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Bart Decrem on Tap Tap Revenge 4 and the Disney acquisition of Tapulous


Tapulous (purchased by Disney earlier this year) has released Tap Tap Revenge 4, the fourth iteration of the extremely popular iOS music game, and the new version brings a whole lot of new features to the series. The game is now compatible with the Retina Display, includes Game Center integration, and has quite a few new social modes that let you "like" various songs, as well as see which of your friends have also "liked" that same music. Like Tap Tap 3, it's a free app that sells music packs and avatars as in-app purchases, with music from artists in all genres, from Linkin Park to Rihanna, The Killers, and quite a few more.

Earlier this week, TUAW sat down to chat with Tapulous CEO Bart Decrem about the new game, and how his company has changed since it was not only acquired by Disney, but since he was placed in charge of the entire Disney Mobile operation. Read on to find out just how well Tap Tap Revenge 4 is doing (it's showing "the biggest download numbers ever," according to Decrem), and how he sees Disney's future in the mobile app space.

First things first: Decrem says that the latest release from Tapulous is doing terrific business -- when we talked to him yesterday, the app was seeing 35,000 installs per hour, and we both agreed that the App Store's biggest holiday sales were yet to come. "Numbers are so much bigger than they were last year," says Decrem. Not that last year was slow; since going to the free/in-app purchase model with Tap Tap Revenge 3, Decrem says the company has sold over 25 million songs both across the in-app purchase and the premium app options. "It's been remarkable," he says. "The business has multiplied in size over the last 12 months, so that part has really worked out."

Teaming up with Disney has helped Tap Tap Revenge as well -- Disney's ties to the music industry have opened up more artists than ever, and Decrem is looking forward to releasing indie music packs with the game from "labels like Epitaph" and other groups that Disney has allowed them to partner with.

Getting music in Tap Tap Revenge isn't the only deal that's come out of the acquisition. Disney has given Decrem the broad power of overseeing the company's entire mobile app division, so in addition to running the now 50-person Tapulous studio in Palo Alto, he also oversees Disney Mobile studios in Glendale, California and Prague. Decrem says he's working on the company as "a studio model" -- Tapulous will still be making its own original games, while the Disney Mobile studios will work on more traditional Disney properties. That doesn't mean we won't see Disney characters popping up in future Tapulous titles, though. "I think there may be Tapulous branded games that have Disney [intellectual property] in them," Decrem suggests. "I think that more often though, you'll see original IPs under the Tapulous brand, and then Disney IPs under the Disney mobile brand."

One thing the studios will share is a "network," says Decrem, of tools and services. "By now we have the Disney network up and running so to speak, so that anytime we put out an app, we have a shared analytics platform, we have a shared advertising and cross-promotion platform, so we can start running this thing like a network." Disney, says Decrem, wants to make the best apps on the App Store, and he wants to combine the know-how that Tapulous has gained from its iOS experience with Disney's own traditional and much-loved properties. "So I think of it as one network, one business, but then different studio brands that stand for different things. So the Disney mobile brand stands for the magic of Disney and those IPs, the Tapulous brand stands for really cool, cutting edge apps with a rock and roll attitude. That's the theme behind the studio."

Sounds interesting. Decrem says we'll definitely see some new original IP from Tapulous next year, and the Disney Mobile arm of the company is also working at delivering as many innovative apps as possible (case in point, the Tron app released with the movie last week). It'll be interesting to see how this works out -- Disney has put a strong vote of confidence in Decrem's Tapulous (and the App Store in general, considering how big Tapulous was in the early days of Apple's platform), and so we're intrigued to see if it can pay off the way they expect.

Update: A previous version of the post said TTR4 was earning 3,500 installs per hour, not the much larger total of 35,000.

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