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Avernum developer walks away from iOS

"I suspect that Apple would be ecstatic if 90 percent of game developers disappeared overnight" - Jeff Vogel

The prominent indie developer Jeff Vogel has walked away from iOS development after being forced to pull Avernum 2 from the App Store.

Vogel's problem stemmed from changes made by Apple's engineers between iOS 8.2 and 8.3, specifically those related to how the iPad programs, "make a window and register events." This happened between his role-playing games, Avernum 2, passing testing and its scheduled release. Those changes caused a number of huge problems for the game just a few days before it was due to hit the App Store.

Vogel tried numerous solutions, none of which worked, and his options were then limited. Using a new engine would be costly and time consuming, and there was no way of knowing that future versions of iOS wouldn't cause further issues.

"Remember, I'm competing against 500 new titles a day," Vogel said in a revealing interview with Venturebeat. "So I gave out. I suspect a lot of developers have disappeared over the last few years. They just didn't get noticed like I did."

"The real money goes to free-to-play money-drainers and simple puzzle games - that are also free-to-play money-drainers"

Vogel has been programming for Apple devices for 20 years, and in that time the company's tendency towards planned obsolescence of code has gathered pace. He acknowledged that those changes can lead to better results for creators and users, but there are times when it translates as, "obnoxiousness."

"It's just something you learn to live with, until you give up," he added. "And Apple doesn't care. Why should they? In 2014, 500 games came out on iTunes a day. A day. I suspect that Apple would be ecstatic if 90 percent of game developers disappeared overnight. See also: Steam."

And there is a business angle to Vogel's decision to leave iOS behind, too. He told Venturebeat that there is "a ton of money" in creating games for a device like the iPad, but the days when a tiny outfit like his company, Spiderweb Software, could get a reasonable amount of that may also be gone. When combined with the technical challenges Apple devices present, it creates a hostile environment for developers with limited resources.

"I'm just not big and savvy enough anymore to get a good chunk of that money. The real money goes to free-to-play money-drainers and simple puzzle games - that are also free-to-play money-drainers."

Yesterday, published an interview with Warner Bros. Interactive's Greg Ballard in which he said that the mobile market was, "no longer winner take all." However, while that may extend to a company of WBIE's size, it evidently feels different to a developer like Vogel, who has been developing for the iPad since its earlier, easier days.

Vogel believes that many developers have quit development for Apple devices for one or both of these reasons, and our own investigations would back that up. Last month, we published an article chronicling the experiences of three developers with varying levels of experience in making a living on the App Store. However, another perspective was offered by Rob Fahey, who identified the potential for success in addressing the many niche audiences that the biggest companies won't even try to address.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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