Smartphone Game Controllers – More of a Game Changer Than You Think

Ask any game developer on iOS and Android today about the challenges they face in succeeding (i.e. turning a profit, making a sustainable living), and chances are there will be expressions of frustration and negativity. Save for companies that have already established themselves in the mobile marketplace and can afford to build and sustain a customer base, an overwhelming majority will never see a penny of profit.

At the same time, the mobile game market is at a crossroads. On one hand, you have casual experiences being churned out that can be monetized through growth hacking, a.k.a. the ability to target, but and convert players into paying customers. On the other hand, unique game experiences with deep and engaging levels of gameplay that can appeal to true “gamers” are finding it incredibly challenging to succeed, experiences that might command an upfront payment for a quality experience, one that such gamers are willing to pay.

Yet, the touchscreen experience doesn’t match the deep level of gameplay that sufficiently satisfies the needs of the average gamer. A few hours of playing a serious shooter, and you’re left with finger burn and a crooked wrist. This is why I adamantly support Nintendo’s strategy to continue building out their own platform with dedicated portable consoles, but that’s best left said in another blog post that I previously wrote.

While these challenges will persist in the near future, there is a bright spot in the mobile industry, steadily growing to help push development of high quality, deep gaming experiences that consumers might be willing to pay for – Bluetooth game controllers. Yes, multiple companies exist that provide such solutions, such as Green Throttle, Nyko, MOGA and others, but the tipping point will come with native integration of controller support by Apple and Google.

We already know about Apple’s controller API released with iOS 7, one that any developer can integrate into their game to support any wireless Bluetooth game controller. Google can’t be far behind, and we can be confident that we’ll see the support in the next year, at the most.

Free-to-play games rule the roost, and likely will for some time to come, if not permanently. This has allowed companies with the most capital to execute “growth hacking” techniques weighed heavily on user acquisition to build and sustain a player base. This has unfortunately led to an incredibly difficult marketplace for less capable developers to navigate and get discovered, especially the indie tier where the best ideas are generated and the least analytical capabilities lie. And we certainly can’t count on a quality game to succeed based on a one-time payment model. Free-to-play becomes even more challenging for the serious gamers, an incredibly difficult balance to manage in avoidance of pay-to-win perceptions.

As for “quality” games following the paid download model, $1.99 is unfortunately the maximum a majority of smartphone gamers will pay, with $9.99 and $19.99 being special price points for console ports – generally not optimal experiences built from the ground up for the touchscreen.

With universal game controller support built into iOS and Android, we can count on gamers playing for longer periods of time. With such higher engagements, developers can build deeper experiences with flexible game mechanics and backstories that have gamers investing tens of hours of time. Such game experiences are why 35 million gamers around the globe own a 3DS, and games that sell for $40 each sell in the millions within several days of release. These are the games, like Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty, that smash entertainment sales records, surpassing movies and music. Many of these games just wouldn’t work on a free-to-play model.

We’ve witnessed a variety of companies enter the market to disrupt the console business, most of which have been categorized as “microconsoles”, dedicated set-top box hardware usually build on top of Linux/Android. Yet, I can’t help but think that the last thing developers need to worry about right now is another platform, particularly one with little install base to justify the additional resource investment.

Why the need for a microconsole, when we all already own one, sitting right in our pocket? The smartphone and tablet, both iOS and Android, will quickly displace the need for dedicated microconsoles that offer the same value. Connectivity to the TV an issue? Tap and stream, enabled by Apple TV and, soon, the likes of Chromecast, will eliminate this hurdle for mainstream consumers. Don’t worry about the gamers – they’re savvy enough to make it happen now, as long as they have a reason to.


To summarize why I’m optimistic about the smartphone and tablet gaming space for the future of gaming:

1.) Native integration of controllers accelerating developer adoption into games.

2.) Games built from the ground up with controller support can lean on deeper experiences that please core gamers.

3.) High quality game experiences that can be played for hours (and avoid finger burn) can command premium price points and not rely on free-to-play access and conversion.

