Game Theory: Q&A with Joshua Hernandez of Tap Me!

Oct 8, 2010
Games

Location: Chicago Notable apps: bitFLIP (99 cents), bitFLIP HD (Free) Puzzle game that was nominated for Best App Ever. Addictive match three with a techno twist. Galaxy Golf (Free) First iPhone game to ever pull in Facebook friends and let you save or eject them into space. Slingshot your comet into suns to light them up […]

Location: Chicago

Notable apps: bitFLIP (99 cents), bitFLIP HD (Free)

Puzzle game that was nominated for Best App Ever. Addictive match three with a techno twist.

Galaxy Golf (Free)

First iPhone game to ever pull in Facebook friends and let you save or eject them into space. Slingshot your comet into suns to light them up in an addictive physics puzzler.

Platforms: iOS

Specialty genres: Puzzle, Social

Company size: 8

How did you and your firm get into the iPhone game development business?

We started the company as Metamoorephosis Games back in June of 2009 with the idea of doing quality puzzle games and building a new way to do in-game advertising that we call iComplishments. In the fall we released bitFLIP in November with Hands-On Mobile. It was featured on the Apple App Store and we even got asked to feature it in stores. We sat back ready to be a break-out hit.

Even with all of that traction keeping the game in the top 100 became increasingly difficult, and sales slowed to a crawl as the piracy rate soared. It was at that point that we began to focus more on the in-game advertising aspect of our business since we saw how hard it was to make money in a space that was becoming increasingly competitive. It became our goal to create a new revenue stream for developers like ourselves where we could monetize our traffic even if they came in as pirates.

The concept is simple, we allow users to choose a sponsor in exchange for a power-up. The player collects points for the sponsor and sees the sponsor in any achievements they get. But more on that later.

As we got deeper the opportunity became clear that we needed test iComplishments further and two more games would be required. In May we released bitFLIP:HD for the iPad with our first beta of iComplishments and in August of 2010 we launched Galaxy Golf with our second beta and started to see some very compelling metrics around it that gave us a reason to keep going.

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In your opinion, how has the iPhone and Apple’s iTunes App Store changed the gaming industry?

In the beginning it created new opportunities for the more nimble game developers. Small teams could once again create small games and profit. New developers could emerge without any deep experience and succeed. It was awesome. But the traditional game industry platform arms race has begun, pioneers like Freeverse and Tapulous get acquired, platforms like Unity3D enable a graphics showdown, and the Triple A publishers do what they do best and flood the channels making every penny the indies make harder to get. It’s harder now but in the end the customers win with higher quality content. For us the opportunities lie elsewhere.

We believe that Apple and the mobile industry has taken us back to 1995. It has created the same dynamic that existed that spawned hundreds of web start-ups and opportunities. Hopefully we will be smart enough this time around to avoid the same mistakes made then. It was a gold mine to start off with but the subsequent economy that has emerged around it is far more interesting.

Solving problems like discoverability, contextual advertising delivery and increasing the time spent on applications are just a few of the opportunities that exist now and we are going after all of them to help game developers monetize and continue to do what they love.

Describe the differences between developing games for the iPhone and the iPad.

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Although the core audience is the same the spacial differences require a different approach. Developers that take the time to create unique experiences for each device will find much more success.

Another challenge on the iPad are the controls and weight of the device. Interfaces with virtual buttons which barely work on the iPhone as it is make it harder to play for extended periods of time on the hearty iPad. It is no coincidence that the games that take off on the iPad like Osmos make play that keeps the devices form factor at the core of the experience.

What factors go into how you ultimately price your games?

It is our shared view that applications are the new web page. Eventually it will all go free. Why not start now.

We believe the freemium model is the one with the most growth in an unpredictable global marketplace in the different app stores. That way you can let people have fun and monetize later with more content or advertising.

Describe what your dream game for the iPhone would look like.

A game in our secret cabinet of awesome games to make later. Imagine a Google Maps driven Burnout that uses the social graph. In this game your goal is to socially cause the biggest accidents in the neighborhood you happen to be in. Upgrades would be bigger cars and weapons. You would even be able to choose Armorall as a sponsor and blind the competition or crash through tons of metal without getting a scratch.

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