Apple "investing a ton in the App Store" with iOS 8

Latest mobile OS coming this fall and will offer beta testing and previews for customers; new graphics optimization called Metal as well

During Apple's WWDC at the Moscone Center in San Francisco today, the company made numerous announcements surrounding the Mac, OS X Yosemite and iOS, but there were a couple that game developers will probably care about most. One is the improvement Apple is bringing to its App Store. With iOS 8 launching in this Fall, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that it's the "biggest release since the launch of the App Store" itself and Apple is "investing a ton" in the store. The second is a new optimization engine for graphics called Metal.

In addition to improved search, new editor's choice logos for apps, and the ability to sell app bundles (offering multiple apps at a discount), Apple is going to allow developers to put up preview videos on apps (which is a natural fit for game trailers, of course) and, perhaps more interesting still, Apple is starting up a feature called Test Flight - this function essentially enables developers to invite users to beta test their apps. Being able to beta test a game via the App Store will no doubt be very useful for many game developers who want to test out games before full releases.

With Metal, Apple said it's been working with leading providers of gaming engines (EA, Unity, Epic, etc) to offer the best possible results on iOS devices. Metal is designed to optimize performance and graphics specifically of the A7 chip. Epic boss Tim Sweeney took the stage to showcase an environmental demo called Zen Garden. Sweeney said that Metal offers a tenfold improvement in rendering efficiencies, and he noted that Zen Garden will be made available for free when iOS 8 becomes available. Apple also briefly showed EA's Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare and remarked on how the Frostbite engine now works with iOS thanks to Metal.

Other enhancements that Apple described included more improvements to SpriteKit (a 2D casual games engine) and the company announced SceneKit to enable developers to build 3D casual games. Apple also went on to introduce a new programming language called Swift, which essentially removes the baggage of the C programming language.

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Latest comments (14)

Pascal Clarysse Executive Consultant, Scale-Up Consulting Limited3 years ago
Test Flight is nothing new. Devs have used it to pass out pre-release beta builds for years:
The question is: did Apple just copy the thing or implement it within App Store? I'm guessing the latter since it carries the same name (Apple's lawyers wouldn't be that stupid) and since it's widely adopted by the community already.

On the other hand, the bundling and trailer video options are quite welcome (and in fact awaited with great anticipation through app marketers for quite some time).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pascal Clarysse on 2nd June 2014 8:16pm

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Jamie Read 3D Artist, Neon Play Ltd3 years ago
Hopefully the app store will give smaller devs more visibility, I don't like the way that your average user only sees the best-selling games. Also, why do most consumers care what is top grossing? Leave that off of the store for people interested in that data to view elsewhere, if companies are top grossing, they can afford advertising in other ways.
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Iain Stanford Experienced Software Engineer, Tinderstone3 years ago
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
There's nothing mentioned there that Android doesn't provide already. There's plenty of room to do it better though, so am looking forward to seeing this.

Apart from the bundles, I hope that doesn't catch on. What, we can now sell six apps for 69p instead of just the one?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 3rd June 2014 8:40am

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Pascal Clarysse Executive Consultant, Scale-Up Consulting Limited3 years ago
oh cool, thanks. Hadn't noticed. Good for them -- always loved that neat little tool.
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Abigail Scott iPhone Application Development 3 years ago
This comes in the form of TestFlight integration, which will allow developers to invite users to an open beta test of a game - for free - in iOS 8, and potentially reduce the need to soft launch the games in countries such as Canada and Australia.

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Chris Hunter-Brown IT / Games specialist, BBFC3 years ago
The (potentially) nice thing about TestFlight integration is reducing the friction in getting your test users to set up a TestFlight account, getting their UDID's, generating a provisioning profile, redistributing a build etc. That's been a bit of a pain point with a recent project, particularly when testers set up TestFlight on a PC thinking that's sufficient. If they can tie things up better with an Apple ID instead it'll be a boon.

I would share Paul's above concern about the bundles mind.
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Pascal Clarysse Executive Consultant, Scale-Up Consulting Limited3 years ago
about bundles: imagine you have released 10 games on the App Store over the last four years already, and sales have dropped down on 8 of them for months or years. Imagine you are releasing your eleventh game tomorrow and get featured here and there. You might bundle your old games for a low price to let new customers discover your old work on the cheap... You're not really sacrificing any money if the titles were already "sleeping" so to speak. For bigger companies, this makes even more sense (EA Mobile alone has 1000+ games on the App Store). Now imagine you are smaller and have only one hit at say 2.99$... Well, maybe you're working on the second one. Let's say you release it for 2.99$ as well. Well, maybe the launch window is a good moment to offer a bundle of both your games for 3.99$ -- makes marketing sense again. Certainly makes you more money than dropping it to free for a week just to give it a shot in the arm ;-)

One thing is for sure: for the last two years, most new marketing vehicles, tricks, tools and services were aimed at free-to-play titles. If you are still in the paid apps business and your premium games are difficult or impossible to convert as freemium, I think any marketing vehicle or eco-system move that gives you more marketing options is welcome -- it means they haven't totally given up or forgotten about that segment of the market. For the same reason, whether it ends up succeeding or not, I'm still happy to see companies like Mobiroo, NTT Docomo, Flexion or KDDI (AU) try something similar to the 'netflix model' for game apps. This means that despite the dominance of freemium, the premium market still somewhat has a pulse.

We already knew for a while that the App Store was volume play and that the level of competition makes it a cut-throat jungle; that meta-element is not new.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Pascal Clarysse on 3rd June 2014 8:05pm

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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
Hard to argue with any of that Pascal, that's a very nice upside argument. But it's the downside that I think will come to dominate, as it will be driven by the same forces that made a single game 69p.

I expect people will become accustomed to seeing all three of those apps-in-a-range you mentioned bundled for 69p, and after a while won't consider buying "just one" app for such a massive price.

(We're imminently releasing our 3rd great little war game next week, so I can see for myself soon enough! :) )
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Nick Wofford Hobbyist 3 years ago
Good luck on the release!
And I'm hoping that it goes well. I could also see bundling deals between studios happening. Maybe 3 different indie teams who've all released platformers could get together and work out an Ultimate Platforming Bundle including all of their games for a buck less (or something to that effect). That would breed some good inter-developer relations, and maybe facilitate some good industry connections.
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Pascal Clarysse Executive Consultant, Scale-Up Consulting Limited3 years ago
I wish you a ton of success with the third Great Little War -- I enjoyed the first one so much a couple of years back, sounds like next week is time for me to give you another dollar then. I promise I won't wait until you cheap-bundle it ;-)
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
Good to hear guys, thanks. :)

You'll need to pucker up a bit though Pascal, it'll set you back three of them there dollar things...
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development3 years ago
@Nick. I agree that cross-developer bundles would be a great thing. I'm certainly game if anyone wants to team up.

That does require a lot of joined up thinking though, like setting it up and ensuring the right money goes to the right places, who's in charge, etc. Can't see it tbh, but I hope my skepticism turns out unjustified on this front.
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Pascal Clarysse Executive Consultant, Scale-Up Consulting Limited3 years ago
3 dollars?! That's like. A rip-off, man. Do you know I can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks for that hefty price? ;-)
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