4.) Smartphone and tablets significantly increasing in power and capabilities can offer an experience that pleases the core gamer.

5.) One-tap streaming from smartphones/tablets to TV will all but eliminate the need for dedicated consoles tethered to the TV.

6.) More freedom and flexibility for gamers – one game file and experience no matter where you are, whether played on the road or on your living room TV.


I truly believe that there’s still a bright future ahead for experiences that gamers can enjoy and would be willing to pay a premium price point for on mobile devices. The hurdles that face development and adoption of such titles is a technology challenge already being solved in the form of native controller support and mobile-to-TV streaming. This is an exciting opportunity for developers to harness and create rich game experiences that meets the behaviors and consumption habits of gamers both casual and core. For all the gamers out there, we get to enjoy great games using the hardware that we own coupled with an affordable controller, anytime, anywhere.

Mobile Game Design – Don’t Forget the Basics

Congratulations on taking the plunge into the mobile games market! No doubt it’s been a remarkable and difficult journey for you and your game, but the design is nearly perfect, and you’re ready to share your creation with the world. Mobile games have come a long way since we first figured out how to put Tetris on our graphing calculators in high school, and it’s an exciting field that’s evolving and improving every day.

Sadly, when you dwell exclusively on the cutting edge of game development, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics. There are a few core tenets of mobile design that should be prerequisites for publishing nowadays, yet every so often, even the most experienced of developers forget them. No matter how impressive the graphics or how amazing and innovative the controls are in a game, it pains us when designers still get some of the basics wrong after all these years. Continue reading Mobile Game Design – Don’t Forget the Basics

Playing in an Asynchronous World

The recent rise of mobile as a key platform in the gaming space is accompanied by meteoric growth in asynchronous gameplay. Not what you typically envision when hearing of the latest “multi-player videogame,” asynchronous games do not require the two or more participants to be playing simultaneously; rather, players make turns at their convenience. Chart toppers such as Words With Friends, Hero Academy and Draw Something have millions of people around the world playing asynchronous games daily.

The appeal of this detached gameplay mode on the mobile platform is obvious: by not having to participate “in-sync,” players are free to go about their day, logging in to make a move only when it’s convenient. Growing up, getting a quick game of StarCraft going with my friends required planning in advance to ensure everybody was free (or hoping they were signed into Ventrilo). Now the rich, social experience of multiplayer gaming is available anywhere, anytime, and with any of your hundreds of Facebook friends.

Without a doubt, asynchronous gameplay is bringing millions of new gamers online. Everybody from busy professionals to even busier moms can find time throughout the day to glance at their phones and lay down a quick 20-point word or crudely sketch a sunflower for their friends. These types of people that could never carve out a two-hour block of time to delve into the latest RTS or explore the world of a new MMO are exactly the target audience for asynchronous games.

Recently, I became completely addicted to Zynga’s Words With Friends. My phone buzzed constantly with updates – after all, with 10 or 15 games happening simultaneously, there’s always somebody free to play. I am, and imagine I always will be, a huge Scrabble fan, and my initial enthusiasm motivated the first few weeks of play. However, after a few months of playing WWF, I found myself oddly numb to the experience. Sliding my finger across each subsequent “New Move” notification pop-up seemed more and more of a chore and less about enjoying the game. I was no longer playing because I was immersed in the game, but rather because felt beholden to making the next move so my friends would not be left hanging.

A few months back, I finally snapped out of my daze and started reflecting on the experience, ultimately concluding that I expected too much of asynchronous gameplay. Like most of my daily electronic information flow, the game simply became another source for that short, addicting burst of serotonin so many of us crave in the Digital Age, with little to gain that could not be found in a casual glance at Twitter.

I may think that I’m a busy person and at times certainly am, but I’m no mom rushing kids to soccer practice and dance recitals. In retrospect, I probably spent close to two hours a day keeping up with WWF – not exactly a “non-disruptive” amount of time. Keep in mind, this was not two hours I scheduled specifically for play, but like with most players, time taken in small increments throughout the day that quickly added up to the point of distraction. This most convenient form of gaming was not only sucking an hour or two out of each day, but also doing so when I should have been focusing on work or enjoying the company of friends.

