Why it's getting harder to make money on Apple's App Store
Tony Takoushi, the man behind Total Arkade studios, discusses Apple’s out-of-control games marketplace
Although many developers brag about having seen it all when in reality they’ve only got a decade of experience behind them, Tony Takoushi is a true industry veteran. Having cut his teeth in video game journalism during the early ‘80s, he dabbled with bedroom coding before spearheading a home console revolution during his tenure as a staff writer on EMAP’s market-leading Computer and Video Games magazine.
Thanks to Tony’s efforts, an entire generation became acquainted with a new breed of cutting-edge consoles from Japan, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, NEC PC Engine and Sega Mega Drive, and the ‘Mean Machines’ section of the publication eventually became the stand-alone entity, as well as the best-selling multi-format console magazine in the UK.
By that point, Takoushi had already left the field of video game journalism and had made the seemingly natural transition into software development. Roles at Sega and Codemasters followed, and more recently Takoushi found himself employed at Halfbrick Studios in Australia - famous for the iPhone and Android slice-em-up, Fruit Ninja.
Now at the helm of his very own studio - Total Arkade Software - Takoushi has just overseen the launch of its first game, the unique word-based action puzzler AbraWordabra.
With so much experience under his belt, you’d expect anything Takoushi touches to turn to gold, but as he himself admits, that isn’t always the case. ‘With AbraWordabra, a great deal of work went into the game and the reviews from the major sites are consistently at 80 per cent ‘ or more, but sales have been disappointing.’
Takoushi pins this outcome on one of the single biggest issues facing iOS development today: the sheer volume of games being launched and the difficulty in getting your product noticed.
‘The iTunes store is a very different place from two years ago,’ says Takoushi. ‘There are around thirty games being released a day, and even if you can get some oxygen for your game, there is no guarantee it will succeed no matter how good it is.
Apple has done an amazing job empowering developers letting them to grow and make games that just wouldn't have been made before, and that's something special. They have literally blown the market wide open...the downside is that you also get a lot of poor quality games from opportunistic developers.’
This in itself wouldn’t be an issue if iOS’ big rival - Android - offered a viable alternative. Sadly, Takoushi doesn’t feel this is currently the case. ‘Android has been interesting to watch. AbraWordabra was pirated and available on sites with download links within a day, so it clearly impacted sales. The only realistic way to make money with Android is to go Freemium with advert support, there's no doubt about that.’
What makes this situation even more disappointing is that AbraWordabra is a unique and appealing piece of software, and was so very close to getting the break it need to be a runaway commercial success, claims Takoushi.
‘The approval process was pretty straightforward and we passed their QA first time,’ explains Takoushi. ‘We were contacted and told we were shortlisted for a banner position globally on the store, but we weren't picked unfortunately.’