We recently ran into Barry Dorf, Senior Director of Third Party for DeNA, previously ngmoco:). Dorf mentioned that we just might be surprised what we saw in the App Store this week. And surprised we are indeed. The ngmoco:) classic iOS game Topple 2 is getting re-released!
You may or may not remember ngmoco:), so a little history first. ngmoco:) was the first game development studio set up purely for iOS game development. Heavily funded by the iFund, and founded by industry veteran Neil Young, ngmoco:) was a studio created before its time. Unfortunately, its games were critical successes, but relative sales failures. This was when the market was considerably smaller and focused only on paid games. ngmoco:) tried to make the switch to free to play games with Rolando 2–the first game to take advantage of in-app purchases on iOS. But that was not enough to make the ngmoco:) model a success. In came DeNA from Japan, looking for a US foothold. ngmoco:) was the perfect fit and was absorbed into the company. Initially ngmoco:)/DeNA US released a few games that did well, but not amazing. These were great games, now pulled from the App Store like GodFinger, We Rule, etc. Those have all been archived. Recently the majority of the games released by DeNA in the US have been English versions of games popular in Japan. Rage of Bahamut is an example of an extremely successful import. In my opinion, these are less interesting games, but obviously money makers.
Topple 2 is the now-classic block stacking game first released by ngmoco:) way back in what could be considered the golden age of iOS gaming. All of the early games from ngmoco:) were interesting, designed well, unique, and all sported a very touch-centric control scheme. But these early games are, if nothing else, a huge part of the short history of gaming on iOS. So it’s great to think for a moment that those classics may be updated and re-released for modern iOS devices and playable by the now 400+ million iOS gamers. An iPad version of Star Defense or Rolando would also be amazing.
We spoke with Barry Dorf about the updated classics.
148Apps: So, Topple 2 is coming back?! That’s fantastic. What lead to it being revived from the archive?
Barry Dorf: At DeNA we always strive to delight consumers. We saw an opportunity to bring back Topple 2 from the archives and provide fans a fun gameplay experience while also introducing new players to the game.
148Apps: ngmoco:) has some fantastic games in the portfolio. Some of the first big iOS games from 2009-10. I would even argue that the ngmoco:) games were ahead of their time and that could be why they didn’t make amazing amounts of money. We’d love to see more of them come back, updated for the new screen sizes and for the iPad. Any chance we’ll see Star Defense, Rolando, Dropship or any of the other classics too?
Barry: How come you didn’t mention MazeFinger and Dr. Awesome?
DeNA’s portfolio of games is pretty amazing. We’re going to wait and see how Topple 2 does before we consider reviving more titles. We encourage everyone to download Topple 2 and give us a reason to revisit bringing back other games.
So there you have it, the classics may live on. Hopefully we will all enjoy this updated game from the early days of iOS gaming. Let us know–do you think it was a game before its time, or does it seem dated now? What other ngmoco:) classics would you like to see come back?
Take a look at this video of the original Topple 2 trailer. We’ll let you know when Topple 2 hits the App Store; it could be as early as today.
An interesting article over at PocketGamer this week reveals some measures Sony has been taking to combat Apple’s wildly successful (but far from perfect) App Store and to make their virtual download service, the PSN, more appealing for both consumers and developers. Sony might be doing fine with consumers, as the reported top limit of 5 euros is less than the App Store imaginary limit of $9.99, so if consumers managed to stomach the outrageous price of $250 for the PSPgo, they should be pleasantly surprised with the game pricing. The question is, however, will there be any games worth buying. The upper limit of 5 euros is simply awful for developers. For any quality games that are worth buying to a consumer, the volume of sales just needed to break even is immense. This is one of the biggest problems of the App Store, but it has managed to get away with it – for now – because of the huge reach of the store – there are simply a massive amount of consumers who are willing to buy a lot of games. I can’t imagine the PSPgo will sell as many units as the iPhone and iPod Touch combined, so I can’t imagine how hard it will be for developers to turn a worthwhile profit. Just ask the Google Android – the entire Android store probably has seen less downloads than any of about 500 iPhone apps. To make matters worse though, Sony is taking huge control over the games, requiring a two week QA test and regulating release dates, further discouraging indie development. Sure, most people don’t see the iPhone in the same light for gaming as the PSP (though I could recommend you a couple of titles that might change your mind), but with the new insanely powerful iPhone 3GS and help like this from Sony, Apple might just eat away at Sony’s share of the portable gaming world.
