Monday, January 31, 2011

An Overwhelming Market!!!

The App Store is truly a competitive marketplace.  It's a grocery store full of similar foods where the aisles go on forever.  There are over 332,000 "Active Apps" in the App Store right now.  Every 2.5 minutes, another app is submitted. Over 3 billion apps have been downloaded.  The average app buyer has 65 apps. He has spent approximately $80.00, and 65% of his apps are free.

This is a lot to take in!  If you think that you can just go to the App Store and submit an app with no marketing... well, I hope you are pursuing development as a side venture and using some rich guy's money who could care less how you spend it.  Without marketing, you can almost be sure your app won't be seen, and therefore, won't be bought.

"But, what if my app was selected as a Staff Favorite, or the Top 10 or even Top 100?" Once again, that would be so cool, but you have a lot of completion out there and it is much more likely your potentially awesome app would go largely unnoticed.

How do we make an app that hits big?  That's the million dollar question.  I like to think that if you go to the trouble of developing an app, you should make it an app that you would love to have for yourself.  Create an app that would really make your life a lot happier, more efficient or easier.  Chances are there are a lot of people like you out there who have similar needs or wants.  You can do all the market research you want, but in the end, create something you love.  J.K. Rowling was asked why she chose to write about such dark subject matter for her Harry Potter series.  Did she realize that could scare kids? Her response was that she was writing Harry Potter for herself and that it just so happened that kids liked it, too.  She never lost sight of why she was writing her books. She created something she genuinely loved.

This has been the common theme shared universally among popular artists.  From Michelangelo to Pixar, people admire an artist's passion to create something that resonates with everyone.  So, when you make your app, make an app you are passionate about.

BUT THEN MARKET IT!  We artists and programers hate thinking about this kind of thing.  Marketing is for other people; we just want to create.  I wish I lived in that world, but the competition is so fierce these days. Marketing is a skill that should be considered as fundamental, as important as the idea, the art, and the programming itself.

If you have a truly great idea, then it should be realized.  If your app is not getting noticed, start doing some heavy research about internet marketing.  Get involved in Facebook, Blogger, Twitter and YouTube.  See what's on people's minds; particularly on the minds of the people you want to sell to. Talk to them. Be a social butterfly.

Still no sales? Think further: maybe you should change your logo, publish an update, do a press release... a REAL press release.  Contact podcasters, reviewers, mommy bloggers and family-themed groups, Churches or your local newspaper...absolutely any place your app might find a voice.

If you have a great idea don't ever give up on it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Importance of Family In Creating Apps

We developers can do so much in the realm of making apps.  The possibilities are endless. We can do amazing things graphically. We can make any kind of media we want for mass distribution. But the question that ought to enter our minds as developers and creators is, "Should we?"

There are so many developers making content that that is a high school boy's dream come true. Often, extreme violence or sex appeal take the front seat in much of app creation. It's all about what drives quick sales. I love that Apple has as of now banned XXX content.  I am sure the adult film industry is banging on their door with loads of money, and they would make loads of money if Steve Jobs chose to lower his standards in this area.  If that were to happen, who knows what our kids could be exposed to?  How much more would we have to protect them?  This is, of course, an extreme scenario, but there are so many apps out there that blur the line between right and wrong.  Apple has, of yet, no rating system.  Perhaps it is time they implemented one.  Many people bought iPads for their kids this year.  I think a rating system is necessary to warn parents of adult content.

Our desire at Brain Freeze Entertainment is to create content that we can enjoy with our own families.  With this in mind, it's easy to stay well inside the line.

I encourage other developers to ask, "Why?" before they ask, "How?"

Thanks and have a great day!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Innovative Apps Don't Allow For Shortcuts In Coding

I remember getting into the nuts and bolts of HTML back in1999.  I knew Dreamweaver and Flash.4 amongst many others were available as 3rd party software applications to help me avoid all the heavy coding .  But I wanted to learn coding in its purest form.  Then came Java scripting, and a bevy of other heavy coding languages... So, as a young kid wanting a cool website, I folded. I went straight to using Dreamweaver and Fireworks.3. It was a question of time.

