Developers Weigh In On End of App Store “Gold Rush” Era

App Store wall of icons

Mobile users are downloading more apps than ever before, but an increasing number of them are free — are developers out of luck trying to sell their apps for even 99 cents in the age of freemium?

Tapity developer Jeremy Olson delivered a crushing blog post Wednesday
for those of us who prefer to purchase our apps without having to contend with advertising or in-app purchases. Could it be curtains for paid apps?

“I have been talking to a lot of the most successful app makers out there — who many would assume are millionaires off their top apps — and I’m hearing the same thing again and again: people just aren’t buying as many apps anymore,” Olson writes.

“By piecing together a few anecdotes I have heard, the top ten best-selling apps are selling roughly 25 percent as many copies as they did a year ago,” the developer continues. “If a number five app sold 16,000 copies a day a year ago, number five might only sell 4,000 copies a day today.”

While those are still respectable numbers, the data does paint a disturbing trend in how mobile users “purchase” their apps. Without the ability to try before you buy, users are left with little choice but to stick to free apps, then purchase upgrades in-app for those they actually like.

The folks at productivity app maker Readdle have also chimed in on the subject, and they view the problem from a different angle: Developers should focus on building products, not apps.

“The value of a product goes beyond your device,” writes Readdle’s Denys Zhadanov. “It allows you to experience things in real world. Would you want to keep your passwords? Would you want to keep your notes or documents? Would you want to get your cash back by scanning and faxing the restaurant bill? The answer is yes.”

Both blog posts are well worth a read in their entirety, but the bottom line appears to be that the “gold rush” days of the App Store have wound down, and now developers must find new ways to thrive in a market filled with casual users looking for the next Candy Crush. Here’s hoping they do…


Missing Rayman Legends PS Vita Invasion Mode Content “Will be Added Via a Free Patch, at a Later Date”


When the PlayStation Vita version of Rayman Legends launched it was discovered that there was some missing content when compared to Rayman Legends on consoles.

Addressing the situation, Gary Steinman, Communications Manager, took to the Ubi Blog and offered up the following explanation:

Due to a longer development time than expected, we couldn’t initially include the Invasion Mode – essentially, a second take on existing Rayman Legends maps — in the Vita version of the game. However, we can confirm that the Invasion Mode will be added via a free patch, at a later date.

With more than 100 levels, online Coop and challenges, Kung-Foot mini-game, 5 exclusive touch challenges developed specifically for the VITA and 2 exclusive costumes, Rayman Legends already includes a lot for customers to love, and features the same outstanding graphics and gameplay design as the home console versions.




Bethesda: “The time for convincing publishers to support Wii U has long past”

Pete Hines highlights flaws in Nintendo’s third-party strategy.


Bethesda’s Pete Hines had some choice words regarding Nintendo’s third-party strategy, suggesting that the time for getting better software support for the Wii U may have already passed.

In an interview with Game Trailers‘ Bonus Round, Bethesda’s vice president of PR and marketing underlined the company’s commitment to making its games available on every platform – as long as those platforms don’t require compromise on the original vision.

As far as Bethesda’s games are concerned, that has led to their absence on Nintendo hardware despite their huge popularity. And Hines intimated that the situation is representative of Nintendo’s approach to third-party developers as a whole.

“The time for convincing publishers and developers to support Wii U has long past. The box is out,” Hine said, while sitting on a panel that also included Borderlands 2 lead writer Anthony Burch.

Hines pointed to Sony and Microsoft’s diligent and long-running efforts to communicate with third parties during the hardware design process as a better strategy for most developers.

“It’s not that every time we met with them we got all the answers we wanted, but they involved us very early on, and talking to folks like Bethesda and Gearbox, they say ‘here’s what we’re doing, here’s what we’re planning, here’s how we think it’s going to work’ to hear what we thought – from our tech guys and from an experience standpoint.

“You have to spend an unbelievable amount of time upfront doing that. If you’re just going, ‘we’re going to make a box and this is how it works and you should make games for it.’ Well, no. No is my answer. I’m going to focus on other ones that better support what it is we’re trying to do.”

This adds colour to comments Hines made in an earlier interview, where he stated that the Wii U was, “not on [Bethesda’s] radar.” Nintendo is now attempting to address the Wii U’s less than admirable position by cutting $50 off its price.



Lionhead dev: “I don’t want to sit in a studio full of blokes”

Gary Carr thinks gender balances are beginning to shift in the development workforce

Gary Carr

Lionhead’s creative director has predicted the industry will see a more even and more balance of genders in the next five to ten years.

“I don’t just want guys making games for guys. I want guys and girls making games for guys and girls,” Gary Carr told OXM.

“You have to reflect that in your workforce, and it’s starting to happen. I think that five to ten years from now, it’ll be pretty much 50-50.”

Lionhead is currently at work on Fable Legends, which it revealed at Gamescom. Alongside Carr on the studio’s management team are John Needham and Louise Murray.

“I think as developers, in terms of job applicants, we’re noticing now that we’re at last getting the diversity we want when you’re coming up with a creative team. I don’t want to sit in a studio full of blokes, I want to be part of a diverse team.”

So change is coming, but slowly. Back in April Game Developer Magazine’s annual survey painted a depressing picture, with women as low as 4 per cent of headcount in some disciplines, receiving lower salaries in all but one area.



