IF THERE is one thing you can say about Apple it’s this — since the introduction of the Apple App Store on the iPhone, iPod touch and the iPad, the landscape has forever changed on how applications are distributed and sold.
Before the store was introduced, only large software development companies had the funds to properly advertise and distribute applications.
However, with the App Store, Apple changed all that. By hosting and distributing applications on the store, Apple essentially opened the floodgates to a slew of small developers to produce applications and not have to worry about distribution.
Today, over 300,000 applications are available on the App Store, and it’s made the fortunes of many developers such as the Finnish company Rovio, the company that produces the popular Angry Birds, which to date has sold over 10 million copies.
Of course, the problem with having over 300,000 apps in the App Store is that the sheer volume alone means that it’s getting increasingly difficult for a developer to get his or her app noticed amongst the crowd of games and software utilities available in the store.
In.Tech recently had a talk with Carl Callewaert, an iPhone applications developer invited by Autodesk to give a talk on developing applications for the platform.
Callewaert, who is the founder and head of the applications development firm Fundi 3D, has been involved in the industry for the last 10 years and not only develops applications himself, but travels the world to lecture on developing applications using Autodesk’s Unity3D software.
“The thing about developing applications on iOS is that its very cost effective — while you do need to spend money on development tools, you really save on distribution costs,” said Callewaert.
Making an app
“Don’t over-complicate” is the advice Callewaert gives to anyone thinking of developing games for the App Store.
Back in 2008 when the iPhone first came out, says Callewaert, the number one game in the App Store was iBeer, a simple application that mimicked a full beer of glass that would slowly empty as you tilted the iPhone.
“It wasn’t even a game and people paid for it!,” he added.
Callewaert’s own application on the App Store is not a game either, but certainly far more useful — it’s an American Sign Language application called iSign3D, which to date, has sold over 100,000 copies.
By 2009, according to Callewaert, more sophisticated applications and casual games now dominate the App Store, and it's unlikely that anybody could get away with charging money for an app like iBeer.
However, the basic tenet of keeping it simple still applies.
“People tend to over-complicate things when trying to design a game. For the iOS platform, the most successful games are the ones that are simple to pick up, play for a few minutes and stop,” he said.
Callewaert points to the wildly successful Angry Birds from Rovio and Cut The Rope from Chillingo as examples of simple yet addictive games which users can easily pick up and learn the controls.
“Replayability is also a plus. For example, most levels in Angry Birds are easy to get through but trying to get a perfect score on each level is hard and thus the player is driven to keep replaying levels to achieve this,” Callewaert added.
In fact, this is how Callewaert himself started. He started coding without a background in programming, and had lots of help online, especially with Unity3D which has extensive online help and tutorials available.
Marketing your app
Making it easy for small independent developers to publish apps on the App Store also has a downside — there are now so many applications on the store that it’s getting increasingly difficult for developers to get their app noticed.
“Well, first of all, you have to know your target market. According to the numbers, over 50% of apps are sold in the United States while another 30% in Britain,” he said.
“This means that whatever app you make, it should be in English.”
Producing the application is only half the battle and users should not forget the business side of things and should try to spread the word as far and wide as possible.
“There are many websites, like TouchArcade.com and Pocketgamer.com, which can help promote your game. Send copies of your application to as many sites and magazines as possible. Get your game out there,” Callewaert said.
There is also another potential source of revenue, says Callewaert, and that’s in advertising. Developers can integrate advertising banners into their applications, or produce Lite or free versions of the application supported by advertising.
Making ad-supported applications on top of the paid applications essentially covers all bases.
Earning money from users willing to pay for the ad-free versions as well as getting revenue from the Lite versions for users who don’t mind the advertising or just want to test out an application before they buy.