The Tiger And The Spider: From AAA To App Store
November 11, 2009 Page 6 of 6
Prior to the release, you guys were scraping along, and now you've got the feedback of success to legitimize your efforts -- something of a turning point, do you think? Does it change your perspective on how you want to move forward?
RS: Yeah. And I talk a lot about how I don't want to wind up in the sophomore slump of letting the success of your initial work contribute to the way you think and the way that actually negatively impacts your second release.
Fortunately, I think [going to] GDC Austin has been positive in that sense, because I find myself very much inspired to do our absolute best work and stick to the best parts of our formula, the formula for developing a game and not the formula of design.
RS: Our process. You know, the things that made us able to create a Spider that was good as that. I want to make sure we remain lean and hungry and continue to do our best work. It's been intimidating to see basically like -- and I don't want to say this in a conceited way -- how successful Spider was. It has been kind of scary. Like when people show the charts, we're like, "Oh my God. We're either like top one percent or top two percent of success levels for iPhone games. That's scary."
DK: Yeah, but that's what we set out to do. I don't know why you would get involved in this business if you didn't think you were capable of producing something that was in the top one percent. That's the goal. So, I think no matter what we choose to do next, we're going to put that passion and drive into it.
RS: I guess what I'm saying is instead of being like, "Well, we made Spider. We can do it again." I'm going to be like, "Oh my God, it doesn't matter what you've done in the past. Hitting that top one or two percent is incredibly intimidating. We have to fire on all cylinders and do our best work."
DK: There's absolutely no reason we can't fail.
Do you worry that you might make a game that's even better than Spider, but given the black box of the App Store, you might not hit?
RS: Right, if it doesn't get featured.
If Apple never notices it, or something.
DK: I mean, quality does seem to rise to the top in some cases. I don't know of very many examples of really high quality, amazing game experiences on the iPhone that haven't gotten into the charts, that haven't gotten some level of attention.
Really, the only thing we can control in this process is the quality we produce, so we set a target for ourselves, and we will continue to go after that every time. We believe that the rest will take care of itself. Obviously, we were very nervous leading up to this because we didn't know. It's hard to measure quality objectively yourself. Ultimately, the market will decide.
RS: In fairness to Apple, I think they provide their feature spots for free. You can't pay for them, so it's a very level playing field in that respect. And it's not their fault they're so key to the success of a game.
If it was possible to purchase advertising or just get great reviews or whatever, and that would contribute equally well to your financial success, I don't think they would object to that. It wasn't by their design that they've made it like the magic bullet or whatever to the extent that it even is. So, you know, we'll do our best is the message. We kind of have to trust in ourselves.
Interestingly, we've been talking to some colleagues lately who have the job of reviewing a lot of software on the App Store. Like, nobody's seen it all. I always wonder a little bit, "Is there some amazing game lurking in there that got forgotten and lost?" Some of our colleagues are under the opinion are like, "No, there are not," because they spent a lot of time looking in there. [laughs]
DK: But it's also a different market. Like, if you make a game like System Shock 2, which is critically acclaimed but fails to sell enough to support the company that made it, you're dealing with a much larger scale operation. That game would have been considered a hit on the iPhone based on units sold.
We're in a space where the risk is a little bit lower to some regard because there are less people working on it. It's a less expensive operation. You want to be in a position where you can sort of afford to fail a little bit and have the flexibility to try new things. That's one thing that the platform affords us right now.
RS: In the mainstream triple-A console space, a lot of the bigger publishers won't sign a game -- they won't greenlight a game -- unless they believe it can at least do three million units at $60 a box. We're stoked because we've done roughly 100,000 units at $3. [laughs] The barrier for success is much lower. It mitigates the risk a lot.
Three million units at $60 a box is a ridiculous expectation.
RS: And that's why there's so much risk management in the triple-A space. It's like, "We have to make $180 million off this game. It's got to compete." The competition is similar.
DK: I think both sides of the industry are totally hit-driven. Publishers are taking those huge gambles because they believe if they get the one right franchise in place, they will make hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade. That's why it's worth it for them to take that long shot chance.
I think in the App Store, it's also very hit driven. You need to get on the charts, you need to have that certain level of success and excitement. But it's like there are hits every week. It's just a much faster moving kind of environment.
RS: Yeah, it would be nice if Spider wound up being sort of a classic for the platform. When we first started seeing reviews for it and stuff, we thought we might be in that space, which might be great.
On one hand, games stay on the App Store forever, and yet on the other, there's a constant flow of content coming into the store.
DK: There are products out there that have had extremely long tails, right? I think that's what defines it. Fieldrunners is still in the top 100. It could be for the next year. I don't know if that's just a function of it being there in the beginning. I think to some degree, it's kind of like a classic tower defense game. We hope to make games that are like the class of action drawing games or whatever. Whatever we do next.
RS: But you're right. The way that the software is ubiquitously present, it kind of might change the culture of what it means to be a classic potentially. I guess it's kind of like if you can still think to bother mentioning it three months after it came out, it's probably a classic on the iPhone. [laughs]
[laughs] "Remember Spider? Wow, like three months ago, I was playing that. Those were the days."
DK: I probably have more iPhone games on my device than games I've purchased for the last five consoles. It's like they're so much more disposable, they come in and out, and you've only got so much real estate. And so, yeah, I'm sure we're getting deleted off plenty of people's devices already. It's going to be hard to stay in people's minds.
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