Tap Jurassic and being an App Store sensation

Mar 28, 2011
Games

Unless you have your finger on the pulse of mobile gaming news, it’s unlikely you’d be able to name some of the hottest developers in the medium without some sort of head start. Well here’s a hint: Gameview Studios should be near the top of the list. Gameview is largely responsible for popularizing “aquarium” style […]

Unless you have your finger on the pulse of mobile gaming news, it’s unlikely you’d be able to name some of the hottest developers in the medium without some sort of head start. Well here’s a hint: Gameview Studios should be near the top of the list.

Gameview is largely responsible for popularizing “aquarium” style games on the iPhone.  They’re the home of games like Tap Ranch, Tap Fish, and Tap Birds. These largely story-void titles usually focus on monitoring a species of animal; keeping them fed, purchasing upgrades to their homes, and so forth.

Your level of involvement in an aquarium game is limited only by your own enjoyment of the title. You can come and go as you please, picking it up once a week while waiting for a bus, or you could spend hours a day making sure your virtual animals are well tended to.

But Gameview titles like Tap Fish, and now the more recently released Tap Jurassic, have struck a certain chord with gamers. While Tap Fish took only three weeks to grab its first 1 million downloads, which is quite an accomplishment itself, Tap Jurassic took only ten days to pull down the same million downloads.

It appears something about Tap Jurassic has captured iPhone gamers’ imaginations like few have in the aquarium genre, and it likely has to do with the gameplay options offered.

As I mentioned earlier, aquarium games don’t really have a story, but some aquarium games go even further and are hardly games at all. I have reviewed aquarium games where the gameplay elements end at being allowed to feed the fish in your tank.

Tap Jurrasic is quite the opposite, offering players the opportunity to not only upgrade the large zoo-like habitat their dinos inhabit, but also to create crossbreeding of dinosaur species, thus creating a mutation that is unique for each player.

Riz Virk, CEO of Gameview, believes it’s the dual nature of his company’s games that have kept people downloading them so fervently.

“[Our games] are lots of fun and they’re easy to play, so they’re ideal if you just want a casual gaming experience that you can play for a few minutes while you wait in line at the store or have a few minutes to spare,” Virk said. “But they also offer something for the really engaged user who wants to do more and go further, so there’s something for everyone.”

Dinosaurs appeal to younger gamers who might still be fascinated with them, and even older gamers who remember what it was like to watch Jurassic Park for the first time. Virk readily acknowledges this.

“I think a lot of people are fascinated by dinosaurs and the whole prehistoric era, and Tap Jurassic is a great way to sort of bring that era to life, so it appeals to a wide audience,” Virk said.

But if the game wasn’t compelling, surely word of mouth would’ve gone the other way well before the game reached a million downloads.

Perhaps it’s because Tap Jurassic doesn’t really adhere to one particular genre. Really, the “aquarium game” monicker doesn’t exactly do Tap Jurassic justice. Virk prefers the team “resource management game,” which seems more in line, as players have to create shops and food stands in their own dino park in order to create revenue to buy more dinosaurs and bigger holding pens for them.

When playing Tap Jurassic myself, I was struck by its similarity to the Tycoon franchise of games I became engrossed with in the ‘90s. In those games, resource management was key as well. But I would never have believed it was possible to have that same gaming experience on a mobile device.

That mobile portability gives Tap Jurassic a gameplay edge over its ‘90s brethren, as well. While you generally had to wait through a certain amount of time while the game was actually playing to achieve specific time-related goals in those PC games, Tap Jurassic will simply run in the background (if you let it) and send a push notification when, say, the upgrade to your popcorn stand is complete, or if your dinosaur breeding has finished. It’s quite a time saver for someone who isn’t too keen on staring at a screen waiting for something to happen.

In the end, the secret to Gameview’s success might just be because the company readily acknowledges it’s full of people who grew up playing games like this, and has figured out ways to make them more entertaining for casual and serious gamers alike.

Consider me a convert. I went into Tap Jurassic skeptical that the sort of experience I enjoyed on the PC could be transferred with such depth into an app, and I have come away impressed.

Although Gameview is taking time now to focus on refining their existing game properties, they’re one development house I’ll be keeping my eye on when their next project rolls around. If they can resurrect a genre I had long forgotten, there’s no telling what else they can manage with the right resources.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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