iPhone offers 'opportunities and uncertainties' says Com2uS

Joony Koo talks RPGs, upgrades and App Store pricing

iPhone offers 'opportunities and uncertainties' says Com2uS
South Korean firm Com2uS is one of the mobile games publishers hoping to do well out of iPhone gaming, having already launched two titles: RPG Chronicles of Inotia: Legend of Feanor and action title Crazy Hotdogs.

We talked to Joony Koo, senior manager in Com2uS's international business division, about how the publisher is approaching iPhone, and its view on the market.

How excited are you about iPhone - do you see it as a big opportunity for Com2uS?

iPhone is a whole new market for mobile gaming. From the development environment to game launch and marketing, freedom can be found in all corners.

However, whether it’s an opportunity or not is yet to be found. More than 3,000 game applications exist in the App store and there are as much opportunities as there are uncertainties. One thing we are sure of is that all quality game developers and publishers will be competing with whatever they have in a much fairer environment.

For our first iPhone games, The Chronicles of Inotia: Legend of Feanor has been doing surprisingly well, while Crazy Hotdogs which I thought was more fit for iPhone was a little disappointing.

It shows clearly the opportunity and the uncertainty that exists with the Apple App Store.

What is your strategy with iPhone - are you mainly bringing existing mobile games across, or developing new titles?

There are some of our games that work better on the touch LCD user interface than the mobile environment. One example is Crazy Hotdogs.
Crazy Hotdogs uses all the buttons on the device keypad and thus uses the whole touch LCD screen actively. Our strategy is to bring only the games that would fit well on the iPhone gaming environment and then add game attributes and features. We take as much time and consideration on game design with the titles we bring over from mobile as our new iPhone titles.

Of course, we have a line-up of new game titles being developed targeting the iPhone and iPod touch in 2009.

What sort of games do you think will work best on iPhone? Do you think RPGs like Chronicles of Inotia are an under-served area?

With over 3,000 applications out in the Apple App Store, it is already near impossible to find a niche spot in the market and even if there are, the chances that that spot not being filled up by the time your application is ready is a very big risk – not really possible.

A hardcore RPG is not something that can be made in a very short time frame. When we first started our first Chronicles of Inotia project, we had in mind that this genre is rather under-served when on-line games or console games are flooded with RPGs. But we did not decide to develop this game only because of the niche that existed.

If you regularly visit forums, blogs and community sites related to iPhone games, you can see a lot of feedback and expectations for the games to come.

A few expectations include a game that provides long game play and replayability. So when a user downloads a game with a considerable amount, the game must be fun to play, needs to last long or can play the game over and over again.

An RPG like The Chronicles of Inotia: Legend of Feanor lasts long and for RPG fans it is very enjoyable. While for Crazy Hotdogs you can play the game on and on repeatedly as it’s a tycoon game but seems more like a puzzle game.

So, we do not target under-served areas in particular, but will be on a constant look-out for an area where there is potential user need. After all the reason why Com2uS exists is to provide fun and exciting games to the gaming audience.

How are you promoting / marketing your iPhone games, in order to make them stand out from the crowd of App Store titles?

The good thing about the App Store is that the content provider can communicate with the audience. The best marketing and promotion a content provider can do is to make a better game. Receiving such feedback from our audience is the greatest gift the App Store has provided.

The update version for The Chronicles of Inotia: Legend of Feanor is out based on the user feedback we have been receiving through our iPhone website, forums, blogs, community sites and, of course, user reviews on the App Store. More updates will follow with additional language supports for the global audience.
Crazy Hotdogs, though the recognition from the users is not hot, we will constantly update to satisfy our users.

So, our biggest marketing/promotion tool is reflecting the gamer/users' needs to our games and delivering satisfaction.

We would, of course, want our games to be bannered on iTunes or be selected as hot games or in the 'what we are playing' category. However, to do this, I guess we need more experience with our games and relationships with the right people.

There's a lot of debate around pricing on the App Store, and whether games around the $9.99 mark will become more common, or whether games need to be much cheaper to become popular. What are your views?

Responsibility follows freedom. With the App Store, pricing is a big issue as the top paid and genre menus seem to be based not on revenue but on download numbers.

To collect user awareness content providers can sell a very decent title for a relatively low price or collect awareness from a big brand and set the price at a high point. If the big brand is good enough, they will keep their audience. But if not, the users are less likely to buy that content provider’s game in the future.

This is why what the developers or publishers communication to the App Store audience is very crucial especially with price. Everyone knows what the price curve looks like. To make an outstanding performance, you have to sell extremely well at a low price or quite well on a high price.

It’s not rocket science.

What really counts is that ‘the game’ is worth more than what the users expect for the price they pay to get ‘the game’ and the CP communicates well that their games are always worth the price.

Finding this balance will be very difficult, but at least it’s up to the publishers now.

Are Korean users downloading App Store games in plenty of numbers?

Many iPod touch users exist in Korea and most of them download games from the App Store. As a Korean App Store is not in service yet, most Korean users use a friend’s account or make a foreign account from US, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.

Contributing Editor

Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)