Snood arrives in the App Store
Last night, Snood, a classic PC/Mac Bust-a-Move clone, was released by EA into the App Store. Despite some strange Facebook requirements, a quirky landscape interface (the game is played entirely in portrait view), and the fact that it’s an EA port, Snood has made it to the iPhone in all its highly addictive goodness… with online multiplayer nonetheless! Best of all, there’s not even a stupid cross-over promotional Pocket God pygmy in sight! A friendly warning: I lost many hours of productivity on this game back in the day. I’ve not spent enough time with the game (ok, basically none) to give it a recommendation, but we’ll try to have an official 148apps patent-pending review up soon (or not…I didn’t get that checked out with our editor, Chris. He might have some sort of strange anti-Snood bias).
App Store Fire Sale
It seems that in the App Store lately, everything must go! Developers have been slashing their prices to new lows, some even making their games free for a limited time. Rather than typing more, I thought I’d let our fancy boxes do the talking, so here are some notable price drops:
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-05-08 :: Category: Games
This week’s sign of the apocalypse
Hmm, why does this look so familiar?
The game Ricky is currently sitting at the number 33 spot in the App Store. The description tells me that if I like Super Mario Bros, then “surely I will like Ricky.” Well Ricky, the only thing I’m surly about is your game. Ricky is a blatant Mario rip-off (ported horribly I might add). The hills have eyes, the main character is an italian plumber, and oh yeah, the icon is the 1up mushroom. Really Apple, you saw no possible copyright infringement going on. It just makes you wonder how apps like this get through while quality games like iMech and A.D.D. are held up in the approval purgatory for months.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-07-12 :: Category: Games
Apps of the Week
This week was a great game week, and while I was hoping Duke Nukem 3D would hold a spot on this list, unfortunately the controls are among the worst I’ve seen for a big title on the iPhone. Nevertheless, a duo of great games, one new, one old, made my list for the apps of the week.
Spider: the Secret of Bryce Manor
Spider, a beautiful, elegant game
Spider is simply a work of art. The main gameplay, spinning webs to catch and eat bugs, is very compelling, especially with fantastic touch controls, but what makes Spider truly great is the multi-faceted story. The story is a human one that rivals many novels, but it is told through subtle clues found throughout levels. Items of seemingly little consequence can fill in a crucial missing piece. To top things off, Spider comes with many secret area to levels plus a secret room that it will take a true adventurer to unlock.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-08-10 :: Category: Games
Earlier in this article, I mentioned the addictive nature of Snood, but that is nowhere as addictive as the classic turn-based empire building game Civilization. Once I start a game of Civilization, I literally am not capable of doing anything else until I’ve finished the game. The iPhone version is slightly watered down, making it more accessible to newcomers, and it does have some interface/control issues (no performance issues over here on my iPhone 3G), but it’s still Civilization, and it’s still awesome.
ngmoco:) announced yesterday it’s plus+ network — a community gaming platform similar in function to the XBox Live network or the Playstation Network, but for the iPhone.
The plus+ network lets you create an identity that you will eventually be able to use across all ngmoco:) games and games from other developers that integrate with the system. This identity lets you track your achievements, compare to friends, send and receive challenges, etc. Much like XBL or PSN, you are given a score across all games that is derived from achievements in those games.
The challenges system takes advantage of the push notification services of the new iPhone OS 3.0 which sends the notice of a new challenge directly to the phone.
Here’s a quick look at what it looks like in the just updated Star Defense, version 1.2 for iPhone OS 3.0.
When you first launch the new Star Defense, you’ll see a new logo in the upper right, the plus+ logo. Click the logo and you will be prompted to login or join the network. If you click join it will walk you through the usual steps to create an account — gamer tag, password, email, etc.
