Interview

Why Apple Arcade brought Spry Fox CEO David Edery back to mobile

"I'm glad Apple is making a major effort"

Why Apple Arcade brought Spry Fox CEO David Edery back to mobile

With discoverability in the gaming market becoming increasingly difficult by the day, we've decided to shine a light on the many amazing and incredibly interesting indie developers out there.

So welcome to the Indie Spotlight, where each week a developer tells us about their life and work, and the challenges facing indie developers in the modern mobile and handheld market.

This week, we spoke to Spry Fox co-founder and CEO David Edery, who discussed the formation of the US studio and launch of Cozy Grove on Apple Arcade and Nintendo Switch.

PocketGamer.biz: How did you get started as an indie games developer?

David Edery: Daniel Cook and I became friends while we were both working at Microsoft on different games-related businesses.

Both of us were eager to take some creative risks that we knew weren't possible in our roles at Microsoft.

At that particular moment in time, things like free-to-play games and mobile were just beginning to emerge as exciting new markets, so it felt like as good a time to make the jump.

What is a typical day in your life as an indie?

Well, first I think it is worth clarifying that the term "indie" can mean a lot of different things.

Spry Fox was an indie when we were two people. Now we're 20 people but still indie. My life was very different back then.

Truly great games made by excellent developers are failing to connect with audiences...
David Edery

Now, on any given day, I'm spending a chunk of time in the group via one to one meetings with my colleagues, doing production-related tasks, interacting with our community, and of course, the occasional business or legal task.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far as an indie?

Learning how to focus and give the market exactly what it wants at the moment it wants it.

How do you define ‘success’?

Making our players (hopefully many of them) happier than they otherwise would have been without our games, as well as paying everyone in Spry Fox a comfortable wage that meets all their financial needs.

Doing all of that that while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding crunch is a success.

Cozy Grove rolled out on Apple Arcade from March 18th, 2021.

What is your opinion of the mobile games market for indies right now?

It is extraordinarily challenging.

I made a decision a couple of years ago to entirely exit the mobile market, only to happily get sucked back in by an unexpected opportunity with Apple Arcade.
David Edery

Truly great games made by excellent developers are failing to connect with audiences and recoup their development costs because those games have not been ultra-hyper-optimised for a user acquisition-dominated market (which is what the App Store and Google Play have largely devolved into.)

It got so bad that I made a decision a couple of years ago to entirely exit the mobile market, only to happily get sucked back in by an unexpected opportunity with Apple Arcade, which resulted in our recently launched game, Cozy Grove.

I'm glad that Apple is making a major effort with Arcade to make it possible for developers to make premium games for mobile devices again.

Is it fair to say that Cozy Grove takes inspiration from Animal Crossing?

Yes, we've been very up-front about that.

Animal Crossing is a wonderful game with a surprisingly wide scope, yet we felt that we could bring something new to the genre with a couple of interesting new mechanics and a bigger emphasis on narrative.

Are you happy with the launch so far? Any details you can share downloads-wise?

Yes, we are very happy. I don't believe I'm permitted to say more than that, sorry!

What are your plans for the future?

We'll continue to support Cozy Grove for the foreseeable future, as it seems to have found an audience and we're excited to keep improving upon the game for that audience.

We'll also be starting up a new and bigger project soon, but I can't say anything about that just yet.

If you had an unlimited budget, what game would you most like to make?

Probably just a slightly larger version of that "new and bigger" project that I just mentioned.

Happily, I don't feel like we need an unlimited budget to do something that we'd be very proud of.

What advice would you give other developers on ‘making it’ as an indie?

Invest your time and energy into your relationships with other indies. Having friends to talk to, ask for advice and lean on when you're feeling glum, can make all the difference in the world.

Deputy Editor

Matthew Forde is the deputy editor at PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @MattForde64 talking about stats, data and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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