Yup, it was fast.  Super fast.  But then I found my imagination was stifled by the 3rd party development software.  These programs could not keep up with my day dreams.  Those 'What if' moments that are what makes an app stand out from all the rest. Its makes the app revolutionary!

When designing Goosed up Rhymes, we thought, "Hey, lets use GameSalad, Corona, or Coco3-d."  All of them could not keep up with our daydreams.  3rd party developers are fantastic for making games and apps that are already out there.  Use them for that. A game that kind of feels like other games but looks different in some fun way.  But, if you want to make something thats all new... you need to do straight up  X-coding.  There is no way around it.  The possibilities are endless. Always ask your potential developers if they use 3rd party software.  Many do, because its fast to learn. You are good to use them if the app you are making is simple.  But if you want to make and app that nobody has every seen before STAY AWAY!  Learn Xcoding.  If you don't have time for Learning it the go to oDesk and find someone who already knows it.  We at BrainFreeze believe in pure X-code.  Ask your programer if a thing you dreamt up is possible 3/4 of the time the answer is yes. Maybe even more often than that.


Monday, January 24, 2011

This Is My Baby!

Go check out to see what my little app is all about!

Very soon there will be videos and a Youtube commercial for this book. Its such a fun, entertaining book; I cannot begin to tell you about its interactive factor.  We set out to 'Make Reading Hilarious,'  and every day I see it, and I think yeah...Yeah this is funny stuff!  Imagine Monty Python, Bugs Bunny, and Sponge Bob all telling you Mother Goose Rhymes in their own crazy and fun way.  That's what it is.  If you expect to see traditional, old-fashioned storytelling then you will be shocked. We hate boring.

The voices of the characters are hilarious, too. We have great music that's designed to get kids into the mood of reading. Another fun thing is the hidden 'treasures' that are dropped throughout the book. Not to mention, there is full-blown animation, and a few games that link directly to the stories.  All told, we did eight rhymes, and there will be more to come. Each page just has so much on it that you cannot ask for much more from a portable app.  It's a book but also an interactive, animated reading experience.

This app is a real 'game changer', and we hope it will be approved by the end of next month so that you all will get the chance to enter the world of Goosed Up Rhymes!!!

Against The Clock! Apple's Approval Process

Everyday, hundreds of apps are submitted to the app store...  I do mean hundreds. I'm sure there are days where they come close to the 1,000 app mark.  Long gone are the lazy days of putting an app out there and hoping that it sells. Unless you actually still do that... Bad idea... market the thing!

There are books well written on the subject.  For the most part, the people looking to make money quickly will walk away angry, "What a waste of money!"  This process is really is a marathon.  Sure, there are your quick success stories, but for the most part the App Store is a puzzle to us all since Apple does not share sale figures.

In Apple's defense, it is a very regulated market.  It's not easy to get an app approved.  The problem for many people is the agonizing over the time it takes for the app to be approved.   On average, 3 weeks seems to be the normal waiting period. That can make you sweat, because they might not even approve what you have done.  That's three weeks of waiting to find out whether you're good to go, or you need fixes.  In some cases, that really can kill an upstart business.

The rumor is that the larger companies don't have this problem.  I don't work at Gameloft, so I cannot address that kind of thing. Just keep in mind that it's good to go through an approval process, because it means you're in a more trusted and regulated marketplace for selling apps.  But, don't be shocked when you end up having to put out updates for your app in order to calm your customer's 'bug' complaints. The more time that ticks by without 'necessary' updates to your app, the more agitated your customer base can become. Remember that it's not because of your technical inabilities to solve bug problems that the update needs to get out there, but rather Apple's lengthy waiting periods for approvals. Try using your company website to reassure fans or 'haters', and address their compalints.

Lets hope Apple makes us all spend less time waiting.

The Importance of Testing!

So many of us don't have access to tons of people to send a beta test out to for our apps.  Video game companies hire testers for all their games to make sure all the bugs are worked out... A pretty sweet job, if I may say so.

The Apple Store is a strong force for finding out if you have not tested your game well. They'll tell you if it has more bugs in it than a home on 'Hoarders'.  The funny thing about creating an app is that we all play our sample tests, notice a few minor problems and them just move on.  Very little time is spent trying to figure out how your target audience will like your game.  Kids like to push buttons or drag their fingers on the screen... They like it when things flash. It directs them.

In regards to games, people like solid controls. If you have a built-in joystick (like Pack Man for instance), make sure that it acts with accuracy.  I can't tell you how many games I have dumped when I discover another thoroughly developed app that blows it out of the water in the arena of simple game controls.  Focus less on the 'pretty' aspect and more on the stuff we have to use to move through your wonderful game.

Test on kids and friends of yours that fit the demographic that you're targeting for your game.  Even if you only have a Beta on your own iPad or iPhone, that's a great thing to give someone to test.  Carry the app around with you like a business card. Walk around generating interest: "Hey Tom, check out this App I'm making!"  Tom comes over to take a look.  Don't tell him what to touch or do!  This is a test!  This way, you'll find problems and 'bugs' in your app that you probably wouldn't have on your own.

Don't get discouraged.  If 'Tom' doesn't tell you the problems he noticed with your app, then Apple definitely will.  You don't want that.  You want a clean app out there!


It's the only way to build a clean app.

Happy New Week,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Zombies are invading my Ipad, and I am tired of it!

Remember how vampire stuff was all the rage about a year ago?... Well now it's Zombies.  I counted well over a hundred zombie apps on the iPad and iPhone. What does this say about app developers and their outlook on what we should buy?  Rule #1 with creating any new content for any marketplace should be to make it an original idea.  Plants vs. Zombies and Call of Duty: Zombies were very original at the time of release and successful. It was fun to play in that world.  I am sure a lot of developers looked at this and said, "Hey zombie stuff is selling well. Lets do that!"  This kind of creativity is what makes me sad.  Following trends is sooo boring. It requires no risk and doesn't broaden our outlooks for what can be a great 'time-killer' app. We all want them as we sit in a dentist office waiting for a root canal.

Lazy apps are the reason most of us buy apps, play for 10 minutes. and never turn the app on again.  That's not a very nice feeling.  I could have bought a movie ticket, a flower for my wife, or a nice little lunch for the cost of a zombie game that's not much fun after a while.  Not to mention, the games are often as mindless as the zombies themselves.

To all of the would-be app developers out there: try to think beyond zombies... really.  The world is full of ideas waiting to be grasped.  To marketers, think about open water concepts... don't go to the beaches and repackage ideas you see folks playing with there.  I know the temptation is to go after what the core demographic already likes.  But instead of cloning an old app, ask yourself this question: Why did they like the Zombie app in the first place?  Was it because of zombies, or because they like tension; the cartoon look of the app; or was it the wittiness of the main characters' one liners?  The reason we went to a movie like "Gladiator" and walked out saying "Wow, that was amazing!" is not because of the action or the violence- at the core it's because of something deeper. The same is true for books and games. Deep in our primal psyche we like things to go beyond the surface.

So, what's the draw for zombie games?  We like to take out aggression on things that don't make us ashamed of ourselves afterwords.  Zombies have no soul, they are funny, and really- pure slapstick.  Shooting a zombie is like shooting at cardboard.

Lesson: People want games that are a fun and funny way of letting out personal inner conflict.  Life is stressful, therefore we need a release.

 There are tons of original ways to get that premise across.  Heck, you can make a game about a monkey in a circus that's tired of getting picked on by clowns, bratty kids, bigger animals, and side-show freaks.  He wants to escape the circus, but the ring leader is a dictator that will let no animal leave at any time. Your goal is to escape the suppressive circus and bring down the Big Top once and for all so you can get back to the wild.  Its a simple idea that can be expanded upon and nobody is doing it. Wow!- an original idea that deals with similar, core anxieties people have.

Focus on what people feel deep down.  Make a game that medicates that feeling.  BUT BE ORIGINAL in how you do it! Zombies are dying on the app store if they are not dead already.  Let's find some new ways to let people vent frustration.

Just my two cents...

Thanks for your time, and have a great weekend.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Children's Book Apps... What's worth your money?