A few months free of Zynga’s iron grip and I’m making a point to schedule time for the sort of immersive gaming that I used to know and love, inviting friends over for a game of Super Smash Bros. or investing the time to set up a game of Risk or Settlers of Catan. I still play the occasional game of Draw Something or Scramble With Friends, but my notifications have all been turned off, and the icons are gone from my home screen. Now, I play only when I’m truly not busy or have made a point to invest some time.

Asynchronous games are part of a wider push in the tech space to make everything as convenient, connected and on-demand as possible. “No time to sit down and play? Just have these bite-sized snippets instead!” That’s great for people on the go, but for those of us accustomed to the deep immersion that comes with truly investing yourself in a game, with setting up your StarCraft hotkeys and arguing over which dictionary to use for Scrabble, there is more than a bit of magic missing so far, in asynchronous gameplay.

While I may sound like the exception to the rule in the face of so much overwhelming success, evidence suggests many others experience the same burnout and disappointment after the initial rush to play. However, I’m confident that the next generation of asynchronous game developers will mitigate these issues with innovative new features that not only keep us hooked, but also tear us away when things start to get out of hand and our entertainment threatens to become a chore.


Attracting the Non-Gamer

Last week, while chatting around my kitchen table with a friend, she pulled out her phone and proceeded to play a round of Temple Run while we continued our conversation. Taking a cue from her, I whipped out my phone and began playing as well. And there we sat, talking as we individually played our games; eyes on our phones, concentration focused on not running into a tree or getting attacked by demon monkeys. As a non-gamer (I am reluctant to identify myself even as a casual gamer), this was an extremely unusual situation for me to be in. I have never connected with friends over Xbox LIVE or hung in on a Friday night playing Mario, but I am increasingly finding myself in situations where I am bonding and interacting with my friends over an iOS game.

I have never, ever, been a “gamer.” I may have dabbled with some Sims or Guitar Hero, but prior to installing Temple Run I had gone years without repeatedly playing any videogames. While a love of videogames was something I could conceptualize, comparing it to my love of books, it was never something that I personally experienced. I blame that on my horrible hand-eye coordination.

There are roughly 100,000 games currently available in the App Store. The mobile gaming market has grown exponentially in recent years, garnering attention from people who have never owned a console or handheld gaming device, but who own a smartphone. The smartphone has quickly captured a previously untapped market of gamers, getting Dad — who hasn’t played a video game since Centipede at the arcade — to spend spare moments slinging birds at pigs. Recently, the success of mobile gaming has even sparked discussion on the end of handheld devices.

As an iPhone owner for years, I still was never attracted to the games that entertained my friends, using my phone primarily for email and, well, phone calls. There was a gaming revolution occurring around me, but I was primarily immune to the draw of the game. What about Temple Run changed it all for me? As a self-proclaimed non-gamer, I base my addiction on its quick and consistent gameplay. I can pick it up on my two-minute subway ride or do back-to-back runs for an hour and it’s the same enjoyable game. Graphics are irrelevant to me. As someone who has never consistently experienced the almost life-like animation of certain console games, the visual gaming components are not high on my list of importance. Instead, it is the extremely simple, repetitive, yet exciting gameplay that keeps me starting up the only game I have on my iPhone. And small allusions to my childhood fictional idol — Indiana Jones — didn’t hurt at all.

Temple Run breaks taken while writing this blog post: 5

*Imangi, the studio behind Temple Run is a TriplePoint client.

