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iPhone  header logo

 IPHONE INTERVIEW

Chilling out with Zen Bound publisher Chillingo's Chris Byatte

Zen Bound and iDracula publisher outlines their strategy for success and future direction

Product: Zen Bound | Developer: Secret Exit | Publisher: Chillingo | Genre: Casual, Puzzle
For: iPhone
 
Zen Bound iPhone, thumbnail 1
For Chris Byatte, making successful games on iPhone isn't just a goal, but a reality. As Director of Chillingo, Byatte has worked to bring dozens of games to the platform ranging from arcade favorite Vector Tanks to number one hit iDracula and critical darling Zen Bound.

The company's portfolio is expansive, filling nearly every category on the App Store from puzzlers to role-playing to adventure.

Publishers rarely get the opportunity to experience a top ten title, let along a platinum scoring game. It puts Chillingo in an exclusive club of emerging powerhouses that are shaping the future of iPhone gaming. It's the result of a concerted effort to bring quality games to the App Store.

Byatte is committed to continuing this focus in the future. "Our aim is to release the best games for iPhone; innovative apps that really show what the platform is capable of."

Of course, that's easier said than done. The difference between a critical and commercial success can be stark; moreover, games can be well designed and still fail to gain critical mass.

Byatte offers more specific advice, "A developer needs to appeal to the masses and at the same time innovate enough to make their app feel special. If they can add in liberal amounts of polish to graphics, sounds, music and gameplay then they should have a hit on their hands."

But he admits that success is dependent on the intangible qualities of a game. "It is all of these things, with a sprinkle of the undefinable - the magic quality that makes a game feel 'right.' "

That quality is apparent in Zen Bound, Chillingo's platinum-scoring puzzler released last week. All the elements of superb game design have been invested, yet it possesses an unnamed quality that causes it to stand out in a digital store packed with thousands of competing titles.

Tanks for the feedback


Yet, Chillingo has its fair share of games that fail to garner as much praise. For all our jeering at Vector Tanks, the game has seen attention from gamers nostalgic over the classic days of arcade gaming.

Although Byatte begrudgingly accepted our criticisms, he's eager to point out the role these games play in the company's overall strategy. "Our aim is to cater for all buyers without compromising on quality from people who cap their purchases at 99c (i.e. iPingPong 3D) to premium price points (i.e. Zen Bound)."

The point is valid: different users want different experiences. Buyers of Zen Bound may not necessarily find Vector Tanks compelling and vice versa. Byatte highlights the need to reach out to consumers and introduce them to titles in which they would be interested. In short, targeted marketing.

Marketing is key...


"The most pertinent question a developer needs to ask: how can I market my game effectively? With hundreds of new titles appearing every day it's critical have a marketing plan in place."

He touts this sort of targeted marketing as a key factor in Chillingo's success. "We have a superb publishing track record of best selling games. With great relationships with online sites and offline media we can get the name out there, prolonging the life of the app and increasing revenues for the developer. If you like, we see our role as that of maximising the lifetime value of an app."

Evolving the approach is something Byatte sees as necessary for enduring success. Making good games by today's standards isn't enough to succeed tomorrow. Connectivity and the potential for high priced premium games are both areas in which Chillingo is eager to explore.

...and multiplayer is the future


"In the next year, multiplayer will play a vital part in the most successful games. An example, iPingPong 3D was launched as a single user 3D ping pong game. The multiplayer update for the game came as a natural progression, driven entirely by the user community.

"As mobile broadband becomes more and more ubiquitous and reliable, we foresee more connectivity driven apps." In other words, expect more to come.

Byatte believes in the strength of iPhone games to compete with their handheld counterparts in the forseeable future. Chillingo would support Apple in any effort to introduce a premium App Store.

"The closer the App Store moves towards the console market the better. Apple needs to embrace the higher price points in order to relate to the console developers - then the gaming crown can be taken from Nintendo and Sony."

Ultimately, however, Byatte's goal is to drive the company forward by publishing quality games independent of whether they're premium experiences or casual distractions. "Chillingo loves good games - that's what we stand for."
 

Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson 2 March 2009
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