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A little over a month before Nimble Strong was released, a Korean game developer released an iPhone game about bartending. It had anime-style art, quirky characters, and it only cost 99 cents. Ghahramani had planned to release his game for $4.99.
This was devastating for Ghahramani. He had already been stressed out about the fact that Nimble Strong didn't run very well on older iPod Touch models, but this was an unbelievable coincidence. "While this game was nowhere near the quality of Nimble -- it lacked the education, the gameplay wasn't very fun, and it didn't have much of a soul -- it did come to market first and had very good graphics," he says.
The game that Ghahramani is referring to is Bar Oasis, developed by Corners Studio. I picked it up and played it for a bit to make my own judgments about his quality, and I have to say that he's right. The interface is sloppy, the writing is unbearable, and the tutorial dragged on FOREVER, but it does have very nice art.
Its flaws didn't matter to the biggest iPhone game-review sites, though, which lauded Bar Oasis for its originality. 148Apps. com praised it for being new and "refreshing," and TouchArcade.com called it "unique."
Ghahramani knew that it would be incredibly difficult to convince these sites to review a second game in the same genre so soon after they had already covered Bar Oasis, and he says he became depressed, "complete with nightmares." He also knew that he couldn't compete with the 99-cent price tag.
Ghahramani sums up the day that Nimble Strong launched: "The first day of Nimble's launch was one of the worst days of my life," he says. "I posted about the game on a message board and it got SHREDDED. People mocked its price, saying they would never download a game that expensive.
"They said it was a cheap clone of the other Korean game. The first few sites we asked to review it didn't because they'd already reviewed the Korean game. First-day sales were pretty bad."
Everything changed when Justin McElroy from Joystiq.com picked up Nimble Strong and gave it a glowing 4.5/5 star review. When Ghahramani read it, he was overwhelmed with emotion. He calls it "one of my life's favorite moments." McElroy introduced the review by saying "finally video games have a purpose," and lauded it for being one of the first games to teach him a real-world skill.
McElroy's review brought the game into the limelight, and soon The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW.com) posted its own review of the game, calling it "quite a gem." Nimble Strong's sales surged, and the game got mentioned in the New York Times, GamePro (I actually wrote that one), and Reddit.
Nimble Strong never became profitable (Ghahramani estimates that he's made back about 50 percent of what he put into it), but it did lead Ghahramani to get an excellent job in the beverage industry -- he's now associate director of mobile for Wine Spectator magazine, where he helps drive the company's mobile/tablet product strategy.
He was integral to the launch of Wine Spectator's VintageChart+ app, which has enjoyed very positive reviews. The game currently has more four-star reviews than any other app I've seen on the App Store. Who knew that wine aficionados could also be snobby about review scores?
Ghahramani says that he would love to do an Android port of the game, but money is still an issue. "My dream would be to make a Kinect port," he says.