En Route to Victory: Commuter Gaming

When gaming is your hobby, it will naturally be your default choice for occupying life’s little patches of boredom. The advent of casual games has provided us all with a wealth of diversions for everyday lulls, whether it’s Bejeweled Blitz with your morning coffee, Desktop Tower Defense while the bank has you on hold, or maybe a few rounds of Angry Birds during that incredibly engaging PowerPoint presentation. Continue reading En Route to Victory: Commuter Gaming

NY Videogame Critics Invade NY Gaming Meetup, GotY Still at Large

Last night, over one hundred video game players, journalists and scholars braved freezing temperatures to convene in downtown Manhattan and discuss their hobby of choice. December’s NY Gaming Meetup hosted the NY Videogame Critics Circle, a group of journalists committed to establishing an East Coast presence on the global gaming map. Moderated by industry veteran (and group leader) Harold Goldberg, the critics waxed philosophical on the highs, lows, and gooey centers of the 2010 year in gaming. Rising above the ranks of petty fanboyism, the critics touched on a wide range of topics:

  • While 2010 was a good year for gaming, it may not have qualified as a “great” one. With an abundance of sequels, many developers played it safe. Blame the struggling economy for the dearth of new IP’s.
  • The battle between indies and majors rages on. AAA titles like Call of Duty are reliable earners, but rarely grab the attention of this particular crowd, who often favor smaller games with shoestring budgets, games that have not been “developed by a focus group.” One glowing exception was Mass Effect 2, a blockbuster which is sure to get a lot of attention in the annual Game of the Year debates.
  • Some independent games like Super Meat Boy and TriplePoint client LIMBO got love from the critics, illustrating the fact that the burden of proof differs greatly between indie games and titles from major studios. This also scraped the surface of the “rigidity in video game pricing” debate, a complex topic that deserves its own post.
  • Red Dead Redemption was a great game, no contest. It was also responsible for Alan Wake’s disappointing sales. Chock this up to a marketing failure; for future reference, literally no other games should be pitted against a release from Rockstar Games.
  • Red Dead was also a sterling example of the ways that DLC can not only bolster a game’s staying power, but also explore an entirely unique timeline or reality. Undead Nightmare was far more than just a bandwagon-inspired cash-in. Mass Effect 2 was similarly praised for giving players a complete disk-based experience, with DLC that provided a unique spin on familiar characters and settings. If nothing else, 2010 was the year that cemented downloadable content as an unavoidable part of a game’s development and marketing lifecycle.
  • Borrowing the microtransaction model wasn’t the only way that 2010’s console releases were inspired by their social brethren. Players are becoming just as accustomed to in-game payments as they are to maintaining and upgrading virtual real estate. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood offered gamers a chance to rebuild Rome, just as they’d expand an online farm or browser-based pet shop. Expect to see even more cross-promotional games like Gunslingers, the free (hype-generating) Facebook game that lead up to Red Dead’s proper release.
  • Minecraft was considered the year’s Cinderella story. The baffling title came out of left field to build a userbase over 2 million strong. More importantly, over a quarter of those gamers actually paid $13 to play a game that’s still in its alpha stage infancy.

That was the year in games, summed up (and hotly debated) in 90 minutes. Let’s hope that 2011 delivers even more unique gaming experiences and spreads them out across the entire twelve month calendar.

To keep up with the motley crew of Gaming Critics, follow them on Twitter.

Harold Goldberg –  Russ FrushtickEvan NarcisseTracey JohnAndrew Yoon – Not pictured: Stu Horvath Host: Brad Hargreaves

Bolt’s Pocket God Continues App Store Domination

More than a year after its initial launch, Pocket God continues to top the App Store charts with over two million copies sold. Bolt Creative’s Dave Castelnuovo and Allen Dye keep the craze, well, crazy, through clever content updates, community engagement and tons of humor.

The benevolent deities on the PR team help keep Pocket God‘s name in lights through quality media hits. Here’s a recap of the latest and greatest:

Bloomberg TV
Venture CES Edition – Broadcast and Online (1/22)
Dave Castelnuovo speaks on the Pocket God demographic, pricing strategy and the future of the brand.

NBC’s “press:here”
Episode 42, Part 2 – Broadcast and Online (1/31)
Dave joins the weekly Silicon Valley news roundtable to discuss app development and the iPad.

