We spoke with the developers behind the best selling iPhone apps of all time. Here are their stories.
From there we called developers, and asked for sales data.
Angry Birds is a crazy phenomenon for the iPhone. It debuted in the middle of December 2009, and rocketed to the top of the charts. Its publisher tells us downloads are over 7 million for the iPhone, which suggests gross sales for the $0.99 game are well over $7 million.
Ville Heijari, a rep for Angry Birds explained the game's origins to us saying, 'The designers were playing around with several concepts, but one single mockup with the distinctive round, brightly coloured, flightless birds really stood out. In the beginning, nobody had a clear idea how the game would eventually look like, but the parameters were there: intuitive touch screen controls, physics-based demolition gameplay, and the unique, distinctive and loveable characters. The rest was simply making the correct design choices along the development.'
The iPhone app is just the beginning for Angry Birds. Rovio is looking at putting the characters of the game on TV, in movies, and on merchandise.
Doodle Jump is 'heading towards 7 million' downloads, says Igor Pusenjak, one of the two brothers behind the game. At $0.99 a pop, the company has had gross sales of $6.9 million, with Pusenjak and company pocketing $4.9 million after Apple's 30% cut.
How did Doodle Jump come about? Pusenjak tells us, 'Doodle Jump came about as we started working on a sequel to another one of our games (Eat, Bunny, Eat!), and realised we loved the hand-drawn placeholder graphics so much that we decided to create the entire game in that hand-drawn style. The result was magical - it was as though the little doodles from your notebook came to life!'
The original King of the App Store was Bejeweled which has had 4 million downloads in its history according to PopCap, it's maker. Pop Cap also calls Bejeweled the 'highest grossing app' in the App Store of all time.
'Bejeweled as a franchise is PopCap's company crown jewels,' says Andrew Stein, PopCap's director of mobile business. 'We sell more copies of Bejeweled 2 every month in the App Store and it is the only top launch title to continue to appear on today's lists of top revenue generating apps.'
Unlike other popular games, Stein says PopCap hasn't lowered the price of Bejeweled this year to drive sales higher. It is priced at $2.99.
Pocket God, a $0.99 game, is on its 34th update, and recently hit 3 million sales, says the company. You control characters on island, playing god with their lives. Bolt Creative, the company behind Pocket God describes it to us as, 'more of an open activity than a game. You can interact with the pygmies of the different islands in funny and slightly mean ways.'
Dave Castelnuovo, creator of the game, says he and his partner, 'made it initially as a sandbox for ourselves, in order to learn how to create our 'real' game on this new platform. It turned out to be so successful that we kept working on it and expanded it ever since.'
Flight Control is about to land its 3 millionth paid download, Firemint, the company behind the app, tells us. This is one of those games that gained a huge following and loads of buzz. Using your finger, you guide planes into their landing strip. As more planes appear on the screen, the game becomes more challenging. Blog mogul, Nick Denton is a big Flight Control fan.
Firemint's site says CEO Robert Murray liked the feeling of drawing on the iPhone screen. He wanted a game to match that feeling. After doing some research he decided on giving users the chance to be air traffic controllers.
Skee Ball is the sort of game that's perfect for the iPhone. At $0.99 it's priced to move, it uses the touch screen of the iPhone smartly and it's the sort of game you can show to people who just bought (or don't have) an iPhone. It's instantly familiar and easy fun. No wonder Freeverse sold 2.5 million copies of the game.
Freeverse was founded by 2 brothers in the mid-90's. Initially they focused on Mac gaming. When the App Store opened to third party developers, they took a shot at making games. A rep for the company thinks the games succeeded because of the company's 'sense of humour and high production values.'
Freeverse isn't a one hit wonder! It also has Flick Fishing, a $0.99 game launched in November of 2008, which has racked up over 2 million paid downloads so far. Freeverse, the company behind the game, had been around since the 90's making games for the Mac OS, but it looks like it found its groove with the iPhone.
After finding big success with Flick Fishing and SkeeBall, it was eventually acquired by Ngmoco, a popular mobile gaming company.
iFitness has sold roughly 2 million copies, according to its creator Hooman Zohoor. The $1.99 app helps people design workouts based on personal goals. It shows users how to do exercises with video and text instructions.
Zohoor is a practicing doctor who previously ran several fitness sites. He though the iPhone would be, 'the perfect tool for people to access the information.' Two months after the App Store opened, he says, 'I jumped in, and have not looked back.'
The Moron Test has been a top 100 app for over 500 days, according to two of its creators, Berkeley Malagon and Steven Malagon. The brothers wouldn't reveal their exact paid downloads, but we estimate that it's above 2 million, based on its sustained success, and the Distimo report we used researching this story.
When the Malagons, and two other partners built the game, they were working full time at other jobs. They made the game at night from 7 PM to 3 AM. It took off almost as soon as it hit the App Store, but they didn't quit their jobs for another 6 months. Berkeley says, 'Still to this day a kind of a shock.'
While they've racked up sales, and quit their jobs, they haven't cashed in. 'We only take enough money to pay our salaries,' says Berkeley.
EA wasn't willing to open up about Tetris' paid downloads, and frankly, we don't think the story behind it is all that interesting. EA is in the gaming business, so it made a game for the new platforms.
Regardless, we think any list that talks about the best selling apps would be remiss to skip Tetris. It's one of the best selling apps, probably around 1.5-2 million downloads.
While we're at it...here's other apps that are historical best sellers based on Distimo's report, and chats with developers:
- Red Laser, which is now free, was acquired by eBay.
- All-in-one Gamebox, which provides users with a bunch of games.
- Scrabble, another EA hit.
- Real Racing, a popular racing game.
Any developers out there feel like they should be on this list? Let us know: [email protected]
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