Appynation are a developer-led game publisher who believe that video game developers should own 100% of the game that they create. I caught up with Andrew Smith from Appynation to discuss the company and how publishing games for mobile platforms has seen a boom in the Indie games market.
How did the idea for a developer-led publisher like Appynation come about?
It came from an observed need. The rise of digital platforms meant that developers were able to soar to new heights with their games, but in moving away from publishers they also left behind some of the benefits as well as the downsides. We saw that since developers are rightly now seen as the key piece in the value chain between coming up with an idea and getting it to the fans, we should really be doing something to enable that, rather than get in the way. AppyNation was born to support developers in any way possible (marketing, platform support, platform holder relations, PR, community building, QA, translation, market expertise etc.), without IP ownership or any other of the hangovers from the days before digital.
You have had great support from the charity NESTA, what has their support done to make Appynation what it is today?
We couldn’t have done it on such an effective scale initially. We’re into our second year now, and the combination of NESTA support and the six core developers who founded AppyNation (Niffler, Onteca, Proper Games, Supersonic, Finblade & Chromativity) meant that we all had time to find our feet, hone our skills and make the right decisions for the right reasons. We’re continuing to do so and 2013 is going to be pretty huge for AppyNation.
A developer having full ownership of their IP is a massive selling point. Do you find that you have a lot of developers approaching you with their game ideas?
We started out with the core 6 developers, but recently have started a concerted effort to spread our wings. Well, maybe a better metaphor is extending our reach to hug more indie developers! We find that people genuinely respond really well to the terms we offer – being so different from the norm – and as long as we believe in a game we’ll try our hardest to do it justice. The market is crowded, and while we have a certain level of knowledge about what does and doesn’t work, we’re not prescriptive about what features to include, and what pricing models to follow. Every game and market is different, and we acknowledge that. We’re always open to seeing more pitches… but with the caveat that we’re still a small outfit and don’t want to take a scattergun approach. We’ll pick the best and do our best with them… and in the future hopefully we’ll grow enough to support as many great games as we get shown.
The popularity of smart phones and tablets has sky rocketed in the last few of years. How has this affected the Indie games market from your stand point?
We see a lot more indies now just making a lot more games, which can in turn reach a much bigger audience. At least potentially. We see far too many fail – be that through a lack of understanding of the new markets or just bad luck or poor exposure to the right people. Which is why we think we’re relevant, of course! Of course the rise also means that we see far more indie games reaching huge sales and massive success… but as a percentage of the games that are released this is still really misleading. Pretty much 98% of good games released go woefully unappreciated.
How does publishing for the App market differ from publishing for Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network?
The main difference is the hands-off nature that Apple, Google, Amazon etc. take with submissions. It means a lot more freedom, though some different frustrations. At least game don’t have to jump through hoops designed to do nothing for the game’s actual fun factor – but that said there are some vagaries that can mean missteps and mistakes on the various app stores. In the end its six of one and half a dozen of the other. They all have plus and minus points, though I’d suggest anyone wanting to make a game with a very limited budget do so on mobile. The costs of entry to the market are tiny.
Out of all the games you have released which one has had the most success?
Fluid Football has seen the most success, but we’re really proud of the way all our games have done. They’ve all reached an audience, and more importantly they’ve all been enjoyed by the people who’ve played them. That’s the ultimate test for us – the quality of the product. Guide The Light is a fiendishly difficult block puzzler, while Ninja Ranch is really popular with kids and casuals gamers who want a relaxing puzzler, while Spring Bonus! scratches that match-3 itch. Powertools FX is a fun toy that lets you deface works of art with various drills, saws and other cool gadgets, while Chuck’s Challenge found a really devoted audience with the fans of the original Chip’s Challenge – heck you can even build and share your own levels in it, something we’ve seen barely any mobile games do even now. But everything starts from the quality, with all of these games.
What’s your favourite App market game of all time and why?
It changes every week, there are so many released! For me it’s probably Punch Quest or The Room. I know the other guys on the team will probably have different opinions though! Keep an eye on our twitter feed as we often chat about games on there with our fans!
If there are developers out there reading this wanting to create the next Indie smash hit for the App Market, what advice would you give them?
The best thing is to make the best possible game you can, but don’t ignore what the market is like and how it behaves. The mobile store in particular favours free games that support alternate methods of making money, and naturally shorter play sessions. It’s all very obvious when said out loud, but we see a lot of developers coming in from other markets with other rules and different consumer behaviours, and they take a while to fully adjust. That said, the game has to be fun, first and foremost.
I would like to thank Andrew for taking time to talk to Plus XP. If you want to learn more about Appynation, or just want to download some awesome mobile games then click the links below.