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GDC 2010: From rags to riches on the App Store


While we weren't able to stay the whole time (the life of a TUAW blogger at a covention is varied and hectic), the iPhone Game Developers' Luncheon at GDC 2010 was a pretty enlightening experience. After a little varied networking among guests, hosts PlayHaven, Cooley Godward Kronish (a law firm that specializes in startup companies), and MplayIt started up the panel discussion. The iPhone developers in attendance were Igor Pusenjak of Lima Sky (the creators of the very popular Doodle Jump) and Bryan Mitchell, a solo developer who created a game called Geared that's risen to the top of the App Store charts.

The most interesting thing we learned at the luncheon (in among a lot of legal talk about forming corporations and copyright law) was where these two developers came from. Mitchell was a filmmaker who had to work construction "after film work dried up in Las Vegas," and decided to jump in on the app business to make extra money. His game only made a few bucks a day at first, but after spending a little on advertising, Apple featured his game in "What's Hot." After that, he was off to the races.

Likewise, the Lima Sky developers came from humble roots. Pusenjak and his brother are from Croatia, and when the brother's job there looked a little shaky, Pusenjak decided to get into game design to try and earn his brother some extra cash (and himself some beer money). Doodle Jump was the latest in a long line of projects that included a bubble wrap simulator (Mitchell actually said he had five games that "failed" -- only had a few bucks coming in a day), and Pusenjak said that even though they "already had the computers," he feared at first that the $100 dev program investment might not have been money well spent.

Doodle Jump didn't fly off the shelves right away, either, according to the developers -- the very first day, they had 21 copies downloaded (which sounds pretty good, but they thought it was a minor start). But eventually, it got up to the point where they were making a few hundred dollars a week, and of course now the game is competing with Bejeweled as the highest-grossing game on the App Store ever.

Pusenjak also shared a little insight on how a developer should represent itself in the App Store. While there are good reasons to stay as an individual in the store, his company had to make the jump to a business account. It worked out better for them, but it took them a while to get around to changing the actual name listing in the App Store.

It wasn't the longest or most in-depth session that we've seen this week, but it was cool to get some more insights about the App Store directly from developers at the luncheon.

Update: A few corrections have been made to this post: Doodle Jump was not Lima Sky's second project, Apple changed Lima Sky's listed App Store name very quickly when asked (the delay was the result of the company, not Apple), and comments about App Store customer registration were misinterpreted.

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