This is the final segment of my interview with Kate Connally, Vice President of AddictingGames. I once again want to thank Kate for the time she took out of her schedule to answer my questions, and I hope you've enjoyed reading her thoughts about AddictingGames' transition into the iPhone world. This time around we discuss how the users will feel about transition from the web to their iPhone, as well as what plans AddictingGames has for the future of iPhone development. This segment will conclude with a review of 50 States. Here we go again...
Me: Are there concerns that consumers will be reluctant to pay for games that they can play for free on the internet?
KC: The iPhone offers such a different game playing experience from the computer. As I mentioned before, our game development decisions are geared to take advantage of the new capabilities that iPhone presents. We intend for these games to be valued separately from the online experience.
Me: Will there be "iPhone extras" added to the ports to entice people to pay for the products?
KC: When we release more free versions of games, incentivizing the upsell via "Extras" will be an important part of that marketing. We have already seen great results with our Spongebob Tickler application.
Me: What concerns do you have that the game playing demographics of iPhone users are different than that of web based game players?
KC: AddictingGames has over 15 million visitors in the US alone, (ComScore, July 2009). That's a big audience, and we do focus on the teen-age to early adult demographic. This is a strong overlap with that of the iPhone.
Me: How frequently can gamers expect to see AddictingGames releases on their iPhones?
KC: We are gearing the iNetwork and our organization to publish frequently. That has been the lifeblood of building the following for AddictingGames online, and we want to extend that on the iPhone.
Me: Can you share any information about the next batch of products to come to the iPhone from AddictingGames?
KC: Sure, look for real fun stuff for Back to School in September. Some fun stuff celebrating high school, some fun stuff with photos. . . and a hit game from the AddictingGames Showdown earlier this summer.
Mini-Review: 50 States
I’m all for educational games. In fact, being married to a teacher, I enjoy finding useful software that I can pass on to my wife that might benefit both our kids and those she might teach. I’ve been especially intrigued with all of the educational games that I’ve seen on the iPod. Now I’ll admit that I don’t let my kids use my iPod at this point, but if I find enough things worth their time I might (reluctantly) consider parting with my device for some time each day or even break down and by them their own (one to share, of course). What better application to have in such a collection than one that teaches them where the 50 United States and the District of Columbia is? I have to confess that I’m not even that great at laying out this old country of mine.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure that 50 States will really help the situation any. If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn, kids need to be entertained. They don’t mind learning if they don’t realize they’re doing it, but you present something to them without much flair and they just aren’t interested. 50 States just doesn’t have any flair. The visuals are pretty basic: a green silhouette outlines the states, with the typical denotation of Alaska and Hawaii in the bottom left and right corners, respectively. The individual states are yellow silhouettes that you can drag around the screen. When you think you have the state in its proper place you click the “drop” button next to the state. If you’re right the state will just settle into place, and if you’re wrong a red highlight will appear on the map where the state actually goes. If you’re not sure where the state goes you can shake the device to get a new state, but either way you loose a point, so there’s no reason not to guess.
Once all 50 states and D.C. are placed it is game over and you can either go to the main menu or play again. Of course, there’s nothing to do at the main menu, so if you don’t want to play again you might as well just hit the button on your device to close the application. That’s all there is to 50 states, so for the sake of not really feeling like I’ve written a review yet, I’m going to offer some suggestions on how to spice this “game” up.
First of all, the game needs music. Even if it’s something users might consider cheesy like playing the Star Spangled Banner, put something in the background. Then, when a player successfully places a state, play part or all of that state’s song. And, as an added bonus, pop up a little window that displays some facts about the state, like its motto, bird and flower. Kids seem to actually like that kind of information, or at least mine do. Jazz up the visuals a little bit. Maybe the state could flash temporarily when placed in the right spot, assuming you didn’t need any help. When all the states are placed, shoot off some fireworks, and have something really cool if the player gets everything placed correctly without help. They could even do something like add a timer, so kids can challenge each other to see who can arrange all the states faster.
I really appreciate the fact that AddictingGames isn’t just trying to push out more fun but ultimately frivolous games. In the end, however, you’re still going to be competing against those games, even if you’re trying to do something meaningful and educational. As such, you have to work doubly hard to make your game stand out amongst both crowds, and right now 50 States just doesn’t quite do it.