Game Theory: Q&A with Janos Szatmary of IslandJohn

Nov 5, 2010
Games

Location: New Jersey Notable apps: Word Quest, Bee Patrol Platforms: iPhone/iPad Specialty genres: Anything that strikes my fancy. If I think of something I’d like to play and existing choices are lacking, I start planning. Company size: 1 Short description of company: IslandJohn is an independent developer of apps dedicated to the mobile gaming market. […]

Location: New Jersey

Notable apps: Word Quest, Bee Patrol

Platforms: iPhone/iPad

Specialty genres: Anything that strikes my fancy. If I think of something I’d like to play and existing choices are lacking, I start planning.

Company size: 1

Short description of company: IslandJohn is an independent developer of apps dedicated to the mobile gaming market. The studio strives to invent fun and visually appealing games, meld classic concepts to give new life to old genres, and build perpetual motion machines. Their first app, Word Quest, is a better mouse trap of word search games, available for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

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

It was more of an impromptu move for me. Ever since I became what I like to call a “Mac addict,” I started thinking more about developing for iOS.

I was searching the iTunes App Store and couldn’t find a decent word search app. I immediately began development on Word Quest. It got a lot of great feedback and it sold well, considering it was IslandJohn’s first release.

When I started development on Bee Patrol, everything just fell into place. I had the idea for a deeper, more playful flight strategy game that I wanted to play – something warmer, with a brighter, more lighthearted feel. With Bee Patrol, my aim was to create a game that was as visually stunning as it was entertaining. I’m extremely proud of the final product. The game is fun, beautiful, fast-paced and challenging.

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

Although it seems to have depressed prices, it has also completely opened up the market, in large part, to independent developers. Gaming was always a challenging industry to break into on a large scale.

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The iTunes App Store allows indie developers to release great games onto the market without the need for enormous marketing budgets, a team of videographers or massive commercial advertising campaigns. I love the idea that I could single-handedly come up with the concept for Bee Patrol, start developing and designing it, and release it for all to enjoy. The casual gaming market for smartphones has changed things in a way that makes it easy for developers, like myself, to break into the industry. It’s a system for which I have much appreciation.

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

There isn’t all that much difference between the two. We have to pay a little more attention to Apple’s user interface guidelines with all of the orientation issues on iPad. Obviously, connectivity is an issue with the iPad when we’re dealing with OpenFeint integration or Facebook status updates and a user isn’t connected to a wireless network.

It was never a question as to whether or not I was going to make Bee Patrol available on all iOS devices. I love the new wave of devices because the brilliant colors I put tons of work into with Bee Patrol, come across brilliantly with the retina display.

Apple has also done a great job of making sure porting existing iPhone games to iPad is easy. That’s great for developers because the iPad really lends itself to social interaction with a bigger screen that is more visible to those around the user. The potential there, for others to see someone playing my app and picking it up is much increased.

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4. What factors go into how you ultimately price your games?

I try to stay competitive when it comes to pricing, which is difficult considering the time and costs associated with the development process. A truly unique and first-rate app can command a higher price in the iTunes App Store.

Bee Patrol is that type of unique app. It provides hours of entertainment, has tons of levels, various modes, beautifully rendered environments and adds new twists and turns to an already-proven game mechanic. With that said, my goal is to get the game into the hands of as many players as possible, and at $0.99 on iPhone and $2.99 on iPad, Bee Patrol is very competitively priced.

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

I like line-drawing and resource-management games. Bee Patrol is a fun, casual game that combines both of these elements. In regards to my dream game, I’d be interested in developing a game with a much larger ecosystem. I enjoy the social elements included in a lot of the new games on the market. I think it would be great to translate Bee Patrol or its theme into something that would work well as a social game.

I am constantly thinking of ideas for new ways to make the gaming experience more enjoyable and unique. I think our dedication and commitment really shows in Bee Patrol and I’m excited to get it into players’ hands this week!

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