From there you can add friends, check your achievements in the games registered, read news on all of the games, etc.
More functionality will come once you add a few friends and start sending challenges back and forth.
So far, the plus+ network looks promising. I can’t wait to see more games added. Feel free to add me as a friend, let’s see how this thing works. I’m jeff148apps on the plus+ network.
If it’s one thing that GDC taught me it’s that the iPhone has a long way to go as a game console. It’s still a tiny little player in the whole gigantic video games world. But in the nine months since the app store launch, it has made some great strides.
For one thing, the iPhone totally dominated the Independent Games Festival Mobile awards. Not only did they will all the categories, they had most of the nominations as well. The iPhone is now, as far as most are concerned, the best mobile phone platform to develop on. As one developer put it, finally a mobile platform that doesn’t suck.
This past week we did get many clues about what 2009 will bring for iPhone games. First, this will be the year the big boys go full force after the iPhone market. EA, Chillingo, Glu, and others have announced some huge portfolios of games coming out this year.
We will also see an explosion in backend community systems, think XBox Live for your iPhone, and probably some consolidation of those services as well. Consumers aren’t best served by having multiple community systems, everyone knows that, but who will win out as the best? With GameSpy announcing they are bringing over their backend that already powers many console and desktop titles, they will likely start out in the lead. Then ngmoco announced they were opening up their platform to third party developers, another strong contender, but no release date announced. Then you have the underdogs such as OpenFeint, ByteClub, and a new contender, Agon. Then there’s also the Facebook Connect for iPhone that many systems are using. It’s not purely a gaming system, but many have adapted it. A force for sure, with Facebook having over 160 million users.
We also were fortunate to meet with some really cool developers and get a sneak peak at some of the great games coming out in the not too distant future.
Real Racing from Firemint Release Date: Late April, 2009 at an unknown price
Without a doubt, the best we saw was Real Racing from Firemint. Real Racing is a racing game just short of a racing sim. It’s ultra-realistic and features some amazing community and asynchronous multiplayer modes. You even have the ability to publish hot laps to YouTube, automatically. The controls by default work great and are very responsive. This is one to watch for. Firemint are being close to the chest with the price on this one, but it will be released late April.
Touch Pets from ngmoco Release Date: unknown
I’ll have to admit I was originally nonplussed on Touch Pets. But after spending some time with it I can see what the excitement it about it. For one this, this game is deep. There’s lots to do, lots of things to collect, there are missions to go on, there are achievements, tons of stuff. But above all, this game has a social aspect that could set it apart from all of the other virtual pet type games. This all ads up to a game that will be very enormously engrossing to many people, maybe even me.
Star Defense from ngmoco Release Date: pretty soon at an unknown price
Tower Defense games are filling up the app store quickly. And many are really good. Star Defense takes a slightly different direction and adds 3D to the standard game. So instead of playing tower defense on a flat landscape, you play it on a 3D world. One of the more interesting parts of this is that, in one level, you are playing on a cube instead of a sphere. This basically divides up each level into 6 parts as you have to place defense on each of the sides since the weapons don’t seem to work around the corners of the cube. The game itself seems really well done and stable, and should be released soon. We’ll give it more playtime when it comes out and get a full review.
Star Trader: Moon Madness from HermitWorks Release Date: very soon at $0.99
This game is an expanded version of the DopeWars genre that I’m sure everyone is familiar with. But it’s set in outerspace and uses the Quake engine to provide a 3D world where you can walk around and barter. The controls are a modified 2 location virtual touch pad as we’ve seen on other games and works well for movement and changing the angle you are viewing the world. The developers are releasing this at $0.99 and will be raising the price as they add features such as multiplayer in the future.
All in all a fantastic GDC. Had to great opportunity to speak with some amazing people. We’ll try to get full reviews of these games up as soon as they are available.
Toyze, the 3D marketplace app by Eligo Games, has signed a licensing agreement with Game Insight to offer fans the chance to own 3D figures from three of their properties: Tribez, Dragon Eternity, and Mirrors of Albion. “Game Insight is one of the most successful players in the international mobile gaming industry and we are thrilled to […]