to see which service game developers end up going with, and if Apple’s plans for iPhone unification work out. It sure seems to me that OpenFeint is making a pretty strong push with its cross platform integration.
I’m also putting a $50 bet down that Apple will somehow ban the use of rival game platforms, citing that it will become extremely confusing for customers. Watch out!
Chopper 2, the next instalment and much-awaited sequel for the hit game Chopper, has been submitted to Apple and is pending review. The application will be universal, so owners of both an iPhone and iPad will be able to reap the benefits on both devices without having to pay twice. iPhone 4 owners will be able to make full use of their 326ppi display with some the same HD graphics from the iPad edition.
Chopper 2 features “a complete re-written 3D game engine, all new enemies, weapons, graphics, and missions” packed into 36 levels over 12 unique locations. The game will use OpenFeint leaderboards and achievements, a growing gaming network that provides a more interactive and challenging gaming experience.
iPad owners who own an iPhone or iPod Touch also are in for a special treat, with Majic Jungle developers providing the ability to control the helicopter from Chopper 2 on an iPad from your iPhone. The feature works over bluetooth, meaning no network connection is necessary. In addition, you can hook up your iPad to a TV via component cable or VGA adapter and play the game right from your couch or bed from your iPhone. To see how this works, take a look at the video below.
Read the official post at Majic Jungle. Be sure to check back here for updates as soon as it’s released.
Bottle Rocket, the developers of Doodle Bomb have teamed up with OpenFeint to deliver the Blast for the Cash contest. The idea is that the higher up the Doodle Bomb leader board you are, the greater your chance of winning a piece of $2,000 in prizes. Here’s a partial list of how the prize winners will be chosen:
–> Grand Prize <–
We will randomly select one of the top 5 overall scores to be awarded $1,000 cash!
–> First Prize <–
We will randomly select one of the top 10 overall scores to be awarded $500 cash!
–> Second Prize <–
We will randomly select one of the top 20 overall scores to be awarded $250 cash!
Winners will be selected on April 4th — so you better get bombing! For a complete list of rules and prizes, see the contest site.
OpenFeint has described their service as “think XBOX Live meets Facebook.” They’ve quickly become the social gaming platform of choice for several game developers, even with competition from the likes of Scoreloop, Agon, and ngmoco’s Plus+ network. OpenFeint has now released a free standalone app that gives you a central location for tracking all of your gaming accomplishments, and for interacting with the rest of the community. These features were previously only accessible from within each individual game.
With the new OpenFeint app, you can see your progess, as well as that of your friends, across the entire inventory of OpenFeint enabled games. This includes global, friends-only, and personal leaderboards, as well as specific game accomplishments. You can send challenges, participate in forums, and chat/IM. There are several features to manage your profile, such as linking your account to Twitter or Facebook for the incorporation of your profile picture and friend lists. The OpenFeint app also showcases a free/lite app everyday, shining the spotlight on that particular developer.
With hundreds of games already supporting their service, and the intent to eventually bring their community features to Android as well, OpenFeint may be steadily emerging as the de facto standard for social gaming on the go.
The one thing that made the holidays that much more special this year was the Appvent Calendar promotion. Blacksmith games, makers of Plushed, organized the event that offered a free app every day during the month of December. Appvent Calendar was such a smashing success that Blacksmith games has now joined forces with ICS Mobile, Tapjoy, and OpenFeint to create freeappaday.com. As the URL states, one free app will be given away every single day! You will also have the ability to set up email alerts based on your genres of interest.
While the site is currently active, only ICS Mobile’s Navy Patro Coastal Defense is displayed as the January 1st selection. Blacksmith has teased January 18th as the date that will truly kick-off the stream of free apps. They’ve also announced that the Appvent Calendar will be returning on April 1st for the Easter season.
