WWDC 2010: Brian Akaka of Appular

Mike Schramm
M. Schramm|06.21.10

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WWDC 2010: Brian Akaka of Appular

We last talked to Brian Akaka back at the Voices that Matter conference earlier this year, but both he and his company Appular were also at WWDC a little while ago. They've been busy. Hand of Greed, their first published title, has been released in an HTML5 version, allowing anyone with an iPhone to play it without downloading anything at all. And Appular has decided to publish two more titles: Attack and Destroy is a strategic combat game that has you leading cartoon units against bad guys, and iSlice, just released today, has you cutting of chunks of shapes to try and score as many points as possible.

Both games are worth a look, and it sounds like Appular's publishing business is rolling along quite nicely. Follow the link below to see what Akaka had to tell us about creating a game in HTML 5, where these two new games came from, and what his team is looking forward to in iPhone 4 and beyond.

TUAW: Steve Jobs says there's two platforms for the iPhone. There's the App Store, which is the curated, closed part of the platform. And then there's HTML 5, which is the free, open platform. You're one of the few developers or publishers that actually has an HTML app released. Do you see that as an equivalent platform to the App Store?

Brian Akaka: Yes. We see it as a whole other avenue to promote and help app discovery. It's not something that can be appied to every type of app, there's definitely some limitations on it that have to be considered. But for certain situations, I think that the ease of discovering the fact that you don't have to go into iTunes and download anything, you don't have to sync your phone, means that there's less barrier of entry. So we're interested in how we can take this idea and run with it.

And maybe you can't talk about specifics, but users of the HTML app compared to users of the App Store app -- how do those two compare?

What we did is we ran a small test case on AdMob -- we had an AdMob ad that [invited users to try] the demo HTML5 version. We had about 70,000 users of the game, and we saw a fair amount of them convert. We can't talk about specific percentages but we saw a fair amount of them buy the game.

Less than half, right?

Yes, less than half. There's only three levels, and between each level, it explains the benefits of buying the full version. Right now, we're seeing about ten times more people playing the HTML5 version, though. It's more accessible to use. One thing that we're actually considering in the future plans is to create an HTML5 app store, meaning just a collection of HTML5 games under one roof. Kind of a central location for people to try games themselves.

Last time we talked to you, you had just decided to publish Hand of Greed, and it was the first title that you published. Have you picked any other titles to publish yet?

Our second title actually just went live last week -- it's called Attack and Destroy, and it's a line-drawing, turn-based strategy game, with army squad tactics. It's a universal app, available for $3.99, and it has multiplayer between devices even, so you can play against your buddy with an iPod touch on your iPad. Following that, we have another title coming out very soon called iSlice. This is a game that was actually developed by a bunch of teenagers in the UK, they're 15, 17, and 19, and they made this game and we're going to publish it. It's similar in mechanics to Hand of Greed, where it's all touch-based, but rather than the frantic nature of Hand of Greed with the danger and the adrenaline, it's more of a relaxing, zen kind of game, where you'll be more rewarded for patience.

Cool, so you're moving right along. When I asked you about Hand of Greed, I wanted to know what appealed to you about the game. Were these games similar, in that they were released and you thought you could publish them differently, or are they original, or what's the story behind these two?

Attack and Destroy is actually developed by a Hong Kong company called Humble Gaming that we've been in close contact with for the last year, and they considered working with us on the marketing side. But then when we announced our publishing plans, that was more attractive for them.

So that's an original game. And iSlice, what about that one?

For iSlice, they actually did release it in the App Store for about two weeks, just like Hand of Greed. And then decided that they wanted to have a little bit of help, and so they then gave it to us to publish, and pulled their own version.

So if you've got two games coming, it sounds like the publishing is working out well. Is it something you're still doing in addition to the PR stuff?

We're definitely looking to expand our publishing, but not necessarily eliminating the marketing side. For certain developers, different developers have different needs. Some developers want to publish under their own brand, and have the capital available to hire us on a project basis. Whereas a lot of other developers don't have that capital necessarily, and would rather partner with us as a publisher.

You used OpenFeint in Hand of Greed, right?


And what do you think of Game Center so far?

From what I've seen, I'm very interested. I think that the features keep on expanding, and the scope of what it is continues to expand. I'm very optimistic about it, but at the same time until I see it in action, it's all kind of, I guess I would say the proof is where the pudding is, and right now OpenFeint does deliver. Game Center will come, but there's always the possibility of delays.

If you decide to go with Game Center, do you think it would be to the exclusion of something like OpenFeint?

I think having both of them in the app would be confusing for the consumer. Unless OpenFeint comes up with some way of subordinating itself or hiding itself a little more, so it's not as much clutter for the gamer, the user.

Great. Thanks a lot!

Thank you.
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