Austin based oeFun has been around since March of 2005. It’s led by Ian Dunlop, a Scottish native who has spent much of the "last twenty one years designing/programming games and applications." As an independent developer, Dunlop’s oeFun has already released four games through the App Store and recently had a hiccup with its fifth.
Dunlop submitted his latest project, a game called Cosmic One, on September 15. The application wasn’t approved through Apple’s app certification team until September 30. That’s where the problem began. Dunlop’s application was given the September 15 release date and as a result was listed a lot lower than the games released on September 30. “It’s way down the list and the sales numbers reflect that,” says Dunlop.
A displeased Dunlop fired off to Apple’s developer customer service about the snafu. He called twice a week for several weeks before he was able to speak with anyone. After which he claims he was met with little more than dismissive bureaucracy.
“Dunlop took to the web and blogged about his frustrating experience with the computer giant. His post titled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” is a set of bullet points that highlight a legitimate list of things he believes Apple does well and those he believes they could improve upon in this relationship with its developers.
His chief complaint was the current communication mechanism. “The official way to get tech support is to send an email or call them. However, the folks you call can’t answer technical questions. They send an email to the developer support on your behalf.” The developer says he’s never heard back from Apple regarding one of those emails. In the end, Dunlop removed his game from the App Store and will be re-releasing it November 7.
Some critics of Dunlop’s iRant suggest that the effects of this matter would be minimal if the developer spent more dollars marketing the game. It’s a perk that top listing comes with release dates, but not a right. He doesn’t disagree with this position. However, he does say that with limited resources, small developers like him depend on this positioning in the App Store. “I think there is an explicit trust that you are going to get that initial exposure.”
Problems like this he says also highlight some of the problems with the certification process which he candidly refers to as a “black hole.” Apple does not make its certification process transparent for developers. This frustrates developers because they don’t know how long it will take, who it is being reviewed by or a direct way to communicate with them. It could take as little as a few days and sometimes several weeks for an application to be certified. Those who submit applications that are rejected are notified with an email containing an explanation for the rejection.
Probably not a result of Dunlop’s single complaint but rather the aggregate of developer concerns and feedback, Apple has released an official application developer forum. Dunlop is excited about this new resource. “There are Apple people responding to posts which I think is key.”
It’s a positive move by Apple to reach out to developers to help avoid delays in releasing their applications. In light of all of his frustration, Dunlop still believes in the company. He says it’s an amazing platform to develop for and he intends to continue developing games for the iPhone.