Developer calls out Apple's 'disastrous' App Store update in iOS 6
Visibility shot to pieces, claims Lightwood Games
Alterations to the App Store launched via iOS 6 may have initially fostered a flurry of positive feedback – the sharper visuals a notable improvement for many – but one developer believes, from an indie's perspective, the changes are nothing short of disastrous.
Taking to his studio's blog, Lightwood Games founder and CEO Chris Newman lays out just where he believes Apple has got things so wrong, starting with the decision not to include a new releases section in the charts tab.
Your attention please
"For a small developer, this is terrible news," opens Newman.
"Although it’s only for a short period, the 'new release' exposure is extremely valuable. It's our opportunity to grab people's attention, build the initial user base and gauge the public's reaction without needing to spend a fortune on marketing."
New and noteworthy releases can now be found in the categories section under games, but Newman claims their disappearance from the charts tab will simply help games already at the top of the charts stay there.
"How does a new app break through? There is absolutely no way of being discovered unless a user is linked to your app directly, or searches for the app by name," he continues.
Other regrettable changes, he claims, include the new side-swiping format for search results, which he suggests are a "painful" process to navigate, penalise apps played in landscape mode, and mean there's not enough room to see an app's entire name.
"There are dozens of word search games that now appear to have identical names," he adds.
"If you're looking for ours and know the name but don’t know what icon you're looking for, good luck."
On a more logistical note, Newman says Apple has undermined the store's search algorithm.
Now, he states, searching for something as simple as "word puzzle", or a developer's name, delivers an initial page that prompts the user to search for additional phrases, rather than the results themselves.
It's a change that could result in consumers going around in circles, unaware the app they want is just a swipe away.
Time to switch focus?
Finally, Newman points out that developers websites designed to redirect users to their games on the App Store no longer function with the new marketplace – an error he describes as "catastrophic".
"We shouldn't expect Apple to do our marketing, but we do want a chance to be noticed. I believe the new App Store removes that chance completely," he closes.
"We had a Halloween-themed game planned for release on iOS next month. I'm now giving serious thought to axing that project and concentrating our efforts elsewhere.
"Maybe we could have four or five launch titles on Windows 8 instead of three. Perhaps now's the time for us to start working with Windows Phone.
"But I'm responding to this very quickly and very seriously. If you're a developer, you should do the same. If you don't already have a contingency plan, make one."
You can read more of Newman's concerns about Apple's App Store update in his interview with PocketGamer.biz.
[source: Lightwood Games]
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Chris Newman | 20:37 - 26 September 2012
I'm seeing new releases for Paid and Free on both iPhone and iPad at present. The way these are described (below "New" in the "Featured" section) is terrible, but if these stay (and people realise what they are) it's actually better than iOS 5 - you can get a separate list of new releases just for free apps!
Pete Morris | 14:35 - 25 September 2012
Keith - I was just speaking from my perspective as user of the App Store. I wasn't dismissing the whole article, just putting forward my perspective on the points that I disagree with. I wasn't criticising you, I speaking about the person who wrote the blog that your article refers to.
To me, if I want to search using the term "racing game" for example, side swiping through a list of screenshots is a lot more useful than scrolling through a list of names and icons (a lot of which are purposefully modelled after more popular apps in order to confuse users).
If you click "See All" on the charts you get a vertical list. Perhaps if they added in that option to the search results pages (so that you could switch to a vertical view) it would help people who don't like the horizontal scrolling? For me though, the main point is being able to see the screenshot (which there probably isn't enough room for when scrolling vertically).
I can't speak to the smoothness of the UI, except to say that on my iPhone 4S the App Store runs very smoothly, and I haven't experienced any crashes at all.
My main point was the developers should be marketing their apps, not relying on Apple to drive sales for them. That's not a business, it's a lottery.
Chris - Yes, I see your point about having to scroll through 20 apps that you've already tried out. However, it's hardly going to be a common use case is it? 99% of searches aren't really going to be affected by the context you mention, at least in my experience.
Keith Andrew | 16:09 - 24 September 2012
Mitch - Indeed. I think the sidescrolling ethic doesn't really fit iOS. Makes iOS look rather archaic.