The New York Times
“For Gamers, the iPhone is a Player” – Online (1/27) and Print (1/28)
Dave comments on the power of the iPhone as a gaming device.

TIME Techland
“Popular iPhone App Pocket God Possibly Coming to Android” – Online (1/8)
Dave discusses the Nexus One, Android and Pocket God’s future.

The Sunday Times
“Apps generation could make second killing from Apple’s iPad” – Print and Online (1/31)
Bolt on how Pocket God came to be, and the iPad opportunity.

“iPhone Game Devs Give Us Their Thoughts on the iPad” – Online (1/28)
“Bolt Creative’s Castelnuovo: iPad is the Ultimate Virtual Chess Board” – Online 1/28

“Pocket God Micro-Review: Heaven or Hell?” – Online 1/19
“Pocket God is more than a simple time killer. It excels at some of the best the iPod/iPhone has to offer and does so brilliantly. While the players are put in the role of god, the real divine work here is the workman-like craft and development that went into making this title.”

For more insights into what works for Bolt, and how indie developers can achieve their own success on a tight budget, be sure to check out Dave’s GDC talk next week!

NBC’s “press:here”

Episode 42, Part 2 – Broadcast and Online (1/31)

Dave joins the weekly Silicon Valley news roundtable to discuss app development and the iPad:

Social, Casual or Both? PopCap Sells Cows, Gives Away Free Milk

So strangely compelling...
So strangely compelling...

In terms of wide-sweeping brand recognition, Popcap is to casual gaming what Nintendo is to gaming in general.  Your Grandma knows about Nintendo, but your Mom might know a PopCap game or two.  Founded a decade ago, the company does a spectacular job of keeping their games in the public eye and maintaining a friendly, unassuming aesthetic.  It’s as if making boatloads of money is the pleasant side-effect of cranking out highly addictive puzzlers, and to be clear, casual games are doing big business.  Most of their games are available on multiple platforms, with free versions hosted at  Because the games are both robust and replayable, it’s no surprise that their perennial favorite Bejeweled 2 hasn’t left the Top 10 Highest Grossing list on the App Store since that category was unveiled six months ago . Continue reading Social, Casual or Both? PopCap Sells Cows, Gives Away Free Milk

Back to the Future: The iPhone Sparks a Resurgence in Classic Games

Over the last year, the number of retro and classic console and arcade games on the iPhone has dramatically increased, often providing these much-beloved chestnuts with a new lease on life (and great success for their publishers). Classic characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Earthworm Jim, Guybrush Threepwood and Dirk the Daring are back in full force, with more characters set to make a comeback on the horizon.

Sonic the Hedgehog for iPhone
Sonic the Hedgehog for iPhone

How have these once-antiquated characters found new relevancy on a new medium? Beyond the obvious nostalgia factor, it all boils down to gameplay, fun, and interesting game design. The most popular games from the 80s and 90s still resonate with gamers today. In the “golden era” of 16- and 32-bit graphics, game designers couldn’t rely on whiz-bang visuals, environmental physics and detailed rendering to impress gamers. Games were distilled down to their simplest elements: pick-up-and-play ease, addictive fun and compelling gameplay.

Venerable games publisher Sega has recognized the importance of the iPhone to classic games, and is bringing back some of their most successful and celebrated games to the platform. The upcoming Sega Genesis Ultimate Collection, which will enable gamers to purchase classic Sega Genesis titles (such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, Shining Force and more) presents a new opportunity for gamers to relive their favorite gaming experiences, and introduces such franchises to those who may be too young to have ever played them.  Sega is not alone.  A quick Web search on “retro iPhone games” provides hundreds of options for the classic gaming enthusiast, including arcade superstars Pac-Man and Space Invaders.  For those looking for the console classics, Touch Arcade has provided a handy list that includes personal favorites Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins and the PC mega-hit Myst.

