Brothers Ian and David Marsh's NimbleBit is finally releasing its latest freemium title today (following on the company's success with Pocket Frogs and then the hugely popular Tiny Tower) called Pocket Planes. The app borrows Tiny Tower's little pixelated denizens and moves them over into a growing worldwide airline, tasking the player with building airports and planes, guiding planes around from one real life city to the next, and ferrying cargo and passengers all of the world to earn in-game coins and "bux." Just like Tiny Tower, the title is free to download and depends on in-app purchases of bux for monetization, and just like Tiny Tower, it's completely addictive and super charming.
And just like Tiny Tower, it's probably going to be a huge hit. Ian Marsh met up with TUAW here at WWDC in San Francisco today, and while he says he is a little nervous to be flying home to San Diego tomorrow as the game launches worldwide, you can tell he's not panicking too much. He's been through this process a few times already with his previous titles (though given how big Tiny Tower got, this game certainly has the highest expectations NimbleBit's ever faced), not to mention that he and his wife had a baby girl last December.
In fact, NimbleBit's biggest issue with Pocket Planes, says Marsh, was that it took so long to make. Most traditional games can take years to put together, but NimbleBit is used to a much shorter production schedule, so Marsh says that Pocket Planes' development, at nearly a year, was a little too "stretched out" for the brothers. They've had to spend a lot of the last year dealing with Tiny Tower's success rather than making the game.
And they have hired on a few more part-time people, but Marsh tells me that even with the success of Tiny Tower (and the presumably pending success of Pocket Planes), he still doesn't want to make NimbleBit bigger. "We like making cool games," he told me. "If we have a team of other people making cool games, I'll be jealous that I'm not making them."
What would NimbleBit do if Pocket Planes fails, if the brothers start to face issues with their current Tiny company structure? Marsh grins at the thought of Pocket Planes failing. "Make the next game," he says. NimbleBit has done so well with its current titles, and has kept things so compact, that even if Pocket Planes falls out of the sky, they'll just make another game they like.
Right now they're in the concept states of their next title, which will be a word game. Marsh says they're returning to an old NimbleBit title called Textropolis, from before the company's freemium days. That game requires you to make words from the names of places, and Marsh says the new game will play in a similar way ("We really enjoyed Textropolis," he says), but it will be very much influenced by Tiny Tower's aesthetic, presumably in the same way that Pocket Planes is.
That's further down the line (the brothers' main task this week will probably just consist of getting feedback on Pocket Planes), but Marsh says that NimbleBit does want to make development a little quicker and simpler. "We like making relatively simple games," he says. In the future, he hopes to bring NimbleBit back to the point where it's releasing a few games a year, much like the company did when it first started on iOS.
Other than that, Marsh is happy to just keep on making games that he and his brother love. "We always can," he says. "That's the great thing about not answering to anyone else."
Pocket Planes should land on the App Store this evening -- we'll have more on the game itself later on this week after release.