Monday, March 29, 2010

The wild Apple AppStore adventure..... a year into it

Well today marks the first year since Tangled has been approved and I must say it's been quite an adventure. Now I know what everyone wants to see, they want to know how many sales I had and my marketing techniques. Well let's get one thing over with and here's the summary of the sales for Tangled:

As you can see there's no way I'm going to quit my day job ;)  To be honest I never planned to anyway. The summary doesn't really give out the whole picture though, the sales weren't steady for the whole year, this graph will paint a better picture:

The sales when I first released Tangled were WAY beyond my expectations, the initial feedback I got from communities like was good and I worked really hard to improve things but sales declined very fast but as soon as I posted the changes I made based on the feedback I had received they picked up again.... I had just figured out that the best way to keep my sales going was to keep getting feedback and update Tangled regularly. Unfortunately each update didn't bring back the same level of sales as the first two did. I did my best to improve the graphics but unfortunately I'm not a graphic artist :)  so I decided to turn to a publisher. I wasn't really willing to spend my own savings so I went for a publisher that was willing to work for a profit share. They promised me great things, new graphics, music and great marketing. I was very excited and I was expecting great things to come from Tangled especially with the help from "professionals", things we're going very fast once we got all the contracts signed and they sent me a rough version of the graphics they were working on and the future looked very bright for Tangled. Things slowed down and getting feedback from them took longer and longer and eventually they sent me an email telling me they were closing down and our contract wouldn't be good anymore (they gave me all the psd files for the graphics they made). The person I was dealing with at the publisher was very nice and was even willing to keep going with me (under somewhat different terms) but I decided it would be easier to just go on my own. This is how Tangled 2 came to life, I decided to take all the work I had done and get ready to submit it on my own.

To be able to release Tangled 2 I needed new graphics and music, I figured I would just hire a graphic artist myself. I thought it was going to be a pretty simple task but it turned out a lot harder than I had expected, I found lots of them had so-so portfolios and wanted s LOT of money, until I found a couple people who had nice portfolios and were willing to do it for a fair price. I picked one and we started working together but with the different time zones it was very hard to communicate and for some reasons the emails would always get "lost". After two weeks of getting no response I decided to ask the other graphic artist if he was still interested and he said he was and we actually got together that same night and worked for many hours to get all the graphics done. At that point Tangled 2 was really coming together and I managed to send it to Apple for approval very quickly.

During that time the sales for Tangled were fairly low, between September and December I was getting on average $5/day. In December most developers get a bump in sales and I wasn't an exception, my sales pretty much double to $10/day and stayed steady close to the release of Tangled 2.

Now this is interesting, lets have a quick look at how the launch for Tangled 2 compared to the original? Tangled 2 had everything it needed to succeed, an addicting game play, gorgeous graphics, relaxing music, achievements and Open Feint support. Well I had some problems with the launch of Tangled 2, unfortunately a bug slipped in and the game would crash on the first generation iPods and iPhones and this quickly led to some bad reviews. The bug was immediately fixed (same day as the game was released) but sadly due to the nature of the AppStore the update couldn't be made available right away. The update got approved today but the damage has already been done, while the game was on the first page for the new releases people would read that it crashed and just skip over it. We'll see if the update helps bringing back the sales but I think the damage has been done. Just for fun let's have a quick look at the evolution of Tangled from version 1.0 to 2.1 to Tangled 2

Tangled Version 1.0:

Tangled Version 1.1:

Tangled Version 2.1:

Tangled 2: 

So what do I have to say about the AppStore now? It's still a great place and a great opportunity for developers. I do still believe that a great idea will do very well (see DoodleJump or Zombie Farm). Sure it's saturated but there are ways to get your app noticed....I just haven't found the right way ;)

I am still a huge supporter of the platform and I have an iPad version of Tangled 2 coming out for the release of the iPad. I also have another game idea I've been working on with my graphic artist and one more idea I had today but this will be an iPad exclusive, I had thought about doing it on the iPhone but it didn't work on the small the iPad will be PERFECT :)

Well if you made it all the way here I want to thank you for reading the whole thing and please check out Tangled 2 and give me some feedback :)


  1. Congratulations man, awesome game. Wish you would develop for the Android platform as well though :( Would love to play this on my Nexus One.

  2. At one point I wanted to port it to Android but the current market share made me decide against it. I'm not sure if I would get a good enough return.

  3. Thanks for the detailed account of your adventure. I went through a very similar journey with my Create A Comic app for iPhone. I also tried for the android and after 3 weeks, I had sold only 20 copies compared to 300+ on the iphone, so I had to finally make it free on android and rely on ads, which is no fun.

  4. Where did you get the sales info from?
    I want to see the same thing for my app.

  5. Hi Billy,

    I'm always curious about the psychology behind spending thousands of hours of your labor for $5 per day. What makes you want to do it?

    I can see releasing one app and finding out that you only made $15. But what makes you keep on going for years?

    I'm not knocking it - some people like knitting; maybe you just really like to program. But I'd really, really like to know your motivation.

    Is it all the positive feedback and fame? Just something to relax? Or are you expecting to make more money at some point (and when??)