Furthermore, developers inspired by classic games are bringing new titles to the market that have familiar influences. The upcoming Slug Wars from Republic of Fun draws its inspiration from the Worms series (originally released on the Amiga in the early 80s). iPhone publisher Super Happy Fun Fun’s Mark Pierce, the original designer of 90s arcade hit Klax, incorporated similar game principles on the match-three puzzler Star*Burst.

With a plethora of opportunities for both classic gamers and new gamers alike, the iPhone has resurrected old franchises, as well as inspired new ones.  These “snackable nuggets of classic delight” can be devoured by consumers young and old, truly making the platform a gaming haven that anyone can enjoy.

Google’s Nexus One – Changing the Mobile Gaming Market?

While the iPhone has taken the lead in attracting development for the mobile gaming genre, and development for the Android has been trailing behind, many folks are currently wondering if the Nexus One will be the device that truly changes the mobile game development market around in favor of the Android open source mobile operating system.

The Nexus One is Google’s latest smartphone to hit the market – releasing just a few days ago during CES on January 5, 2010. The phone runs on the newly released Android 2.1 operating system, which features a number of significant enhancements such as Live Wallpapers that are animated in the background and react to different user inputs, an Application Drawer that can be pressed to access the list of applications installed on the phone, and a Media Gallery that provides several new features allowing users to browse, edit, and share photos and videos on the phone with just the swipe of a finger.

Aside from these dazzling enhancements, the Nexus One features some real meaty upgrades such as a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, on-chip graphical capabilities and a 480×800 resolution screen (ideal for gaming) that truly set this device apart from the iPhone. And the kicker…..Adobe has confirmed that Flash Player 10.1 will be coming soon to the Nexus One, and they promise that it will provide a consistent, cross-platform runtime across desktop and mobile devices.

This news is particularly significant because Flash-based game development is so widespread in the gaming industry, yet the iPhone doesn’t support Flash. Highly-trafficked and popular entertainment genres including social games (via Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and virtual worlds monetizing through the sale of virtual goods and microtransactions are primarily Flash-based. The opportunity to additionally monetize from the Nexus One platform is significant news for mobile game developers as well as the many Flash game developers who have held off from developing for the iPhone SDK due to these limitations.

As it stands now, the Android Market has about 18,000 apps available while the iTunes App Store features upwards of 100,000 apps. It is yet to be seen whether Google’s Nexus One will be a game changer for the mobile gaming space, but considering how fast this market has moved in the last year, it won’t be long before we find out.

Finding the Mythical Immersive iPhone Game

The future of iPhone gaming?  Probably not.
The future of iPhone gaming? Probably not.

As the iPhone and other smartphones accompany their owners everywhere, so does the chance to have fulltime access to games. Gamers and journalists alike are asking for more immersive iPhone games, but it’s unlikely they’ll flood the App Store anytime soon. Sure, it would be fantastic to have a lengthy, engaging iPhone game with depth, character development and a solid narrative, but it’s highly unlikely.

With the current benchmark for a “premium” app being anything over $5.00, developers can’t afford a fully-fledged staff. Great games like Mass Effect use cinematics and professionally-delivered dialogue to draw in the player, but both budget and hardware constraints prevent this sort of experience on Apple’s ‘slippery brick,’ as evidenced by Mass Effect Galaxy.

However, there are other inherent flaws in iPhone gaming. Even with your earbuds in place and zen-like concentration, gaming time can be interrupted at just about any moment. This isn’t even kept to the external problems of your average day – even the device insists on bothering you with incoming calls or text messages. While one could set the device to airplane mode, this effectively turns it into an iPod touch – a quandary. By the very nature of being connected on the go, one makes the gaming experience tough to establish.

I find that I have the most fun playing puzzlers on my phone, and the reviewers agree. Over half of the top 15 games on Pocket Gamer are puzzle games, and as developer Tale of Tales founder Michaël Samyn points out, small screens are better suited for shorter, more abstract titles. The device’s limitations are not likely to hinder your play in a puzzle game, whereas shooters and RPGs can be a real headache.

