Something “interesting” happened on Friday around 4PM: we noticed that all of a sudden, all of the really malicious and nasty reviews sorted to the top of the review site. It looks like a competitor (or maybe just some malicious user?) decided to astroturf us by upvoting the bad reviews. It turns out that, while Apple requires that you need to have actually purchased the app in order to review it, anyone can go in via their iTunes account and click “Yes” to the “Was this review helpful to you?”question. Apple then sorts by the “Most helpful” reviews, “Most helpful” at the top. Since these reviews were the first ones people saw when they checked out our app, our rating began to plummet (would you buy an app where the top review was a one star review with the subject “Snoozers”?) We had been riding high in the top 20 or so paid iPad apps, and holding steady at #1 in Entertainment until then.
Archive for the “Thoughts” Category
Noteworthy? Well, we like to think so. New? Maybe not so much… but we’ll take it!
So I noted that the Google analytics on this website seemed a little off last Thursday night, but couldn’t find any posts linking back to us. Friday morning, I woke up expecting the usual dismal downloads and… we were above 150 downloads! For BallFallDown Deluxe, our $2.99 app. Something was definitely up. It took me a moment, then I went to the app store…because what will drive downloads? Pretty much nothing like getting featured by Apple.
And sure enough, there was BallFallDown Deluxe, front and center in the “New and Noteworthy” section. Note that this was 2 1/2 months after our initial launch, so clearly Apple interprets “New” fairly liberally. Anyway, so began a rollercoaster of a week. After some discussion with the rest of the team, we decided that the best thing to do was to have a sale and see if we could boost our numbers until the iPad2 launch (now tomorrow!). A good call, as it turned out.
So we actually launched BallFallDown last month! On December 14th, to much fanfare, or as much as we were able to muster. We got some great reviews (here’s my favorite) and some less great reviews, but overall things went relatively well for the first few days. We even featured in Apple’s “New and Noteworthy” in the Entertainment section, though that didn’t cause any massive download spikes.
Overall a good launch week as far as downloads go. The problem was the upgrades: we really haven’t had that many people paying for Deluxe version or other upgrades.
So, an interesting thing happened last Sunday: I got an email receipt from Apple for $59.99 for a… “Wheelbarrow of Smurfberries”. I had that immediate sinking feeling you get when you know exactly what’s ahead.
Lucas had been playing with the iPad the previous night and, since he can’t read, had inadvertently purchased these in the (very confusing) Smurf’s Village store. Since we had downloaded another app recently (Uno, recommended as long as you turn the sound off), he wasn’t prompted for my password, so was able to barrel right through the purchase (sorry…) Anyway, I was sure I had a long discussion with Apple and then my credit card company ahead, but Apple was quite nice about it and refunded the money right away (and yep, we deleted Smurf’s Village from the iPad, never to return. Sorry Smurfs.)
The past few weeks have been a little stressful, what with the final testing and submission to the app store. There are lots of anecdotes about the app store submission process but nothing really prepares you for the deep dark unknowningness of submitting to Apple and staring at the “Waiting for Review” status. For. Nine. Days. Nine days of internal calculus such as: well, if they reject this version and we resubmit by next Tuesday, then they approve on the second go around, we’ll still be out in time for Christmas. And Apple doesn’t make it easier by sending daily messages about the fact that if you’re app isn’t for sale by the 23rd, then you will have to wait until they come back from vacation on the 28th.
The release of BallFallDown, FlatPack Interactive’s first iPad App is getting pretty darn close. The excitement here at Flatpack Interactive is growing daily with the anticipation that comes along with the initial launch of any new product, let alone your first one!
We thought it would be a lot of fun to share with you what we are all excited about, so we put together this little video to give you a “sneak peek” at BallFallDown.
I hope you enjoy it!
and a billion ways to finish that sentence. Of course, my favorite is from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, but that’s not really relevant here, having neither guns nor shovels to discuss. What I am interested in are the results from our beta test, along with impromptu discussions from showing the app to friends, relatives, and random passers by.
OK, here’s my concern: yes, BallFallDown is open ended, but it’s still basically “screen time”. I read this NYT article on kids and iPhones and noted that much of the complaints from child development experts come from the fact that the interaction is between the child and the computer, not the real world.
This made me think about the comments we’ve been getting from our beta-testers with kids, who invariably commented that they were playing with BallFallDown together with their kids. Outside of games like checkers and tic-tac-toe, the games I’ve seen on the iPad don’t really encourage interactive play between kids, or adults and kids, and definitely not free form play. So I think we’re onto something. I may be biased, however.
Well, we released our first beta (I should really call it an alpha) to our huge posse of testers last week (OK, 7) and the forms are starting to trickle in. So far we’re getting really good feedback, and the major requests are already on our todo lists. But we’re starting to run out of time, and there’s still a ton of things to do. Who would have thought it was so tough to get an app released on the app store? Honestly, the construction and creation of the app itself has been the least stressful part of this (for me, at least.)
FlatPack was born from a few things: my interest in kids toys (despite a lack of any sort of manual or design skills), a feeling that the games available on the iPad and iPhone weren’t really that interesting (to me anyway), and I wasn’t that thrilled with my kids playing with them either. Oh yeah, and possibly a way to support the family. Well, a man can dream…
One thing that’s interested me is the question of what academic (and other) research says on this question of open ended play versus the kinds of childrens’ apps I see out there. Some of them are designed for kids, others not, but one way or another kids seem to end up playing with them, so I wondered what the effects were.