Entitlement and Reboots
Wow. It’s been a busy couple of months. Not on the iOS front, but I’m moving and put my house up for sale and building a condo across town. Unfortunately that’s meant I missed 2 of my blog entries. So I decided I was going to sit down and write one today no matter what. Actually, I’m kind of disappointed that the idevblogaday blog has seen little activity lately. Even if you don’t have any development going on (as has been the case for me lately) I think there are always topics worth talking about. For example, a recent post on Touch Arcade about the “flop” of Whale Trail got me thinking… just because there is a big budget and lots of talented people behind an app, does that ensure or entitle them to be successful? A quick look through the Apple Dev Forum also confirms that many developers “think” they should be entitled to more success in the App Store (I would include myself in that list). There’s whining about Apple not featuring them (I’ve been there… done that), about customers leaving terrible feedback (I’ve learned to take that with a grain of salt), and just overall lack of exposure.
Was Whale Trail a bad game? Absolutely not! I loved the art style and the soundtrack. What was lacking for me was the replay value that something like Jetpack Joyride has. It sounds like ustwo has realized this and is rebooting the product. Will it revive it? I hope so… because it would give me hope that reworking my apps could mean more success as well. I’ve thought about going back and reworking Tramp Stamp from endless play to level based with more achievements, but I’ve questioned whether it was worth my time. So I will be watching the Whale Trail reboot with interest.
The App Store is also proof that big budgets don’t guarantee success. Tiny Wings was a huge success and I’d imagine the budget was very very low. I’ve seen other games that I thought deserved to be more successful get buried. Games like Hot Donut that was clearly a Tiny Wings knock-off, but I thought took it to another level and was fun. I wouldn’t say ustwo was whining about their failure, but I certainly think they thought they’d do better just because of the experience and money they put into the product. The App Store is a lot like Hollywood. Huge money doesn’t mean success (the lackluster performance of John Carter is proof of that).
Much like Hollywood, you also need to be successful immediately (although there are exception like Train Yard that found success later on). Once you are buried it’s really hard to regain exposure. I still contend that if you don’t make the jump from the “release date” list to the “top 50″ list within the first few days you are toast. Most app release graphs are proof of that with a huge spike that QUICKLY drops off (as ustwo demonstrated). All my graphs look similar, with the exception that mine are much smaller by a factor of a couple of zeroes.
It also would appear that being featured by Apple isn’t the Holy Grail that many of us believe either. If I’m not mistaken Whale Trail was featured by Apple many times. While I’d kill for their numbers, the features didn’t propel it into Angry Birds or Tiny Wings status. I would imagine that the spikes you experience during an Apple feature are similar to what you get from sites like freeappaday (which I think are a complete waste of money). You get tons of exposure but unless you are truly a stand-out product you’ll quickly resume back to your normal download count after the promotion. And why does Apple feature apps that clearly need no help anyway? Ok… jealousy aside.
So I guess the bottom line is, don’t feel entitled to anything when it comes to the App Store. Do it cuz you love it. Make that show in your work. If you build something great you might… yes might… get some recognition… or you might get buried. Be prepared for that. And if the Whale Trail reboot is a success (hey, J. J. Abrams did it with Star Trek) then you also have the option of going back and rebooting your product as well.
For those in the U.S. — Happy Memorial Day — enjoy your BBQs and parties. Crazy crazy heat here in Ohio right now.