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App Store Insiders: Ian Marsh, Co-Founder of NimbleBit

Posted by Jeff Scott on July 9th, 2013

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.

Monday Morning App HQ

Posted by Will on October 12th, 2009

Random musings of the App Store

Alchemize App Store Pricing Protest

This weekend, in a protest against supposedly 3400 emails complaining about the $2.99 price of their app Alchemize, Schiau Studios raised the price to $39.99 for the weekend. Yes, it's a hilarious protest against whiners who complain about spending a few bucks, but Schiau is not entirely in the right. Alchemize was originally priced at $9.99 and then quickly lowered until it was only $.99 for a short time. I can't blame people for waiting for another sale. If Schiau truly wanted to protest App Store pricing, they would have come up with a fair price, stuck to it, and never changed it amid protests. By acknowledging the whiners, Schiau has granted them some legitimacy.

PSP Minis

Sometimes it's good to take a look at our beloved App Store's rival, the PSP Mini store. The store has launched and two of its biggest name games have already made an appearance on the iPhone (and for cheaper): Hero of Sparta and Fieldrunners. In addition, Chillingo and Mountain Sheep's Minigore is on the way. What do all of these games have in common? In my estimation, they're three of the most overrated games on the App Store. Hero of Sparta had good visuals for its time, but the dull one-button hack and slash affair has so many pre-rendered cinematic animations it's like watching a movie. Fieldrunners has a great art style and was admittedly one of the first open-path TD's on the App Store, but there's only a few enemy types and tower types, and it lacks the depth of the genre luminaries such as Sentinel 2 and Defender Chronicles. Minigore has nice aesthetics as well, but it's an average two-stick survival shooter with little depth, easily outclassed by games such as Alive 4 Ever. Sony, wake me up when you manage to get some good games.

Nimblebit's Freebie Friday

This Friday, Nimblebit lowered all their apps to free in celebration of their newly launched site App Classics! Even if you missed the deal, the apps are still worth buying; Nimblebit is the best in the business at creating fun, short, and addictive games such as Scoops and Textropolis. This move was interesting from a marketing standpoint, and certainly created buzz. In fact, Ian Marsh reported via Twitter that Saturday's sales were double normal and more than made up for Friday's losses.

This week's upcoming app that looks frickin' awesome!

This is the inaugural issue of this feature where I'll be showing off some upcoming games that look awesome (though I've been doing it unofficially for quite some time). This week, we have Jet Car Stunts, an awesome-looking racing game in the vein of Track Mania. The game is due to be submitted within the next week. Enjoy!

This week's sign of the apocalypse

A few weeks ago, Chris used this space to talk about how happy he was that Glu's awful Family Guy cash-in was doing poorly in the App Store. Well, times have changed, and apparently Stewie is enough to make a poor game reach #9 on Top Grossing Apps.

App of the Week


Soosiz is without question the best platformer yet on the App Store. The game uses gravity-centered gameplay, like that of Gomi, but much more fast-paced, to turn a good platform adventure into something extraordinary. The level design is excellent, and the difficulty curve is just right. Controls are great as well. There's only a left arrow, a right arrow, and a jump button, but they are all perfectly responsive and work brilliantly in unison, making you almost forget you're playing on a touch screen.. The graphics are cartoony and playful, and the only big flaw of the game is the sometimes overly-childish music. Other than that though, Soosiz is a magnificent achievement is App Store platforming, and it's one of the most fun games I've played in a while, coming highly recommended.

Ian Marsh Launches 'App Classics'

Posted by Arron Hirst on October 6th, 2009
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED :: Read Review »

Today I got the heads up on a new app-centric site which Nimblebit's Ian Marsh has debuted. It's called App Classics, and it's been dubbed "The iTunes App Store's Missing Hall of Fame". As I understand it, it's set to become the collection of App Store cream of the crop.

The site itself is set out in a suave 'book-case' fashion, similar to the interface of Classics for iPhone. Using App Classics you can search any of the App Store's 20 individual app categories, returning the most popular applications for each of those categories based on sales and user ratings. Ian explained that each app is then given an award of either a gold, silver, or bronze medal depending on how established of a "classic" they are calculated to be by the site.

In Ian's words:

"App Classics searches the App Store to calculate the all-time most popular high quality apps available on iTunes for iPhone and iPod Touch. Behind the scenes, iTunes rating information is crunched, sifted, and percolated in a secret formula to find and grade the truly classic apps."

Clicking an individual app icon from the front page provides a short insight into what each app looks like by providing a few screenshots, as well as displaying extracts of recent reviews, a short write up of the app's purpose, a video review and (of course) that all important ranking. Throughout the site you can also share each of your findings with the world, either via Facebook or Twitter.

An interesting project I'm sure you'll agree. One I'm sure I'll be using and following. You can follow Ian (@Eeen) or App Classics on Twitter at @AppClassics for the latest.


iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Jeff Scott on October 30th, 2008
Our rating: starstarstarstarstar :: 99 CENT GEM
Scoops could be a perfect casual game
Read The Full Review »