After it was awarded Apple US' Game of the Year award for 2011, Tiny Tower was growing at a rate of 16,000 players a day, attracting a total of more than 1 million daily active users.
It's since gone on to been downloaded more than 10 million times, gaining critical and commercial acclaim, not to mention the jealousy of other companies.
And now with the forthcoming release of Pocket Planes, developer NimbleBit is offering its audience a sequel (of sorts), preserving its pixel-art aesthetic while relocating its accessible sim gameplay to an international airport.
We caught up with NimbleBit co-founder Ian Marsh to find out more about the company's latest free-to-play offering.
Pocket Gamer: How has your experience modified your approach in terms of Pocket Planes?
Ian Marsh: I don't think our experiences have modified our approach all that much. If anything they have validated our philosophy of making a fun free experience first and foremost and being generous to users.
I think we have proven that making an experience people really love is just as effective a monetisation strategy as finely tuned paywalls.
With a matching aesthetic and a freemium business model, it'd be easy to label Pocket Planes as Tiny Tower with airports. What's different about it?
They do have some things in common, including the popular pixelated art style along with the lovable bitizens and a ton of character.
While Pocket Planes is about as casual and approachable as Tiny Tower on the surface, it's a sim that can be as complex as you want it to be. Power users can use the wealth of stats to really fine tune their airline, from upgrading or swapping out different planes, to moving an airport to a nearby city to shave miles off a route.
There is also team-based online competition in Pocket Planes. Flight crew teams compete in events every week trying to deliver the most jobs to special events, with rare and valuable prizes.
NimbleBit famously issued a public 'congratulation' to Zynga when it launched Dream Heights. Are you concerned that Pocket Plane will spawn its own imitators?
So far nobody has been able to reproduce a NimbleBit game with the amount of detail and charm our fans have come to expect, so I'm not that worried.
Now you're an established studio, will you be planning any official marketing for Pocket Planes or are you happy to rely on organic channels?
We've never paid for advertising, and we're happy to continue letting our fans spread the word for us!
You're working with DeNA's Mobage to bring your titles to Android, but you self-publish on iOS. Why the differing approach?
iOS is where we started and is what we have the most fun developing for. Along with being our most profitable platform, it is feasible to develop for iOS with a three-man-team while that would prove quite a challenge on Android.
Luckily, Mobage has a large team of developers familiar with the ins and outs of Android development.
The 'bux' premium currency in Tiny Tower was primarily used to instantly resolve long waits for players. Does the freemium business model require developers to manufacture frustrations for the player to buy their way out of?
Certainly not. Many games are successful by tying IAP into their games in other ways than "speeding up the clock".
I think in sim or building games, where waiting is core to the game itself, the most obvious way to apply premium currency is to speed time.
I think only providing that premium currency by way of IAP would be a bit sinister though.
Thanks to Ian for his time.Pocket Planes doesn't yet have an official release date, but it will have soon, we hope. You can check out the action in the following video.
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