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Tuesday
May152012

Tales of an Also-Ran Part 1

“What I was really hoping for was to be one of those developers that started up, created a few completely forgettable apps, burned through some seed funding and then went belly up.” - no one, ever.

There are developers out there who are willing to do whatever it takes to “succeed”. We met one at GDC who told me proudly “I have bunch of guys in the Ukraine that knock out a new game for me every week”. To someone like this, success means ending the fiscal year with more money than you started with and, as far as I can see, nothing else. But for me, there is a guiding principle that I remind myself of daily-

Success is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s often said that Thomas Edison stated “I have not failed 1000 times, I have successfully discovered 1000 ways to NOT make a lightbulb”. I try to hold onto this idea as one after another of the apps that we’ve conceived of, built, and released completely fails to gain any traction. It is my firm belief that each and every one has something core to its being that is worthwhile. And every time we launch one, I’m one hundred percent convinced that it will be our Angry Birds, or Instagram. None of them has done it yet. But I believe in our ideas and I believe in the team.

Couplett is a great example. The app took way longer than you’d expect to go from concept to release - almost a full year. The reasons are many but one is that we weren’t content to simply do it - we wanted to do it right. We agonized over interface challenges, icon layout, user experience, etc. And even now, when faced with an app that isn’t making money, I’m hesitant to slap ads all over it since I think it would be ugly and detract from the experience.

So how long do you just sit back and trust that the next one will be “the one”? Or worse, when do you decide that none of them will ever be the one because you’re not willing to shovel crapware just to “get ahead” in any way you can?

Or worse still, when do you look at your work and realize that none of them is “the one” because none of them are good enough to be the one?

But there’s a problem with option 3 - when I compare any one of our apps with the top 100, I realize that most of them are as good or better, but there’s just something missing. What is that something? What takes an app from “also-ran” to success?