I have been watching the Apple / Adobe tiff for some while now, with a lot of interest. Apple’s stance seems to go in the face of all the media companies that have invested in their Flash Media Server platform. Also it seems to be flying in the face of the Open Source buzz of the last few years. They have a locked down platform, for which to get on and distribute your content you have to use their tools, their guidelines and in the end get their sign off. And after all that, they can just turn around and drop it if they decide to change their T&C’s.
For a developer point of view, this is horrific. From a business point of view it is a very clever move. The hardware and platform is now so attractive to media owners as a way to get people to pay for content, that it is in fact making them turn from Flash to HTML 5. Now, I have used flash for 5 years + , and i have experimented with HTML 5. From early impressions , HTML 5 is not as yet ready, to a degree where i feel content can be made as efficiently, quickly and to the same level of that that can be created in Flash.
And it is this , that has actually impressed me more than anything, the fact that major content owners are now retraining, and investing huge amounts of money and time in changing their internal development capacity. The Apple platform and distribution channel is so good, and so appealing as an income stream that it is not about the best/worst technology, or the cost of development, but the chance to finally start making consumers pay for content again! And no just start paying for it, but changing the mindset away from free content from google, to premium content available on a premium channel.
And for me that is were the real beauty in what apple has done lies. By creating a premium piece of hardware, which is marketed almost entirely on the functionality of the 3rd party software available on it, then after getting thousands of developers on board while while at the same time slowly locking the gate, they have created their own Apple-opia. Regardless of how people feel about it, and how much developers moan about it, companies will do as they are told as the opportunity to make money (or the apparent one) is just to great to ignore now. And whats makes this more impressive is the relatively small market-share apple still has.
A great step for open source and freedom ? – possibly not. One hell of an envious business position to be in ? – hell yes. For all the complaining i probably have and will do about it, i wish i had thought of it first
Although the iPhone appstore and the iPhone has nothing to do with flashlite, i thought i would take a bit of time to write this article. One of the main issues developers have with the flashlite platform is that there is no direct route to market for your apps, and of course, many a developer has quoted the success of the iPhone appstore, and how (note inverted comas) “easy” it is to sell your content and make lots and lots of money. There has not been a lot of transparency in this process as of far, and it almost seems to be becoming an urban legend of sorts, that if you develop a iphone app and get it on the appstore , you are in line for instant success.
At ustwo™, over the last couple of months, we have created and distributed 2 very different applications for the iphone, each with polar differences in functionality, development time and success. Mills has been releasing figures over the last few weeks of sales, and has spoken in detail on twitter of the processes we have used to try and increase publicity ( you can follow him on @millsustwo if twitter is your thing).
The first application we developed and released was Steppin Lite , a free game for the iphone and ipod touch that uses the touch screen to ‘run’ across a pond filled with Lilly pads as fast as you can. The users time is recorded @ the end, and uploaded to online scoreboards. This was then followed by a paid version, which retailed @ £0.59p, and added numerous more level styles with a much improved online score boarding system.
In contrast to that, Mouthoff is a much simpler ‘novelty’ application. The idea is to hold your iPhone in front of your mouth and talk, shout, laugh, scream or sing to get your new lips moving. The unique thing about MouthOff™, and what sets it apart from other similar apps, is that its sound reactive, so the animations move in real time with your own voice. This application had no free version, and also retails at £0.59p.
To give a comparison of the development time involved in these projects, Our first release, steppin (lite and full version) took a couple of months, with 2 people working on it. This was the first application/game developed in OSX, so there is obviously a learning curve to take into account. For those of you that haven’t played the game (which indecently you can down load from here )
Mouthoff was at the opposite end of the spectrum. With 2 people working on it for a week, it was ready to go live on the appstore.
