How Kona’s Crate publisher is creating an eco-system for independent game developers

Jul 1, 2011

When Appolicious reviewer Phil Hornshaw identifies a premise he hasn’t seen before in a physics puzzler, the game has something original to offer. This is the case with Kona’s Crate, which Hornshaw describes as “complex, challenging… and all about manipulating rockets using the touchscreen.” Kona’s Crate launched last month for the iPhone, iPad and Android […]

When Appolicious reviewer Phil Hornshaw identifies a premise he hasn’t seen before in a physics puzzler, the game has something original to offer. This is the case with Kona’s Crate, which Hornshaw describes as “complex, challenging… and all about manipulating rockets using the touchscreen.”

Kona’s Crate launched last month for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

In this edition of Game Theory, we get to know the publisher behind Kona’s Crate. Zoo Entertainment CEO Mark Seremet is tapping into the independent game developer community to develop mobile titles that are worth downloading. To that end, Zoo Entertainment recently created an indiePub division.

Seremet and indiePub managing director Rob Cassidy talk about how they get independent titles in the hands of influencers, the systematic approach they have to testing their titled on on the growing and still unwieldy Android gaming platform, and the creation of their own shopping platform to drive discoverability of their games.

Appolicious: In 50 words or less, tell us what is unique about Kona’s Crate and why it is a worthy download for gamers on iOS and Android devices?

Mark Seremet: Addiction. Kona’s Crate is a physics-based game that combines strategy with very fast action and precision. I guarantee that you won’t be able put it down – I’ve personally played it well over 30 hours. A quirky concept, great graphics, solid sound design and unique physics will keep players engaged.

APPO: Kona’s Crate was developed by your indiePub Mobile division, which launched earlier this year. How can independent developers learn more about collaboration opportunities with indiePub?

MS: IndiePub exists to promote and grow independent game development. We believe the vast majority of innovation in gaming now comes from groups of indie developers. We want to hear about projects and aim to help these developers in a variety of ways including marketing, funding, testing, development and selling games through our soon-to-be-released shop model. We are totally flexible and have an open door policy. Interested devs can reach us at [email protected] to learn more.

APPO: You launched simultaneously on iOS and Android. Describe the specific marketing approach you implemented for each platform?

MS: There’s no mistake about it; the mobile market is excessively saturated. With almost no barrier to entry, it can be very difficult to get noticed in a sea of competition. Getting the game into the hands of influencers was key. Whether it’s mobile editors, gaming journalists or contacts at the specific platforms, it was all about letting people experience this game. Once you try it, you’re hooked – the addictive nature of, Kona’s Crate speaks for itself. Gimmicks come and go, but a great game gets people talking.

APPO: From your vantage point, how does user behavior differ among iOS users compared to those who play on Android devices?

Rob Cassidy: Kona’s Crate is our first mobile release and, as such, we don’t have a lot of experience to draw from. With that said, we’ve noticed that engagement is very strong on both formats, however, we’re finding that iOS users are playing more levels on average than Android consumers. This trend may or may not continue, but we’ll keep monitoring it and assess the behavior patterns for both platforms.

APPO: Talk about the development complexity associated with creating the Android version that is compatible to multiple devices on an array of carriers.

RC: Device fragmentation is not a new phenomenon in mobile, but in Android’s case, it is a significant issue due to the enormous install base share and sheer momentum behind the platform. The ideal solution for any application developer is to test their game on as many devices as possible, but unfortunately this also incurs enormous QA costs. From my 7+ years of experience in mobile development and testing, I find it best to identify the leading distribution of screen resolutions and run tests on three resolution scales. In researching the market, the most commonly used are HVGA, WVGA800 and WVGA854 and over 65 percent of the market of Android handsets run V2.2. This means running with these resolutions and set ups will cover the mass majority of the market and provides comfort in knowing that the market is being sufficiently covered through testing without running up huge budgets across all devices.

APPO: With tablets specifically, talk about reach expectations on both platforms and what Android tabs do you think will deliver the most downloads.

RC: Last month, Nielsen published a study showing that the iPad dominates Android tablets with an 82 percent market share within the U.S. In addition, Apple has sold 25 million iPads in the past 14 months since the device’s launch. So we of course expected to see our majority of Tablet sales come though on Apple’s platform. In Nielsen’s study, they place the next highest tablet after the iPad as the Samsung Galaxy Tab with a 4 percent market share. As the Android version of Kona’s Crate is a unified SKU, we unfortunately do not have data in discerning between tablet and Android phone sales.

APPO: What other titles do you have in the works in the near-term?

RC: We will be releasing Fractal for iPad in the following weeks, which was developed by Cipher Prime (the creators of Auditorium and Pulse). It’s an ambient music puzzle experience. You find yourself manipulating fractals, creating blooms and expanding your thinking all to a beautiful backdrop of sound. Beyond that, we have a slate of 15 exceptional releases slated for this year.

APPO: Tell us about the three things in the mobile media space that most keep you up at night these days.

MS: The element we are most concerned with is rising above the noise within the existing distribution channels. Since the barriers to entry are very low, this attracts significant competition and decreases the probability of being organically recognized. At indiePub, we are combating that reality by creating our own shop platform and forming extensive partnerships to drive traffic and awareness of all of our indie games, whether mobile or not.

Our second concern is that while the indiePub model exceeds at uncovering game products, an area we can improve on is offering freemium-based games. We realized that we needed to augment our model with internal developers and modify our approach in order to secure a good suite of games as a service.

Finally, we understand that generating revenue in the Android community can be very challenging, along with developing in the environment. We experienced this first-hand with our release of Kona’s Crate, as it did not work on older Android devices. We need to now re-think how we monetize those games and certainly re-evaluate the way we approach development and game testing in the future.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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