Industry must ditch “private club” mentality – Murasaki Baby dev

Ovosonico’s Massimo Guarini bothered by defensive responses to outsider criticism, also says publishers still best option for indies

Murasaki Baby dev

Sony’s Gamescom media briefing saw a big push for the PlayStation Vita, including a price cut on the hardware and announcements for a number of new exclusives and indie games. One title that fell into both categories was Murasaki Baby, the debut effort from Italian studio Ovosonico, created in cooperation with Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios Europe. Speaking with GamesIndustry International this week, Ovosonico CEO and creative director Massimo Guarini discussed the genesis of the project, which sees the player guide an unusual balloon-holding girl through a dark fantasy world using the Vita’s touch screen.

“During a business trip, I saw a little girl holding a balloon in her hand on a train,” Guarini explained. “And I was moved by that image, and thought how cool would it be to interact with her just by holding her hand. It’s as simple as that. I really thought it could be the perfect tool to create some emotional content around the game.”

As for why he settled on the PlayStation Vita as the ideal platform, Guarini said he narrowed down the potential platforms as soon as he thought about a gameplay mechanic, where the player swipes the back of the Vita to change the background of a level (from sunny to rainy, for example) as a way to solve puzzles. And when he took the idea to Sony, Guarini said the PlayStation maker was on board in under a minute, with no hesitation about the game’s female protagonist or other such concerns.

“We honestly never ever thought about the market, the target, or anything like that,” Guarini said. “It was so immediate to understand, so touching while we were all trying to play this weird game inside our heads, that there was no strategic discussion done of the product. I guess this will come up eventually, but honestly we didn’t care too much about [marketing].”

The primary action in Murasaki Baby is simply holding the hand of a lost little girl.

Given the game’s unusual premise and its home on a still-struggling Vita platform, one might expect Guarini to have had some inner conflict given his roles in charge of both the studio’s creative direction as well as its financial well-being.

“There might be situations where wearing two different hats isn’t very comfortable, but that’s how it is in a small developer,” Guarini said. “Fortunately, not being a company who does work-for-hire or any kind of services for third parties, we’re in a good position where we can focus 100 percent on the game.”

Even with self-publishing for indies set to become a standard on next-gen consoles and already ubiquitous elsewhere, Guarini said there were still some significant advantages to the traditional publisher-developer model.

“If we really want to be a more serious form of entertainment like movies and music are, we need to talk a broader language.”

Massimo Guarini

“For me, working with publishers is still probably the best way to go for an independent developer, rather than trying the lottery and going on iOS or the App Store,” Guarini said. “In that case, you would be literally overwhelmed by the amount of business development and marketing work you would have to do… On iOS, you definitely have access to a broader market, but you have a crazy average of like 100 new games a day coming out. Regardless of how good they are, the fact you have to be visible against 100 new games a day is just insane.”

Guarini expects the indie scene on consoles to grow significantly as well, but no matter how influential or lucrative it gets, the developer said there’s no way a PlayStation, Xbox, or Wii platform would see the same scale of competition issues. At the same time, he’s not expecting indie games to be the lone factor in determining the outcome of the next-gen console wars.

“I really see the market and the content pool expanding quite fast, actually,” Guarini said. “It would be a huge mistake to say independent developers aren’t important for publishers or aren’t going to be there in the future because of AAA. I’m not saying these smaller, creative games are going to be the future of gaming, in the same way I don’t think free-to-play isn’t the future. It’s just another additional market segment for games. We’re just expanding, not turning into something different.”

Expanding the market is a recurring theme for Guarini. But to achieve that, he believes the industry needs to break some old behaviors and stereotypes.

“I feel the industry is celebrating itself all the time,” Guarini said, “and whenever somebody who’s not in the industry says something about games, you get all this bad reaction from people. ‘How dare you say this? You don’t know video games!’ Well, you know what? I like comments from people who don’t know video games and don’t play video games, because that’s exactly the kind of market we should look at. If we really want to be a more serious form of entertainment like movies and music are, we need to talk a broader language. We need to talk to normal people, not just to people who live inside of World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings.”

“It makes me feel like we’re really like a private club. And from a creative point of view, I really don’t like that aspect.”

Massimo Guarini

Guarini admitted that breaking that behavior will be challenging, and called on creators across the board to be more willing to expand their vision beyond the typical subjects and to try “something a little bit more comprehensive.” He also suggested that developers themselves are the cause of much of the problem, saying many of them cling to a teenage mindset, even if they’re 40 or older.

“Whenever somebody tries to say something about expanding the medium, you get all sorts of negative reactions, like you’re a sort of traitor and you’re disrupting the whole thing,” Guarini said. “But it’s not about disrupting. It’s about growing.”

He pointed to David Cage as an example. Regardless of whether or not someone liked Heavy Rain’s approach to gameplay, Guarini would like to see people try to understand what he’s talking about rather than just trying to shut him up or slinging abuse his way on forums. Guarini was likewise dismayed by the amount of abuse celebrities and non-gamers receive when they talk about the industry.

“You can agree with them or disagree with them, but give them space to talk about games. You don’t need to be a video game guru to talk about games,” Guarini said. “It makes me feel like we’re really like a private club. And from a creative point of view, I really don’t like that aspect.”

As for how such widespread behavior can change, Guarini said it was just a matter of time.

“I expect it’s going to take another 10 years before we acknowledge the fact that it’s OK for other people to make video games,” Guarini said, “no matter if they’re not Miyamoto or don’t have 20 years of experience in the industry.”