The iPhone App Review recently spoke with Reto Senn, Chief Operating Officer of bitforge. He shares his experiences developing the award-winning game Orbital for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Interview for thephoneappreview.com with Reto Senn, COO, bitforge
How long have you/bitforge been designing games?
Bitforge was founded in Spring 2004 – our goal was to create high quality mobile games. Personally, I started programming mobile games back in 2003 when the first mobile phones with color screens appeared. It was a chance for small teams to create high quality titles. We were quite successful with our JavaMobile games, but the iPhone was quite a game changer.
Where did the idea for Orbital come from?
Adrian, the coder for Orbital and CTO of bitforge, was playing a game on his Android phone. He just wouldn’t stop. The game was black and white and pretty awful yet quite addicting. We found that the game was based on Gimme Friction Baby (http://www.addictinggames.com/gimmefrictionbaby.html). Andreas (CEO and Project Lead for Orbital) started playing online and just couldn’t stop. It took some time for them to convince me to play the game when I got addicted as well. As we were looking for a simple yet addicting concept we knew that was something we wanted to work with. One button games are something that appeal to us as mobile developers. There was a whole wave of them (and pretty good ones) on Java phones.
How did you go about bringing this idea to the iPhone?
We collected ideas on how to improve the game, started toying around with them until we took away everything that didn’t quite work or wasn’t fun to us. So the game is an essence of all our ideas. We also spent an incredible amount of time polishing the game. And we tried to push the limits on the graphics side. Andreas is very picky on subtle details so he pushed Adrian to the limits. But I think it was worth it.
How has Orbital performed on the App Store?
We had some success, especially when we were featured by Apple. Interestingly the game is doing very well in Japan, where it went to second spot in the puzzle games category and is still doing well there. We never hit a top spot though.
Have Orbital’s sales met your expectations? What do you believe it takes to succeed in the App Store?
We had some sales, so we’re not unhappy, but we expected more. The game has had great reviews, and people who bought it love it. So there’s definitely potential. As pointed out by Sam Dalsimer, we didn’t quite manage to create a hype. Currently it’s very difficult to get to the people if you’re coming with something brand new. It helps if you have a mass market brand which is recognized by people. Having a fan base and a community also helps.
Do you have any advice for developers new to the iPhone market?
Have a free version at launch, go with a PR company (e.g. triplepoint) and try to get as much coverage as possible.
Where do you see the app market in 12 months?
Some people were lucky when the app store was young. This will fade. The gold rush will be over, some will have managed to make themselves a name and to succeed, the others will stop creating apps. So there will probably be less new apps but the average quality should also be improving. And free apps will be replaced by apps with in-app purchase models, except for mobile advertising apps.
Are there any new bitforge titles in the works?
We are working on a game that won’t be released under our own name, and we’re thinking about our next title. But we’re not in production yet. Plus there are some other things going on with Orbital that I can’t disclose yet.