In the early days, before the ubiquity of stern-faced, wingless cardinals, Carlos Icaza needed to search, well, he nearly had to troll, the Internet for games built on his company’s mobile-app publishing software. Icaza, co-founder of Ansca Mobile, wanted to feature them on the company’s website. When Ansca’s program, Corona, caught on, Icaza then had 10 messages from developers each day, all using Corona, all wanting Icaza to showcase them.
This year alone has seen the creation of 6,000 Corona-based apps, including an upcoming game tie-in to Warner Brother’s Dolphin Tale. In the past, several reached iTunes’ and Android Market’s Top 10. The program’s popularity rests on two aspects, says Icaza, who quite Adobe with co-founder Walter Luh to start Ansca. First, for $349 a year, Corona allows a developer to build an app and then publish it simultaneously in Android and iPhone formats. This cuts down on hiring engineers to build separate Android and iPhone apps and the time expended on fixing the bugs in both versions. “We came from a world where we knew that you didn’t just write for just one platform,” Icaza says.
Then, Corona uses programming language much simpler than C++ or Java, which developers typically use to build native-based apps. Corona’s language tries to English commands as much as possible, Icaza says. This saves more time. In a best-case scenario, a developer could get a Corona-based game up and running within eight days.
Without Corona, the Dolphin Tale app wouldn’t have been possible, says, the film’s co-screenwriter, Noam Dromi, who was also tasked with marketing. Before finding a studio that used Corona, Dromi put out a request for bids, and the responses ranged between $160,000 and $210,000. While Dromi won’t say how much the Dolphin Tale game cost, he says, “We were able to do it for considerably less while not skimping on quality.”
Nearly every film’s creators debate whether a mobile app would improve the film’s marketing and brand out-reach, Dromi says. “The mobile phone is no longer an after thought anymore. I think we’d do ourselves a disservice (to not consider an app),” he says. Each app requires the Goldilocks Test: Is it just right? The idea that if you build, the users will come doesn’t work, he says.
A well-designed game will engage users at every level, Icaza says. It helps to find a way for people to compare scores, too, increasing the competition and a player’s drive to play longer. Heavy engagement with the game will hopefully lead to increased engagement with the brand. For a film’s app, this means seeing the movie. For Dannon yogurt, which has a Corona app, it means eating more fruit on the bottom. Although there’s no guarantee to either.
To Icaza, Ansca has found success because he and his co-founder stuck with what they knew and delivered; both he and Luh were familiar with mobile-technology development at Adobe. Also, it was crucial to embrace that initial risk. “You’ve got to put something out,” Icaza says. “You’re going to learn more about putting something out there than not putting something out, waiting for something to be perfect.” To any anyone who wants to wait for perfection, to fiddle until it could rival Angry Birds, Icaza likes to point out that Rovio, the company that created Angry Birds, released 51 titles before hitting it big with pixelated fowls. You learn from your failures, Icaza says, and Rovio learned 51 times.
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