Between the hand cramps and screen glare, I, like most gamers, prefer my iPhone sessions to be short and sweet, relegating my larger-than life gaming experiences to the sofa.

Orbital – The iPhone App That Does Everything Well But Sell

What can we tell you about Orbital that has not already been said?

Orbital on iPhone - Gravity Mode
Orbital on iPhone - Gravity Mode

The reviews are unanimous. Orbital is one of the best games on the iPhone.

The awards are well documented.

Ryan Seacrest and Dane Cook have tweeted about their love for Orbital. Dane still has a high score in the top 10. We’re not sure what Oprah is waiting for, something to do with career changes.

In our office, Orbital breaks have replaced Xbox breaks.

Orbital has been described as “addictive”, “compulsive”, “mesmerizing”, “superb” and other adjectives.

This game must have sold like a million units right? The developers must be on a beach somewhere buying Ferraris on eBay and having Scottish castles airlifted to Brazilian mountaintops, right?

Continue reading Orbital – The iPhone App That Does Everything Well But Sell

iPhone App Business Models 101: Paid Downloads, Advertising and In-app Purchases

We here at TriplePoint are frequently asked by developers, “What is the best way to monetize my iPhone app?” I thought it would be helpful to create a high level overview of some of the different business models that developers are utilizing to make money from their iPhone or iPod Touch applications and games. Below you’ll find an overview of several of the most popular business models, including paid downloads, mobile advertising and in-app purchases (otherwise known as microtransactions). Additionally, I’ve included an overview of the correlation between units sold and ranking in the App Store – essentially, a brief synopsis of what it takes to be in the Top 100 Paid Apps list on the App Store.

Option 1: Paid Downloads

The most popular way to monetize your iPhone application is through selling paid downloads of it at retail in the App Store. While Apple reported that the most common price point for iPhone apps is $0.99, according to an October 2009 report from analytics firm Distimo, the current average price of an application in the App Store is $3.42. In this free report, Distimo also provides a list of the top 15 highest ranked paid applications and their price points, which ranged from $0.99 up to $2.99. Although choosing a price point based on popularity and what appears to be working for the top 15 paid apps is certainly common, developers are also taking into consideration the value that their app provides and what it is potentially worth to customers. This perceived value may be based on uniqueness of functionality, depth of gameplay, quality of graphics, and other criteria.

Many developers are also testing their app’s price point post launch and finding that offering discounts or special offers can provide a boost in sales numbers. Additionally, some developers are offering “light” versions of their iPhone game for free and leveraging the user base to drive sales of the paid full version of the game. The flexibility to alter the price point is certainly helpful as developers test the waters with their first application.

Option 2: Mobile Advertising

As mentioned above, $0.99 is the most common price point and FREE is reportedly the second most popular price point. Currently, there are over 100,000 apps available in the App Store and thousands of them are free. Developers that offer their iPhone game or application for free may consider monetizing through mobile advertising. Leading mobile advertising networks include AdFonic, AdMob (recently acquired by Google), InMobi, Millennial Media and Quattro Wireless. Mobile ad networks make it simple for developers to begin serving advertisements directly within their iPhone application in order to start generating revenue, and advertisers are eager to reach the iPhone and iPod Touch using population, so the market is growing. Magna projects that mobile advertising revenues will grow 36% in 2009, in part, due to growth fueled by iPhones.

While some developers rely solely on generating revenue from free applications through mobile advertisements, others are testing multiple business models through their iPhone games and applications and seeing success. Backflip Studios recently reported that revenue generated by advertising sales on free applications has supplemented their income from paid downloads, and is currently driving 50% of their overall monthly revenues. As demonstrated in this instance, advertising revenue can be more than just incremental income, and can be a real substantial revenue stream for developers.

