and Flight Control
creator Firemint, 35 staffers strong, has made the successful transition from a work-for hire studio into a predominantly self-publishing iPhone developer, and studio head Rob Murray recently discussed his studio's experiences.
The drive down to the 99c price point on the iPhone App Store may have been "somewhat altered" by the top-grossing list Apple has added, Murray suggested - but "the pressure is still there", and marketing your company and game is key.
was first billed as "from the creators of Real Racing
", and yet morphed into unexpectedly massive success, said Murray. Three weeks after launch, the game really took off, after it was featured by Apple and had been popularized via review sites and Twitter.
Firemint's 99c iPhone game has now sold 1.5 million units worldwide, has hit #1 in at least 20 countries, and is one of the most popular games by number of paid downloads, according to Murray.
He showed how sales spiked to almost 80,000 units a week after a free Flight Control
update that had new maps. The top sales -- closer to launch -- were close to 160,000 units per week, according to Murray's stats.
So how did this happen, and how can developers drive sales of their games? Murray said that primarily in the App Store, developers rely heavily on word of mouth and reviews -- so the game is what sells itself.
Separately of that, the name is vital, and the "browse and buy" audience, unlike on consoles, responds well to simple, direct titling, Murray believes.
Overall, a successful iPhone game is all about "meeting people's expectations," rather than necessarily blowing players away, Murray advised. Screenshots are also important, particularly for people browsing the App Store who want to get a casual idea of the game.
Finally, a description and video are important to show gamers that the title is "simple and fun", as opposed to too hard or too complex. For App Store descriptions, Murray says that these are used to get gamers to decide "if they are right in buying the game," after an initial 'hook' that describes the game in a catchy fashion.
Murray joked that "the right price is the price that you're just a little bit uncomfortable with", and that developers should imagine that they are haggling with the player in a market to get the price down to a good base figure.
The Firemint head concluded by stressing the importance of having good relationship with media, high quality social media outreach, and using promotional codes wisely to maximize the title's marketing. But he ended: "The best way you're going to market is to pour [your work] into the game."