Sega has a very storied history in video games. Home to brands like Sonic the Hedgehog, After Burner, Crazy Taxi, and of course the first banner game for the iPhone, Super Monkey Ball. Some (like me) still consider the Sega Dreamcast the best video game system ever released. But Sega was also one of the first game developers to launch on the App Store. And now with Sega games seeing well over 1.1 billion plays on iOS, we talk with Ethan Einhorn, Director of Online Services, SEGA, about what it was like to launch on the App Store and the amazing response to Sega’s first release, Super Monkey Ball.
148Apps: Sega jumped on the App Store right at launch. It was the first high profile game, and even set the bar for the initial price point for games in the App Store at $9.99. How did Super Monkey Ball come about?
Ethan Einhorn, Director of Online Services, SEGA: We had built a great relationship with Apple prior to the launch of the App Store with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog on the iPod (clickwheel). The controls on that version of Sonic were finicky, but the port was pixel perfect! We were planning to follow up that release with Super Monkey Ball, but doing 3D on the iPod nano proved challenging, so we shifted to iPhone. This gave us a chance to dramatically increase the game’s performance, and let us take full advantage of the iPhone’s tilt functionality.
148Apps:Super Monkey Ball was priced at $9.99 initially. How was this initial price point decided? Did representatives from Apple have any input on the price point?
Ethan Einhorn: We were initially concerned that the $9.99 price point was too low. After all, we were giving users nearly as much content in that game as we did in the $39.99 DS Super Monkey Ball game, and with better graphics! We asked ourselves: if we planned to bring games to iOS, DS, and PSP simultaneously, how would pricing be handled across the board? We didn’t see $0.99 as a price point that would become dominant so quickly, never mind free-to-play (which wasn’t enabled at the App Store launch). As for Apple, they gave us full control over our pricing, just as they do now.
148Apps: I remember seeing that Super Monkey Ball had sold 300,000 copies in the first month. That was pretty amazing back then, considering the price point.
Were you surprised by the initial response?
Ethan Einhorn: Yes. We expected the performance to be solid – we received phenomenal support from Apple, including participation in TV spots. But nobody knew for sure how gaming would take off on that platform. The device was still at a premium price. The iPhone 3G just launching. There were a lot of other games to choose from. But when we hit #1 on day one, and stayed there for more than a week, and we were blown away. We’re very proud to have provided gamers with the first ever #1 ranked game on the App Store!
148Apps:Super Monkey Ball took full advantage of the iPhone hardware, utilizing the accelerometer for tilt controls, which was very inventive at the time. Was any other control model ever considered?
Ethan Einhorn: We talked about offering a virtual stick option. The accelerometer control was tuned to allow for high precision, but it proved too sensitive for a lot of players. Unfortunately, there was no time to implement that. The virtual stick came up again when we worked on Super Monkey Ball 2 (a better game across the board), but by then, the amazing team at Other Ocean Interactive (our developer) had perfected tilt control on the device, so we kept with that.
Here’s Ethan Einhorn demoing Super Monkey Ball at the Apple Press Event, revealing the iPhone App Store in 2008
148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has changed considerably. Number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized at the lowest possible point, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. What would happen if Super Monkey Ball were launched today?
Ethan Einhorn: It would probably look and feel a lot like the PS Vita game – higher visual fidelity, more mini-games. If you haven’t played SMB on VITA, by the way, check it out – all original content, and playable with either stick or tilt controls. It’s awesome! But the challenge is that it’s not really a game that can be shifted to free-to-play, which is where we are focused at SEGA.
148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Ethan Einhorn: My guess is that Apple TV will carry all of the benefits of mobile gaming to televisions, while allowing for seamless cross-play between iPhone and Apple TV. I think F2P will get even bigger, but paid games will swing back into vogue, once players spend $100-plus on a few free-to-play titles and recognize that $10 for a premium game experience is actually a steal.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on June 20th, 2013 iPad Only App - Designed for iPad
Puzzle Pirates is an open world multiplayer game that has you solving puzzles, sailing ships, hunting monsters, and collecting lots of loot. w00tin’ lootin’! Get ready to become a captain in a game that features over 20 interactive solo and multiplayer puzzles. You can even own a shoppe and govern an island in this player-driven world, and engage in massive ship-to-ship battles. Go own the seas, pirates!