Hey folks! My name is Joe Spadaford of Brainfreeze Inc.  Over the past year I have been working with my friend Tod Carter to make a children's book that was the next step in what we wished we had when we were young.  I remember my mother once bought me a collection of classic tales drawn up in comic book form.  Why? I was not willingly reading around the age of ten.  Had she not bought those books for me I might have never read the Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, Count of Monte Cristo, Moby Dick, and so many more.  Why did I read those books back then..? Simply, they were fun.

Reading does not have to be a labor. In fact, reading needs to be a pleasure. Teachers everywhere and everyday are looking for the best ways to get kids started on the reading path.  Steve Jobs opened a new gateway for us once he invested in the iPad.

At first, nobody I knew wanted an iPad.  I was singled out.  One friend put me on a blog called, 'Lonely people with iPads'.  I got it so I could paint or draw on the fly.  It was great for that.  But, as I was looking for new drawing apps one day I came across some children's book apps.  I won't name names, but what shocked me was the amount of gimmick apps that were out there.

As a kid, I would not have been engaged by playing with a physics engine on a machine to enhance my reading experience.  Nope, it would just facilitate my ADD, and soon I would drop the Book App.  A bunch of bouncing objects would say to me that playing with digital toys was more fun than reading the words they cover up.  Not to mention, playing with tilting your iPad gets old after a short bit of time...

I wondered why so few people, artists and writers failed to fully utilize this new technology. Then I came across an app that worked.  It was a book, and it was a story. Not one bit took precedent over the other.  It's a fine line between making a cartoony app and also engaging the reader in the words of the book. We all want pretty pictures, but we all need to learn to read.  How this guy managed to balance it took me a few months to get my head around.  His name was Frank Ayars, and his book is Jack and the Beanstalk.

Jack and the Beanstalk set my engines rolling. Tod and I wanted to be the first ones out there to make an animated version of what Frank did.  We played around with different story ideas, and settled on Mother Goose stuff.  We are calling our App Goosed up Rhymes.

Now, in trying to make an app you learn very quickly to survey your competition.  Week after week I was shocked to see books that were less and less like Frank's Jack and the Beanstalk, despite its great story telling, not to mention high sales.

I did run into a few gems over the past year though.  I have no problem praising other books in the app market place.  Also, I will tell you which ones, in my humble opinion, are not worth the money or the time.

There is junk out there.

These books are NOT junk.  They are quality.

Food Fight

This book has a funny story and great illustrations. It has been updated a few times and the updates keep making it better.  The subject focuses on getting kids to eat their veggies. I, myself, had some interest in this topic since I have worked on drawing for the Veggie Tales cartoon show for 10 years.  Why is it good?  It engaging and funny.  The story is as funny as the visuals. At Brain Freeze our motto is, 'Make reading hilarious!' I think food fight does that well.

Little Bella's I Close My Eyes

This book is a lullaby. It focuses on reading alone on one page, then shifting over to a wonderfully animated sequence next.  Its sooo charming.  Thumbs way up!  Its a simple premise but works so well.  Plus, the Little Bella voice is charming as all get out!  I can't say enough about this app.

Peter Rabbit Pop Up

This is an app that brings to the table the simple charm of what pop up books gave us way back when the only technology around to stimulate us was paper tabs and pop-up pictures.  I loved those books then, and I love this book now.  When I started on Goosed up Rhymes I told Tod, 'It has to be a moving pop-up book.  The kind you watch move on its own, but can also interact with.'  Its classic even though it does have some of those gravity engines... blaahhh.

Lastly, check out Frank's newest book

Cozmo's Day Off 

What Ayars animation learned from the interactivity on Jack and the Beanstalk has been built upon greatly. What was great is now better.  You follow this little alien around in his fun space world and get the experience of interacting with a world not your own. It's a charming and funny little story that has surprises all over the place.  Kids and adults will keep going back to it for a fun tale and the curiosity of, "If I push this, will it do something?" Often times it will, and it will make you laugh.  Frank's done a great job of making reading and games interplay perfectly into the story, and has some real innovations using the physics engine that is not way too gimmicky.  One page lets you look around at a monster in space, but also gives you the option of hiding the big monster alien character from your kids view by tilting the iPad... I wouldn't though. My little girl loves this stuff!

Thats all for my first post.  Thanks and have a great day!