EDGE, a simply fantastic game, has been removed yet again from the App Store, due to a trademark dispute with Tim Langdell. For those who don’t know, Langdell is a leech who hasn’t made a game in over 15 years, instead making his living by suing any game with “edge” in the name. Good thing there’s the IGDA, or international game developers association, whose mission is to “advance the careers and enhance the lives of game developers by connecting members with their peers, promoting professional development, and advocating on issues that affect the developer community” (from www.igda.org/about). Oh, wait, Tim Langdell is actually on the board of directors at IGDA! So yes, Langdell has attempted to trademark a commonly used word, and has succeeded largely in part to the fact that developers can’t afford to fight costly legal battles and simply want to reach a settlement. Mobigame, EDGE’s developer, hasn’t given in yet, so kudos to them. Langdell may have bitten off a bit more than he can chew, however, as he is attempting to sue EA over their Mirror’s Edge game. One can only hope that EA will cut Langdell down to size and clear the way for future edges.
Apple considering reorganizing App Store
Eight of the top ten games are $.99
In their quarterly report last Tuesday, Apple said, regarding the App Store structure: “We’re always looking for ways to categorize apps differently and we have some ideas. We do it by type of apps and top selling apps, and we realize there is opportunity for further improvement and we are working on that. As for price, it’s up to the developers to choose where to set the price. I would think as the installed base grows, it makes sense to have lower prices but that’s totally up to the developer.”
Part of the problem with the App Store is that top lists are organized by volume rather than revenue. This encourages “bargain bin” pricing, as obviously it is much easier to sell a large volume at a lower price. Since the top lists are organized in such a way that apps that make it there tend to stay there, they are all-important. It is very tough to make a profit selling a game at $.99, so this in turn encourages short development cycles with small budgets. Big IP’s like DOOM will always sell at a higher price, but indy developers with AAA ideas may never see their ideas come to fruition due to over-inflated consumer expectations. If Apple decided to have a list by revenue, this would go a long way to curing the woes of the App Store, but it wouldn’t completely fix it. Besides the top lists, the next best marketing tool for a developer is word of mouth, so regardless of price, it can be difficult for an app to gain traction. Apple’s featuring method is arbitrary at best, and their review system is severely flawed, as only those who either hate or love an app review it, meaning an app’s rating is basically dependent on its ratio of five star reviews to one star reviews. Perhaps both requiring users to “earn a reputation” in order to have their rating count and eliminating the rating prompt after deleting an app could go a long way to solve this. On top of this, however, there is currently no list for top-rated games, and Apple could and should implement this easily with a minimum number of ratings benchmark.
Social gaming network competition
The iPhone now has three notable high score networks: OpenFeint, ngmoco’s Plus+ network, and Chillingo’s recently announced Crystal. Ultimately, one will become the network for the iPhone. This will shape up largely like the Blu-Ray/HDDVD wars of old; consumers will not want to have their favorite games fragmented over three different networks, so war will be waged as developers choose which network to implement. I see Plus+ winning, as OpenFeint is largely about superfluous features over interface and usability (I don’t want to chat with people in the middle of my game) and has no large developer backing it, and Crystal has yet to be started. Earlier is always better, and as third-parties start using Plus+ before Crystal is even in any of Chillingo’s games, Plus+ will get a huge head start. Developers will always want to use whoever is “winning.”
This week’s sign of the apocalypse
This is what happens when Apple features Eviro-Bear for two straight weeks
Enviro-Bear 2010 (App Info) has now been featured in some context for two consecutive weeks by Apple. Talk about a platform showcase.
Apps of the week
Because productivity is overrated, I chose two games as the apps of the week:
After my immense disappointment with Worms, I was comforted by the brilliance that is IUGO’s Star Hogs. Star Hogs doesn’t try to be a Worms clone; instead, it brings many new well-implemented twists to the genre like ship/weapon customization and the unique energy system. The online component is fantastic, though there is a notable lack of online players (yet another reason why everyone needs to buy the game). Star Hogs might not have the visual appeal and charm of Worms, but it does just about everything else right, and therefore earns a spot as an app of the week.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-07-06 :: Category: Games
Remember those maddeningly difficult wooden triangle puzzles? Well, that’s what Triazzle for the iPhone is, but in this case, it’s even better than the original. Back in the day, you would have to shell out $15 for one of those bad boy’s, but on the App Store you can buy an unlimited number of Triazzle puzzles for just $2.99. Yep, that’s right: infinite puzzles. This, along with exceptional graphics that “come to life” as you solve a puzzle, a great help system, and soothing music, makes Triazzle an app of the week.