Option 3: In-app Purchases

For iPhone games or applications that lend themselves well to selling virtual goods and downloadable content (such as additional levels and expansion packs), the microtransaction-based business model is a good fit. Ever since Apple launched the iPhone OS 3.0 in June 2009, which offers the microtransaction system, developers have been exploring ways to leverage this platform for in-app purchases. Although, since this is a relatively new business model for consumers to adopt, some developers are erring on the side of caution about adding micro payments to their apps while others like Bolt Creative are embracing it. In October, Bolt Creative launched Episode 26: Good Will Haunting from their hit iPhone title Pocket God and included in-app purchases via downloadable content. The company reported positive revenue results as well as positive feedback from the community, and plans to continue including in-app purchases plans to continue including in-app purchases as a part of their applications going forward.

Additionally, iPhone applications that sell real-world goods are also a natural fit for the microtransaction-based business model as demonstrated by JamBase, an iPhone and iPod touch application that enables consumers to purchase local concert tickets on the go from their mobile phone.

As paying for incremental content and virtual goods, or even making mobile purchases of real-world items via microtransactions become more familiar with consumers, it becomes a more viable business model for developers to adopt.

What does the Top 100 Paid Apps list mean?

Constantly a moving target, the iPhone apps featured in the Top 100 Paid Apps list correlates to the total number of unit sales per day. At this time, to break into the top 100, an iPhone application is typically selling over 400 per day, and apps at the top of the charts are estimably selling over 10,000 units per day.

Earlier this year, Bolt Creative released a chart that shows Pocket God’s weekly ranking in the App Store along with its daily units sold. As illustrated in the graph, the game entered the top 100 list when the game broke about 500 units sold per day, and reached the number one rank in the list while selling over 10,000 units per day.

Final Thoughts

In addition to the abovementioned business models to monetize iPhone games and applications, developers can also monetize through other means such as lead generation, subscriptions, data sales, and more. The possibilities are practically limitless. While there are many different ways to monetize mobile games or applications and they’ve demonstrated success for many developers, in the end, it’s important to select a business model that integrates naturally with the functionality of the game or application and that suits the target audience.

NaturalMotion Tackles the App Store with Backbreaker Football

It took less than 24 hours for NaturalMotion to make an impact on the App Store, as Backbreaker Football has already breached the top 50 for all paid games.  The first in-house game from the development juggernaut that produces the animation technologies euphoria, morpheme and endorphin (rapidly adopted in both the  game and movie industries by companies such as Rockstar Games, LucasArts, Disney, THQ, CCP, Bioware), Backbreaker Football offers a mobile football experience that can be rivaled by none.

The game, which utilizes the iPhone/ iPod touch’s accelerometer controls, presents football in full 3D glory.  Backbreaker Football’s amazing replication of bonecrushing tackles is sure to please both pigskin fans and mobile gamers alike.  Directly inspired by a mini-game taken from NaturalMotion’s  Backbreaker (currently in development for Xbox 360 and PLAYSTATION 3),  Backbreaker Football truly brings a console-like experience to the iPhone/ iPod touch.


As a standalone title, the action and gameplay speak for itself.  Not only is Backbreaker Football an elite application, but its release marks the unique opportunity to showcase aspects of a future console title on an entirely different platform.  The opportunity for NaturalMotion to create both a superior application, as well as officially introduce the world to the powerful gameplay associated with the future Backbreaker console title, serves as a win-win situation for anyone with an iPhone/ iPod touch.

Backbreaker Football


To view the vicious tackles, you can find a link to the trailer after the break..

Continue reading NaturalMotion Tackles the App Store with Backbreaker Football

Take It Out Your Pocket and Show It: Pocket God’s a Hit on the iPhone

Show it Off
Show it Off

The poet T-Pain once said: “Got money, and you know it, take it out your pocket and show it.”

While Pain was certainly referring to a roll of cash, little did he know that he also had created the perfect metaphor for the viral, word-of-mouth buzz that drives iPhone app sales.

In a recent story on the tech writer Chris Nuttall explored some of the reasons for the resounding success of Pocket God on the iPhone. With sales now well over 1.2 million units, Pocket God is a true blockbuster hit on the nascent platform.

Continue reading Take It Out Your Pocket and Show It: Pocket God’s a Hit on the iPhone