Steppin is very much a full featured game, which is reflected in the development time, where as mouthoff has very simple functionality, but i suppose is very ‘novelty’. It’s important to note, that as a working development company, having people working on this full-time can be very expensive for a daily developer rate, so it is important to get that money back in revenue. And this is were the trend very much bucks the urban legend of the appstore. If you have spent ages creating a really cool app, surely you should make a fortune? With access to millions of users, all linked into itunes/appstore on there iPhones and iPod touches… According to the marketing given by apple on release of the appstore and the press, surely we should be millionaires in a month or two?
Unfortunately that has not been the case so far for us, although admittedly, the apps have only been on the market a short time ( so here’s hoping ). Below are a couple of images that show the sales for steppin’ and mouthoff, since they were released. I have only added the last weeks numbers here, if you want full details, check out the mills™ moblog , and you can get figures and downloads over the whole month.
The first thing you will notice is the difference in total revenue. To put that in to true perspective for you, steppin and has been out for 4 weeks, and mouthoff has been out for two and a bit.
When you start to see the figures, you start to get a true idea of the secret to success on the Appstore, which to put it bluntly , is marketing and exposure.
The mouthoff application has been heavily promoted , initially by us, but more recently by other blogs, and also tv shows. The viral campaign we started with the website (showusyourmouthoff) has played a large part in getting this exposure by giving users the chance to get their videos featured on the site, and showing people what great fun the app can be.
You’ll notice the massive spike in numbers when it was featured on bbc2 ‘something for the weekend’ show. Before this the numbers were falling from the original release, but this picked things up again. The application suddenly shot to number 11 in the uk top paid apps chart. Later in the week, Creative Review magazine did a video blog post reviewing the app, which again has started to make figures rise, and since then , the application has been featured on a number of other reputable blog sites.
We have also been spreading the mouthoff application through Twitter, facebook, moblogs, Press releases and any other social marketing tool that Rowan & mills™ (self proclaimed PReam team) can get there hands on.
All this is a far cry from the ‘post it on appstore , and they will buy’ attitude that seems to be prevalent belief. If you look at the actual number of hours put into marketing and PR , it soon starts to add up.
Again, this is reinforced when you look at steppin’s sales. Even though they are much lower than mouthoff’s, you can see as soon as it became a ‘staff favorite’ on appstore, sales tripled initially, and are now starting to rise again.
So, are appstores nessecary to make decent money as a mobile developer/company? I’d have to say yes, but with a ‘BUT’. They are completely essential as a way to distribute your mobile content to your potential users. Without an easy to use, pre-installed way of accessing a market place to get these applications from, the user simply won’t bother. In my mind the reason apple managed to get the business model so right on their setup boils down to a few key elements.
It is so easy to buy
familiar system (basically itunes)
On every device, and heavily marketed in press and media advertising.
Decent developer split so more people develop more apps (really, who wants to give away 70%-60% of your revenues that happen with other traditional aggregation routes to market)
The ‘BUT’ comes in the form of if you want to truly succeed and make your development costs ( and a profit ) , It is all down to exposure, and getting people excited about your content. Without that, your just lost within the ocean of the 15,000 other apps out there fighting for attention…
Now we just need a similar setup for Flash lite content, but that’s another story….
not strictly flash lite related, but thought i would post as a credit to the amount of effort and time the team at ustwo™ have put into making there first full iPhone game.
Congrats to PowPow and everyone else who has been working on this for the last few months
Steppin™ is an all new racing game that tests your reactions and co-ordination over 5 beautifully designed levels. Ranging from easy to hard, they each present a different challenge – skip across lilies in ‘Pond’, hop across icebergs in ‘Ice’, navigate a lava flow in ‘Lava’, go back to the playground in ‘Hopscotch’ and traverse a cliff-face in ‘Climbin’.
Steppin™ also has a new score board system that records your personal best time, player of the week, player of the day and best ever player. You can also make it onto the ‘Steppin™ Hall of Fame’, which calculates the best times in each level for the best players, and features the ‘Steppin™ Champion’ – the player with the best time across all levels.