Last month I attended Shanghai Barcamp 10. It's become something of a tradition for me to give a talk on a slightly offbeat topic at Barcamp, whether it's Love Hotels and Unicode or HTML5 and sarcasm.
Zynga, the billion-dollar company behind popular Facebook games like FarmVille, CastleVille and Super Mafia Fish Zombie Wars, has something of a reputation in the iPhone development world. Now they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Nimblebit, the indie developers of a game called Tiny Tower weren't too impressed when Zynga brought out Dream Heights, a pretty transparent ripoff of their game.
Now, Zynga did get called out on this by sections of the gaming press and reviews of Dream Heights consistently pointed out the similarities. However some of the reviews in the iTunes App Store were positively glowing... which isn't too surprising when you find out who left them.
More Sh*t iPhone developers never say:
Hmm, Xcode is one of the few apps I know which actually has a dialog with a button to deliberately make the app crash.
A week is now normal but you'll never get an approval in one day, even if you use Apple's expedited review system. And of course if you get rejected, you need to start all over again.
Yes, it's cool to see that your app is ranking well in lots of countries. But it won't actually get you any revenue. In reality, particularly for games, there are only two countries that really matter, the US and the UK.
If you can rank highly in one of those two countries, then sales on China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, France and Germany may help. Anywhere else? You might be able to buy a coffee with your app revenue, but you probably can't pay anyone's salary.
Now, I've been thinking a lot about Instruments - the tool that Apple provide to help you analyse memory and performance in your apps. And it occurs to me that Instruments is a lot like IKEA.
First, have you ever been to IKEA in Shanghai? The first thing you notice is how crazy busy it is! There are people sitting in the couches, lying in the beds, having picnics in the middle of the lighting section. Same with Instruments, you launch it for the first time and WHAM! There are graphs, buttons, toggle switches, hundreds of icons you don't recognise, timers...
Second, everything in IKEA has weird names like POANG and BILLY and SMYG, and you have to figure out that they actually mean "bookcase".
Same in Instruments - you can be really familiar with the iOS SDK and yet when you launch Instruments you're confronted with a huge amount of new vocabulary. Shall I track the inspection head? What are highlights? Do I need to change the sampling rate? Am I stacked?
After you've been to IKEA a few times, you start to learn the shortcuts, those sneaky passageways that allow you to skip straight from bedding to houseplants and get in and out in less than 45 minutes. And with Instruments too you quickly learn the important parts of this complex beast that actually help you improve your apps and soon you too can feel like the King of Instruments.
As an iPhone developer, everyone wants to be your best friend.
You quickly get on to the mailing list of every ad network, virtual currency provider, game publisher, lead acquisition network, analytics provider, and so on.
And everyone wants to be your best friend! Do you have time for a Skype call to discuss integration possibilities?
To get started, you just need to download and integrate our SDK. It only takes 5 minutes!
Of course, if you actually integrated all these different systems, you'll end up with a very bloated app, full of ads, making endless requests to third-party servers, and constantly be having to update the different SDKs. Consider your needs (usage statistics, monetarization) and seek out suitable partners, rather than fall for the marketing tricks of middleware providers.
Here's how provisioning profiles are supposed to work.
Here's how provisioning profiles actually work.
People who download apps love to leave reviews. And they're never afraid to give their opinion, particularly when that opinion is strongly negative. Reviews are great for letting people let off steam, but in terms of getting actionable feedback to make your app better? Not so much.
So I started wondering - who exactly is this guy spec29 who leaves negative reviews on all our apps? Why is he so mean? So I looked him up on Weibo and found out it's actually this guy.
And of course, you'll never hear me say:
The holidays are coming, and we're hoping for a big sales spike of our game...
As an independent developer, you're not just competing against companies like you, but also mega corporations like EA who have triple-A franchies like The Sims, FIFA or Tiger Woods PGA Tour.
The iTunes App Store is already a race to the bottom in terms of price. And when these kinds of title are on sale for $0.99, it just adds to regular users' impressions that anything more than $0.99 is a ripoff.
I've certainly never heard any iPhone developers say:
We've all heard of Apple's "Reality Distortion Field". Let me show you how it works. Here's iAd in Times New Roman:
Now here's iAd in Myriad Pro Semi Bold. Check out how much cooler, how much more Appley it is. I want to be advertised to!
One more thing:
If Apple ever decide to feature your app it's generally a case of the gods smiling on you - sound the heavenly trumpets and go ride the wave of free publicity!
One last thing you'll never hear an iPhone developer say: