“There’s an Ad for that!”

I agree with a comment to an earlier post: The AppStore is a Gamble, which has a sequel BTW that describes how Hsiao Wei Chen has hit the SpotLight. So all’s well then! Right?

Wrong. With moving towards half a million apps, mostly games, thousands will hit New and Notable at some point. They will mostly still sink :-(

But what about the few Apps that appear on Apple’s iPhone Ads? They even have their own special iTunes link. Get your game on the TV, even for half a second – I timed it! – and you explode up the charts. That kind of patronage may well be deserved – I’m guessing there’s some selection process – but there’s still luck and/or money to grease the wheels. And it isn’t the Angry Birds types that get this; it’s the Apps you can communicate in what’s effectively a moving screenshot. Ones that are likely to sell the phone, like a “serving suggestion”, not the software. Having said all that, I’m still crossing fingers for Hsiao Wei Chen.

What was the comment I agreed with? It was Nathan Runge’s advice to go for a growing market (PSN, XBLA, etc) and build “What you can market”: being a bigger fish in a smaller pond (i.e. Windows Phone 7) is a better way to get your reputation. Angry Birds is free on Android – has to have been a Google kickback there, even with the inAppAds now – and Angry Birds is coming out for mainstream hardware (DS, etc) because they could migrate success from iPhone. It can work from WP7 to others too, if you’re quick. With Nokia and Mango hardware coming out soon, you can bet Microsoft et al are going to be pushing their marketing REALLY HARD. 

One of the games I’m hoping Microsoft will highlight is @AngryMango’s, BAFTA award winning MUSH, which started at last year’s Dare To Be Digital. Actually, it kind of started in an unrelated prototype at X48, a MS sponsored game jam event in Huddersfield, organised by game dev, producer and event manager, David Hayward (@nachimir), who you should hire BTW. I’d driven up a minibus of students, as I was going up to mentor/judge the teams’ efforts. However, when we got there the MS Academic Liaison at the time, Andy Sithers, had a couple of Zunes (never sold in the UK, strangely) and the beta Game Studio 4.0. So, he cheekily asked if any team would be interested in trying it out. 

My students, most of whom went on to form Angry Mango, asked my advice. Should they try untested software (they knew XNA 3 not 4) for absent hardware – Andy didn’t have WP7 devices, only the much less powerful Zune – to make a gesture-controlled game in 24 hours?

“er… yes…?” I replied.

It might have been a train wreck (it was) with non-functional code (yup) and lots of frustration (uh huh) but, hell, they’d learn something (they did); I am, at heart, a lecturer. So, they did play with uncertainty, and produced less of a game than other teams, but it impressed Andy Sithers.

Getting into Dare and winning the BAFTA one to watch nomination impressed his successor, Geoff Hughes, who is incredibly helpful BTW, hosting the UK launch of the Kinect SDK for Windows just yesterday for 80+ academics and researchers. He’s also put money where his mouth is, helping UK universities to source WP7 hardware for development. Useful chap!

The phones we at Newport received are all up at Dare again this year. We have two teams, @rebel_donut and @TandTechno, making WP7 games. Of course, they’ve got it easier – XNA Game Studio 4 is more stable and the phone has launched – but the competition is steeper. Other teams are using WP7 as the target platform. All hoping that they, like Angry Mango, will get signed up by Microsoft Games Studios. Hopefully, I’ll get my phones back, so I can continue to play with my own game ideas. Maybe get that Fable 4 virtual pet dog App endorsed by Peter Molyneux. Ah well. 

So, there may be “an Ad for that” but marketing takes many forms, and support to develop is useful too. WP7 may not have the Apps yet, or the install base, but it’s a smaller pond with fewer predators, and free food! And when you’re huge*, and money is rolling in*, remember me.

* possibly not going to happen