Playing: Triple Town

Triple TownTiny Tower has recently consumed more time than I should admit. My tower-ful community though is quickly losing ground to Triple Town’s cottages, cathedrals, and carnivores. The concept is simple. You own a parcel of land that needs developing to its highest potential. This is done by combining together object triplets. Bushes turn into trees, trees turn into houses, and so on. Life seems good, but not everyone shares the utopian dream for a city. A cadre of cute, yet contrarian bears continually conspire to bring a special brand of chaos to your carefully constructed calculations.*

Triple Town is not chess. It does, however, require thinking a few steps in advance and being aware of how much space you have work with. Ignoring this will just limit growth. For example, randomly creating trees will allow for short-term point gains, but it will eat up space and make it difficult to create more valuable items later. Each board is randomly created: the initial playing field changes, the queue of items differs, and the bears move in different patterns. Together, this creates a distinctly new game each play, increasing its replay potential.

The game is free is to download, so for the developers to monetize, the player initially receives a limited number of turns before either having to wait for turns to organically increase or by paying to completely and permanently unlock this restriction. Thankfully, the game comes with enough “free” turns to play a couple of rounds before running out. Unfortunately, by that point your hooked and the $3.99 to unlock the game begins to look like a great investment.

* Note to self: Alliteration kills.

The Mobile Developer Journey

I have not abandoned this blog. I have in fact been helping a local company here with their product development. I’ll write further about them in the future, but for now, let’s just say I’m on what Vision Mobile would call the Mobile Developer Journey. The graphic summary of this journey was good enough for me to share.  I wish they had spent a bit more time discussing the monetization challenges, but maybe that’s just my fault for not yet reading their report.

I’ll be back soon with more about my work. In the meantime, enjoy the pretty pictures.

The Mobile Developer Journey

The Real Customer

I enjoyed reading Steve Johnson’s post on who the real customer is over on his Product Marketing blog. I’m not sure if Steve has a Telco background or not, but his comment regarding the person who uses your device being your customer, is spot on for this industry. The  manufacturers who maintain direct contact with their end users tend to be the most successful. There are some who attempt to make their living catering to operator (distributor) wishes like LG and ZTE, but none ever seem to really garner significant mindshare.

Let’s review those that do.

Apple

I think we all know this story already. They are the poster child for making operators look like “dumb pipes”. Having completely flanked operators with their retail stores, music and app business, and line of personal devices, they’ve been able over the years to develop strong ties with their consumers. Globally, they’ve never been market share leaders, but those they served were passionate users. Their message rarely has been distorted by middle-men. What is the result? Operators bending over backwards to access that user base, breaking their internal rules and giving up revenue streams.

RIM/Blackberry

For years has been the de-facto choice for business users, offering services that other manufacturers either avoided or refused to compete on. So while they are struggling now, they built their success around “Crackberry” addicts. Operators couldn’t help but stock their products for fear of user revolts at their enterprise accounts. Even in the midst of their current troubles, the press and consumers still follow them without fail.

Google/Android

Obviously this story has not finished, but they do seem to be gaining traction at a rapid pace. Whether they continue to do that is still up for debate, however, their recent success is built once again on having a dedicated user base dependent on services that were not developed on the operator level. A “semi-open”approach  versus the walled gardens that operators are famous for have served them well recently.

Nokia

I hesitate to put them here due to their recent issues with delivering a compelling smartphone. However, they still command close to 40% of the global market. And in markets with less operator control, Nokia is still the standard. Their broad portfolio, targeted to multiple income levels and consumer segments, still has them as a force to be recognized. While not obvious in the US, there are still Nokia fanatics in plenty of other countries.

Manufacturer success is never guaranteed, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that devotion to end-users will be any less successful in the future. It’s sad to think how many operators consider themselves the most important person in the value chain. Obviously they have their own roadmaps to manage, but more often than not, it appears as though they forget who they actually while frustrating their manufacturing partners in the process.

Will Mobile App Subscriptions Affect App Revenues?

I was reading a Wall Street Journal article last night about how the New Yorker is attempting to publish paid apps on Apple’s app store. In it’s current form, visitors to the store must download each issue separately, incurring a $4.95 charge each time. Obviously this will be annoying to many consumers, especially in this age of content delivery. As such, the New Yorker is pressuring Apple to create a subscription like feature. And at that point, a really weird thought popped into my head.

Would the introduction of subscription apps affect the ability for single-pay applications?

Give me a second, let me walk through my thinking:

  1. Consumer “Joe” is an active iPad user and spends about $10/month on applications, music, etc. He’s grown accustomed to seeing bills of this size from Apple.
  2. Joe now sees two of his favorite magazines are now offered via a subscription online for $4.95/month and decides to sign-up thinking, “This is great, more stuff for my iPad. And it’s such a great deal, as this is usually too expensive in print.”
  3. Now, his monthly spending at the iTunes store has doubled, making Joe worry he’s spending too much for this device. He now thinks he should cut back a bit.
  4. Not wanting to give up his magazines, Joe cuts back on other “silly” or “frivolous” games for his iPad, bringing his monthly spend back to it’s pre-subscription norm.

So I guess my question is this? Do users who fit under this or similar scenarios already unofficially pre-budget how much they’ll spend on downloads per month? And if so, will subscriptions quickly eat into the share of pocket that consumers like Joe would be willing to spend?

Obviously the content would have to be compelling enough, but subscription-based content has a long history and may seem “easy” for some consumers to quickly sign-up for on some platforms. Whether  these subscriptions will make it just as easy to opt-out remains to be seen.  If consumers get locked into long-term commitments like we see today in print versions, we might see an interesting blip on the radar of other application providers.

Reading Now: iPhone Human Interface Guidelines

I don’t know about you, but I still have that dream of creating the mobile app that allows me to retire. I know it has the same odds as a lottery ticket, but let me dream…

So while doing a search on user-interface guidelines  for mobile applications, I discovered Apple has a 150 page document explaining their approach to iOS. Considering they are the perceived leader of easy-to-use applications, it’s probably worth a few hours of time. As such, I’m now reading iPhone Human Interface Guidelines.

It’s possible I may be consuming more indirect Apple propaganda, but I did glance at a similar document from Microsoft. As soon as I saw them write “stick to standards”, I couldn’t stop laughing and moved on. But anyway, if anyone has any suggestions on user-interface design around small applications, please let me know.

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