And one app that’s taken the lion’s share of those downloads is Pocket God. The mini God-game by Bolt Creative has players take the role of an omnipotent being ruling over primitive islanders, where you can commit benevolent and malevolent acts towards your island’s inhabitants. Tomorrow the game celebrates its one-year anniversary, and at nearly two million downloads, it’s already the most downloaded paid iPhone/iPod Touch app ever.
Aside from letting sickos like me torment cute cartoony people on long subway rides, the app is only 99 cents and receives regular updates (29 since launch, with its 30th on the way).
Bolt Creative founder and Pocket God programmer Dave Castelnuovo took time out during CES to answer questions about his company’s flagship app, as well as his thoughts on the Nexus One and Android, and why he doesn’t think Google’s device and OS is an “iPhone killer” just yet.
Techland: Are there any plans to come to Android?
Dave Castelnuovo: Our business model is based around focusing our core team on the iPhone and then finding licensing opportunities for other platforms. We don’t have any announcements at this time but it’s possible that a partner company will be porting Pocket God to Android in the near future.
Techland: What are your thoughts on the Nexus One?
Castelnuovo: I think the Nexus One is a great device but it’s a long shot to call it an “iPhone killer.” I see it incrementally increasing the Android market, but I just don’t see the same level of anticipation that we all saw with the iPhone. Once we see people camping out for 24-48 hours for an Android device and then see lines continuing for days after the product was actually launched, then Google will have an iPhone killer on their hands.
Apple enjoys probably the best brand loyalty of any modern company and it just keeps on increasing. They are also considered to be the best in the world in product design, and with the success of the original iPod, many users are incredibly invested in iTunes as a platform for their music. It will take a lot for people to move to a different device and have to re-purchase their music again.
I also think there are some fundamental issues that prevent Android from taking off. It’s an OS that sits on different devices with slightly different capabilities so developers need to create their app for the lowest common denominator and skip the cool features of the Nexus in order to sell to the largest possible market. This also makes it more expensive to develop for Android because they need to test with every Android device. Not having multi-touch is a huge handicap when it comes to games, and while it’s possible to create games for Android, there are many types of games that require one finger to move, and a second finger to perform some kind of action like jump or shoot.
The final thing is the app market is just not currently big enough to generate any significant revenue. At one point, Larva Labs had the no. 1 and no. 5 best selling apps on the Android app store and they peaked at $100 per day and averaged $62 per day for both games combined.
Techland: What do you think of the copycat Pocket God games out there?
Castelnuovo: This is a hard question. At first, we were concerned that other developers with bad clones of Pocket God would ruin this type of game for everyone. We tried to resist it, but it’s probably inevitable that Pocket God will launch a new genre for the iPhone in much the same way that Flight Control started the line-drawing genre. The only realistic way of competing with copycats is to make sure we are at the top of our game and continue to engage our audience. I believe we have elements to Pocket God that are hard to replicate, the actual characters, the humor and our relationship with our fans.
Techland: Why do you think people like torturing these islanders so much?
Castelnuovo: I think people want to misbehave on some level and we provide a safe sandbox where people can misbehave to their hearts content. Humor in our society is gradually getting edgier and Pocket God is an extension of shows like South Park, the entire Adult Swim lineup, Family Guy, Jackass and Borat.
It’s also interesting when you look at the history of cartoons — the original Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker — they were all fairly violent in a tongue-in-cheek way. We try to keep our content at the same level of one of these old cartoons. We never add blood or gore and try and strike a balance to create something that is funny and somewhat inappropriate, but could still carry a PG rating.
Techland: What’s next for Pocket God? Do you plan on sticking with the 99 cent price point, especially with all the free updates?
Castelnuovo: Yes, our goal is to make Pocket God the must-have app for the iPhone by providing a crazy amount of value. We continue to update the app on a regular basis and constantly push it. In order to help monetize the on-going development we include a skin pack with each update that users can buy to customize their environment. However, the actual functionality and features for each update will remain free.