Developing the App Store is a "refreshening change of pace after spending several years in multi-million dollar game development," says Noel Llopis, indie iPhone game developer. AppCraver swapped emails with Llopis earlier this week to talk about a new initiative by a group of indie developers to build a brand identity and to raise their visibility out of the potage that is now the App Store. It's called App Treasures and the intent is to build a brand and stamp it with a seal of quality.
1. Whose idea was this?
It was a joint idea that came up during discussions with other iPhone indie game developers at the 360iDev conference back in March. We all knew each other through Twitter, but that was the first time we met in person.
2. Why are you creating this group?
As an indie, all you can do is create a great game, put it out, and do your best with marketing and PR. Then start all over again. In an ideal world, that should be all you have to do, and quality titles will be successful and rise to the top.
Unfortunately, things don't quite work that way. Being successful in the App Store is all about visibility. A large company or a publisher can put out a new game every few weeks, keeping the brand visible and recognizable which gives them a huge advantage. In addition to that, they can also leverage resources across projects, establish relationships with Apple and the media, or share source code.
App Treasures aims to provide all of those things, but without giving up our independence, creative control, or a percentage of the profits.
3. How do you plan to brand or identify your App Treasures with App Store buyers? If you have a version of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval why should they trust it?
All of our games have the App Treasures logo, and provide an in-game Web view with a list of other games in App Treasures, news, etc. We also have a Web site that links to all the games in the label.
Every game part of App Treasures has to be fun, polished, and have great production values. When someone plays an App Treasures game, we want them to enjoy it, and they'll become more likely to want to check out some of the other games in the label.
4. What sort of value-add do you think this will provide shoppers?
The key criteria for including a game in App Treasures is quality. We're not taking the approach of some publishers that try to gain visibility and recognition by putting out lots of titles of varying quality. So when someone picks up an App Treasure game, they know what they can expect. We're hoping the strong brand helps users find more games they like, and encourage them to try new games released under App Treasures.
5. How many developers are involved and how many more do you expect will be involved
Right now we have five developers involved: The Blimp Pilots, Imangi Studios, Snappy Touch, Streaming Colour Studios, and Veiled Games. The initial lineup of games includes some titles people are probably already familiar with, such as Koi Pond or Word Squares. [The Blimp Pilots, Koi Pond and Distant Shore; Imangi Studios, Imangi, Word Squares and Little Red Sled; Snappy Touch, Flower Garden, Streaming Colour Studio, Dapple; and Veiled Games, Payday Roulette and Up There.]
The idea is to open up the group to other developers, but we want to grow slowly and carefully. New members have to be voted in unanimously by everybody. That's the only way to keep the quality bar high.
6. What are your requirements for an AT member?
Above all, new members need to create top-notch iPhone games or entertainment apps. In addition to that, they have to be independent, they need to be actively working on new iPhone projects, and they have to be a good fit with the group in terms of goals.
Beyond that, we are keeping things very light. We all hate bureaucracy so we're not setting up a bunch of rules. Developers choose how involved they want to get and how much they want to share. It really comes down to a bunch of indies coming together and helping each other rather than a big company with an agenda.
7. Can competing members become part of the group?
We don't consider other indie developers to be competitors. We're all in this together, and we're helping each other rise above all the piles of mediocre stuff in the App Store.
8. Are you preparing a joint promotion for this initiative and what form will that take?
Not at this time, but a joint promotion is an example of something that would be more effective as a group than as separate developers. I'm sure we'll do something along those lines in the future.
9. Some people might cynically see this as a desperation move to get noticed. Is it?
Being visible on the App Store is extremely important. App Treasures is definitely about getting noticed and getting more visibility, but it's not a one-shot gimmick. We're here for the long term. We're putting out a portfolio of games and telling people "Check them out. You'll probably like them".
10. Is there a revenue sharing model or is this every man for himself? If so, how do you propose to measure or quantify the value of the program?
Not at all. We all remain completely independent, and each game needs to stand on its own merits.
We'll get a rough idea how effective cross-promotion is by tracking how much people check out other games through the App Treasures web site and in-game view. Beyond that, the benefits of the strong App Treasures brand can't be measured directly, but we should see the effect on the overall sales and the amount of visibility of new titles released under the label.