Sega has announced that season two of Kingdom Conquest II will begin on June 14th, providing players with new challenges and the chance to rebuild their cities in order to conquer new worlds. New monsters will also roar onto the scene through the new Conquest and Legends Packs and will give players new strategic ways of taking on their enemies in combat.
Need a break from the world conquest mode? Well, Kingdom Conquest II has announced a new Battle Arena feature that lets players enter their Commanders and Monsters into direct battle. Players will be able to track their progress on leaderboards and earn rewards as they rank up in the individual competition.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on June 6th, 2013 iPad Only App - Designed for iPad
Sega just released Godsrule: War of Mortals, an online multiplayer strategy title with real-time player vs player combat. It’s your job to train an army and lead it into battle across contested territories, all while collecting resources and expanding your land. The game has cross-platform capabilities with iPad and PC, and is free to play.
Sonic Dash is having a weekend sale on rings, offering 70% off the boost and breeze bundle. The boost bundle has 5,000 rings while the breeze bundle has 30 red star rings, with the bundles costing $0.99 cents each.
The developer who helped bring Sonic CD to mobile platforms in a flawless port is back with a new port, this time of the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Christian Whitehead has brought his remastering touch to the Sonic game that started it all, dramatically improving and modernizing the emulated Genesis version currently on the App Store. Thanks to the rebuilt game’s new native engine, the graphics now support the Retina Display, widescreen, and the iPad. The virtual controls are improved as well, and some minor tweaks and improvements to pathing that will make the game play better than ever.
For extras, there’s the ability to see the US, EU, or JP version of the Sonic 1 cart in the menu, and to play a new Time Attack mode. This revamp releases in April, and will be a free update for those who already own Sonic 1 on the App Store, and will be available on Android as well with gamepad support.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on March 29th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
SEGA, Sonic and Runner fans can now enjoy Sonic Dash for free. In addition to the free price, Sonic Dash has also been updated, adding daily challenges and rewards for players. Also, the obstacles have been fixed so players will no longer stumble into unavoidable death. Yes!
Sega announced today that Puzzle Pirates, currently on PC, is coming to the iPad as well and will feature cross-platform gameplay with the PC version. Puzzle Pirates lets players customize their own buccaneer and experience a world with over 20 interactive solo and multiplayer puzzles to complete.
SEGA showed off a bunch of new games today at the Games Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. One promising iPad/Browser game, developed by Gogogic Games, is Godsrule: War of Mortals, a city-building, battling, real time combat game that’s playable on iPad and any desktop browser. We’re excited by the depth of strategy we saw, including character upgrades, real-time battles, and clan-based trading and resource production. This one should be out in the next couple of months.
Megan Fox of Glass Bottom Games discusses Jones on Fire, why she decided to switch the game from a free-to-play title with IAP to a game that will be paid without any IAP whatever, and why she feels this way. As well, she discusses why she doesn’t consider it to be necessarily a ‘higher standard’ to be paid with IAP, why she doesn’t see premium games on Android to be a lost cause, and the surprise about Jones on Fire‘s protagonist.
Brett Nolan politely listens to Carter rant about Sonic Dash and why he feels Sega is mis-managing the Sonic series.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on March 8th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Football Manager Handheld 2013 dropped its price from $9.99 to $4.99, letting you get addicted to managing your favorite football teams for a heck of a lot less cash. Don’t worry though, you may still have time for other things as I was able to get away from the pitch long enough to tell you this!