Graham Ranson | 15:46 - 24 September 2012
From my own testing with our apps, it seems that a link to our company name yields an error but a link to a direct app will work fine.
i.e. this works - http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blox/id507498014?ls=1&mt=8
but this doesn't - http://itunes.com/apps/glitchgames
Mitch (Dave Mitchell) | 15:38 - 24 September 2012
"I think if the horizontal scrolling was more fluid, this would be much less significant. But it takes a real effort to go from page to page if you want to skip a bunch you've already seen."
This is I believe one of the big problems with the Search. It's very very clunky, slow and as a user it is not enjoyable to browse through.
Chris Newman | 15:25 - 24 September 2012
Pete, as you have one device on each version, try http://itunes.com/apps/lightwoodconsultancyltd on iOS 5 and iOS 6 - you'll see the difference.
Then, search for something you're interested in using a fairly broad term (e.g. "jigsaw puzzle", "racing games", "rss reader") and suppose you have already downloaded - or evaluated and discarded - the first ten or so search results. How irritating is it to try to find a new app on iOS 6 compared to iOS 5? What about if you have already seen the first 20? Or 30?
You may not search this way, or have so many similar apps, but plenty do. It hits us hard because we deliver to a niche (puzzle games) and with that comes fanatical users, who do want to try all the new stuff and not just be told about Words With Friends over and over.
I think if the horizontal scrolling was more fluid, this would be much less significant. But it takes a real effort to go from page to page if you want to skip a bunch you've already seen.
Keith Andrew | 14:15 - 24 September 2012
Pete - Speaking personally, while the overall look is sharper, I think it's a little blinkered to dismiss every single one of the points in this article.
The search results are especially clunky in their delivery - not that I get to see them much, given the App Store now crashes for me almost every time. (I have been able to download a total of 2 apps since iOS 6 launched.)
Pete Morris | 13:54 - 24 September 2012
Personally, I disagree.
I have to say that, from a user perspective, having all of the new releases thrown together wasn't useful at all. I haven't upgraded my iPad to iOS 6 yet, and I'm looking at the New Releases section right now.
There are 249,055 new apps listed! Not only that, but a huge percentage of them are substandard, or Chinese language (often both).
If I want to browse what's new, I'd much prefer having my attention drawn to the cream of the crop, instead of having to wade through a quarter of a million options.
There are plenty of low cost solutions to get your app noticed, and get some traction. There's SEO (Google's mobile search even puts an install-like button right in search results now), blogger outreach, and cross-promotion to your current user-base within your apps. That's just for a start.
He says that early installs are useful to see how people are responding to the app, but the fact is that you ought to be validating your idea in some way before you build it!
As for the side scrolling search results, I like those too.
Let's face it, the app icon has long been used-and-abused by copy-cat developers shipping poor product and hoping to jump on someone else's bandwagon. An icon isn't a particularly good indicator of quality, but a screenshot is.
I'm sorry, but it's completely obvious that you can scroll through the list with a side swipe - this is basic iOS user behaviour - nobody is going to stare at the screen and think that there is only one result.
As for web-links not redirecting to the App Store, this is plain incorrect. I've tested a few just now on my iPhone, and every one of them switched context to the App Store and took me to the landing page for the appropriate app.
In my opinion, this is the right move for end users - exposure ought to earned through ingenuity and a good product; it's not a basic human right.
No business should be built around a single source of customers...
Katherine Gordon | 11:09 - 24 September 2012
It's not just the change in New Releases, it's the change in search results too. Discoverability for anything not already popular has fallen dramatically.
New Releases isn't our only marketing strategy, obviously, but we've seen that being new clearly helps. Our last game was released a day early when we weren't ready with our marketing, and whilst we were asleep. We saw a good number of downloads before we'd managed to tell anyone about the game - a good indicator that New Releases made a difference.
As for not being serious game developers - Celebrity Love Match is intended to be a silly Valentines game which is only still around because people seem to like it! Whilst we don't make big name games, we've been making puzzle games for some time now. We have a loyal customer base who we cross promote to successfully, and who enjoy our puzzle games. Our big titles take classically solo puzzles (like word search, jigsaw and sudoku) and give them a crazy multiplayer version. Try checking out those before telling us we're not serious! :)
Vince | 06:26 - 24 September 2012
I agree with Simon Edis!
Also... looking at their catalogue of games..perhaps they should start developing games seriously too? A Celebrity love match game with IAP to remove ads? seriously?!
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