Dave Tach, writing for Polygon on the story of Crossy Road:
Crossy Road is the rare story of success at the intersection of art, commerce, design and marketing. It's about lessons learned in hard times and a games maker who thought he might never go back to GDC after one terrible year. It's about a pair of developers who, in fact, did set out to create a video gaming phenomenon — and succeeded.
An inspiring tale of success, especially because the developers purposefully tried a different free-to-play model and didn't simply experiment without consideration. A good lesson.
There's a moment in Alto's Adventure when you realize that bouncing off rocks in a snowy downhill isn't a glitch, but a game mechanic designed to make it harder to complete certain goals and combos. This sums up my experience with playing Snowman's new iOS game, out today for iPhone and iPad.
Apple has started promoting games that don't have any In-App Purchases on the front page of the App Store. Currently featured in the UK App Store and likely expanding to the U.S. store later today as part of the App Store's weekly refresh, the section is called 'Pay Once & Play' and it showcases “great games” that don't require users to pay for extra content through IAPs.
The section is organized in Recent Releases, Blockbuster Games, and App Store Originals. The games included vary in terms of popularity and developer: Apple is promoting indie hit Thomas Was Alone under Blockbuster Games alongside Minecraft, but they're also showcasing award-winning Threes, Leo's Fortune, and Blek.
Over the past few years, Apple has dealt with numerous complaints and investigations over the nature of freemium games and how they were advertised as free downloads while effectively hiding major gameplay features behind In-App Purchases. The company brought a series of changes to the way freemium games were displayed on the App Store – it added a specific label to indicate IAPs, and then changed the button to download freemium games from “Free” to “Get”.
It's unclear whether the new section will be regularly updated or become a permanent fixture of the App Store's front page, but it's a good sign as it shows an interest in promoting quality game experiences that don't follow typical (and lucrative but potentially confusing) freemium trends.
Jared Nelson, writing at TouchArcade:
A couple of weeks ago, NimbleBit announced that they were looking for testers for their new upcoming game called Letterpad. It's a word game that gives you a grid of 9 letters and tasks you with coming up with words from those letters that relate to a certain topic. Well, the game is just about complete at this point, and today NimbleBit have additionally announced that Letterpad will be playable on the forthcoming Apple Watch. Here you can see a mockup of what Letterpad will look like on the Apple Watch.
A couple of points to keep in mind: this will actually be based on a WatchKit extension embedded inside the iPhone app. You won't be able to run Letterpad natively on the Apple Watch initially. And, because there doesn't seem to be a way for developers to monetize extensions in iOS apps, the Watch “game” will likely come for free in the main iPhone app. Still, I think the idea of iPhone games extending to the Watch is pretty cool (imagine having remote inventory for RPGs or glanceable information for simulator games on your wrist) and I'm excited to see how others will take advantage of WatchKit for gaming.
I'm always interested in learning how the App Store market is working out for indie developers and small studios. Over the last few days, we got a glimpse into the business of iOS games thanks to numbers and stats shared by the developers of two quality titles – Crossy Road and Monument Valley.
Crossy Road implements a freemium model and it has grossed over a million dollars with ads. The developers used video ads in an effective way:
“I played Disco Zoo and thought that video ads were a really good way to earn money without getting into people’s faces. We just needed to figure out a fun reason for players to watch them”. In the game, watching ads earns coins. Players can use coins to buy new characters that hop across the endless dangerous road in new and often hilarious ways. But it’s also possible to simply buy them with real money or just collect coins in the game.
Monument Valley, on the other hand, is an excellent premium game that allows players to download extra levels as additional purchases (the so-called paymium model). In a widely popular post, ustwo shared the numbers behind the game. Most notably:
- 2.4M official sales, 1.7M of which on iOS
- 575k upgrades to Forgotten Shores
- $5.8M in revenue, 81.7% of which on iOS
The numbers, however, also include more specific and interesting stats such as the number of players who completed the game (lower than I expected) and sales by country. I find it illuminating to see the effects of Forgotten Shores and Christmas compared to winning an Apple Design Award or releasing the game on Android.
Crossy Road and Monument Valley are two profoundly different games. Monument Valley had a big budget (for an indie production), a moderately large team, and it reaped well-deserved rewards. Crossy Road uses freemium mechanics with a unique twist, respecting the user's time and commitment to the game. In both cases, they are quality games, and two examples of the multifaceted (and crowded) App Store market.
Space Age is an adventure game from Big Bucket, the indie dev studio by Matt Comi and Neven Mrgan, who previously brought us the exquisite (and addictive) The Incident in 2010.
Space Age – first teased over two years ago – joins Monument Valley in my list of best iOS games of 2014, and it is the kind of game that I believe anyone with an iOS device should play. Space Age looks great, sounds fantastic, and is filled with witty dialog that powers an intriguing story of space exploration and distant memories.
Monument Valley, one of my favorite iOS games of 2014, will receive its first expansion next week. Titled “Forgotten Shores” and priced at $1.99 as an In-App Purchase, the expansion will add 8 new levels to Monument Valley and further explore the story of Ida and Totem.
Liz Stinson writes at Wired:
Monument Valley was designed as a complete story; the 10 levels formed a beginning, middle and end. When you closed the app for the final time, there was closure. But people didn’t want closure. They wanted more Monument Valley. Its designers were torn: They wanted to add more levels, mostly because people were asking for them. But they felt Monument Valley ended on a high note–1.4 million downloads, to be exact. “It was never 100 percent settled on that we were going to create more content for Monument Valley,” says Gray. “It’s very much a self contained experience. So the question was, how do we create something that doesn’t disrupt that?”
ustwo made a beautiful and poetic game with the original Monument Valley, and I can't wait to get my hands on the expansion pack. You can read my original review of the game here.
Created by Vlambeer (the indie studio behind Apple Design Award winner Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, and other games), distribute() is a new tool to help game developers keep track of a press list. From the website:
distribute() is modelled to save you valuable development hours you'd otherwise have to spend on distributing builds and maintaining press lists. Simply send out a distribute() link for your game to your press contacts, and distribute() will organise all required information into a neatly organised list the system manages and maintains for you. Furthermore, distribute() will simplify numerous public data sources into a simple Reach statistic to help you decide how to prioritise your press strategy for your new release.
There are several interesting ideas in distribute(), but this one struck me as a genius addition:
Verified press contacts help you avoid fake requests from video content creators or people pretending to be from larger websites or YouTube personalities. Verified press contacts are manually vetted and constantly updated to reflect the ever-changing games press landscape. Additionally, distribute() can be set to handle requests from verified accounts automatically, so that you can be sure esteemed members from the press can get access to your game as soon as you flip the switch.
Properly maintaining a press list is hard, especially if you have to focus on other aspects of launching a game on the App Store or other platforms. If you're a game developer, sign up for the distribute() alpha here. Vlambeer also made presskit(), a free tool to create press pages.
Zen Garden, the demo that Epic Games showcased at WWDC '14 for the Metal announcement, has been released today as Epic Zen Garden.
Epic Zen Garden is a demonstration of Metal's capabilities, and it's meant for modern hardware. I spent about 30 minutes with the game on my iPhone 5s and iPad mini, and I think it looks great. It's especially impressive in motion.
It's fun to tap areas on screen and see how Metal can animate thousands of objects at once. I can't wait to see what kind of new experiences iOS 8 and Metal will bring for mobile gaming. Epic Zen Garden is free on the App Store.