Posted by Andrew Stevens on February 22nd, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
From the creators of Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit comes a brand new associated iOS title, Hell Yeah! Pocket Inferno. You return as Ash, the prince of hell, in this side-scrolling action title, riding a deadly jetpack driller and blasting your way through gruesome monsters to avoid deadly obstacles.
•The simplicity of two button gameplay.
•50 unique levels set in 5 different worlds.
•Avoid obstacles whilst thrusting through the game in the high-speed jetpack action.
•Break through walls and kill monsters using cool weapons including a machine gun and a rocket launcher.
•Defeat more than 30 monsters and collect their tokens
•Collect gold and unlock 50 new masks and jetpack skins!
•Find the Doom Token hidden within each level to unlock secret areas
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on November 29th, 2012 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Sega has just released another classic game from the Dreamcast days – Jet Set Radio. Tag and grind your way to the beat of this super retro, much-beloved arcade rhythm game, now with new swipe-based controls, retina display, 29 of the 30 original tunes, and Gamecenter support.
This week at 148Apps.com, Kevin Stout examined the question more than a few of us are asking: Why won’t Nintendo release any games for iOS? Stout writes, “Nintendo recently reported its first annual loss, showing that perhaps 3DS isn’t enough of a success. Nintendo hasn’t even released its legacy games on mobile platforms where others like Sega have (Sonic the Hedgehog). While current CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, is in charge, it’s unlikely that Nintendo will acknowledge its mistake. When asked about releasing Nintendo games for smartphones, Iwata replied, “This is absolutely not under consideration. If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo….”’
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-05-21 :: Category: Games
Meanwhile, Amy Solomon at GiggleApps took a look at a new Marvel Avengers app for kids: Avengers Origins: Assemble! is a very enjoyable universal interactive storybook that tells the tale of how The Avengers became a cohesive group after meeting Captain America. I really enjoy how these characters are introduced, making this a great primer for children new to Marvel comics. Interactive moments are included throughout that children will also enjoy such as dragging the tools used by each Avenger to their rightful owner.”
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-04-12 :: Category: Books
Last, but certainly not least, 148Apps.biz writer Carter Dotson reported on results from a recent MocoSpace study: “MocoSpace has announced the results of their new “Y U Play?” study that tries to answer the question of just why people play mobile games, anyway? The answer for the majority of people appears to be just pure entertainment. 34% of people like to play mobile games because “the games are fun,” and 32% do it because they are bored, or want to kill time.”
Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing has gotten a major update adding new content and several cool new technical features.
Two new racers have been added. Knuckles and Shadow from the Sonic series can be unlocked, though they don’t come cheap, at 500,000 and 750,000 “Sega Miles” (in-game currency) each, though 1.5 million Sega Miles go for $1.99. Inflation has hit Green Hill hard, apprently. As well, there’s a new Samba de Amigo-inspired course, Sun Fair.
On the technical side of things, the universal app has been updated with HDMI and AirPlay Mirroring support, meaning the game can be played in full widescreen HD on an HDTV. The update also claims to add in iCloud progress synchronization to the universal app, but I was not able to get it working in testing. This may be in part due to some issues with OpenFeint, but iCloud support has frequently been an issue for games. As well, it’s now possible to see friends’ Game Center profile avatars when racing online, in order to see just who needs to be passed up. The update is available now.
SEGA’s Super Monkey Ball franchise was just past its iOS popularity apex when they launched Super Monkey Ball 2: (Sakura Edition) in April 2010 as a universal game on the heels of the launch of the original iPad. The classic tilt-controlled platformer, however, sat untouched after that until last Christmas when it received it’s iOS 5 makeover. Now SEGA has updated the game again adding a new multiplayer option.
Players can compete against up to three friends via Game Center, each playing a different character: AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, or my favorite, GonGon. It’s a quick race to the finish line with the option to pick the level. Random matching is also available, but the wait can be over five minutes to find a single partner.
The new mode is welcome and may help revive Super Monkey Ball 2, but what doesn’t appear updated are the graphics. Here’s hoping for Retina display graphics in a new update soon.