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WWDC 2010: Matt Martel's reMovem 2

We're meeting all kinds of developers at WWDC in San Francisco this week; some from big companies with big resources (and stay tuned -- we're talking to a few of this week's Apple Design Award winners later on), and some hard-working, smaller groups.

Matt Martel's Mundue is the second kind of developer. He makes the reMovem app; it's a simple little game that has you removing colored balls from the screen (in order) and trying to completely clear the board. The idea is simple and fun, but the app has grown extremely complex; it has been downloaded over 6 million times, and is now available in thirteen languages across several versions.

Martel sat down this week to show off reMovem2, which is the iPad version of his app. The main difference, he told us, between the iPhone and iPad versions of the game is the screen size, but the fact that you've got more room to play with really opens up the gameplay. More balls to match can mean greater difficulty, but it also means larger scores. And though Martel started out with a single game mode, the iPad version incorporates four different modes, the option to add extra themes, a chance at in-app purchases, and, as he told me, lots of different opportunities with iOS 4 and Apple's upcoming Game Center.
Martel says he's continually updating even the older versions of reMovem. Just last week, he added OpenFeint's leaderboards and achievements to the app, and he's been surprised by the results. While he's only seen around 10% adoption (only about 10% of his users have created OpenFeint accounts and used the features), his OpenFeint players are extremely dedicated. Some of them, he says, have already beaten the achievement for scoring a million points in a single game (something it took his wife a few days to do).

As much as OpenFeint has worked for him, however, Martel says that it's a "total win with Game Center" for his games. Apple's service will allow every single one of his users to already have an account on the service (since it'll be tied to iTunes accounts), and since he doesn't use much but leaderboards and achievements, he says "there's not a whole lot it doesn't do" that he wants.

iAds is another story ... for now. Martel currently serves up ads in the free version of reMovem with a third-party mobile ad company, and when iAds comes out, he'll be looking closely at Apple's network to see "if one is a clear winner" or not. While he's a little worried about having technical issues with iAds -- "it's like a black box," he told me, "there's nobody to go to when it fails" -- he is intrigued by the cross-promotional opportunities in the service, which will allow him and other developers to spread the word about their apps through iAds directly.

One thing Martel isn't so cautious about is price; the original version of reMovem is 99 cents, and the iPad version is free and ad supported. Martel says that it wasn't a "huge investment" to get the ad ported across, so he wasn't worried about pricing that version of the app higher. I asked him what he thought of other developers who said that prices on the iPad needed to stay higher to avoid the "race to the bottom" that was seen on the iPhone, and Martel disagreed. "I think that ship sailed," he told me. "There's going to be the equivalent of the race to the bottom on iPad, too."

There are still opportunities for him to make money; he included a "theme" system on his iPad game, and he built in the opportunity to sell themes via in-app purchase in the future. He's also considering an opt-out purchase to get rid of the ads, as that would offer people who were willing to pay a chance to show their support. However, he also says that he wants the biggest audience he can get, so cheap and/or free is where he wants to be.

Martel says that his app is popular because he was able to get this idea on the App Store first, and it's a simple game that "people can relate to." He hasn't had a lot of support from Apple. In fact, they actually featured an app by one of his competitors that he felt didn't execute as well as his app did. His app is popular, though, and he seems committed to bringing out regular updates that answer some of the bigger customer requests he's had.

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We're meeting all kinds of developers at WWDC in San Francisco this week; some from big companies with big resources (and stay tuned --...