Ever since the iPhone and Ipod touch arrived the mobile and handheld gaming market took a huge jump. Both independent and established companies benefit from producing aps on the Apple marketplace, and the business is just as profitable as producing games on platforms such as the Nintendo DS or Playstation Portable. There is no doubt that the Apple market place is more accessible to indie developers than other handheld systems, and thus emerging companies are beginning to reap the benefits.
Anuman Interactive are one of the companies quickly gaining success from iPhone and iPad development. In 2009 the company acquired Microids one of the world leaders in the adventure games segment with international bestsellers such as Still Life, Syberia, Dracula and Amerzone. Many of these titles appeared on the PC, but with Anuman now at the steering wheel, the Microids library is quickly expanding to handheld and mobile devices. In this interview I speak with Eric Nguyen the marketing director for Anuman interactive. In the interview he discusses Mobile development, advice for aspiring developers and the Android OS. Also we speak on their third iPhone and iPad release “Return to Mysterious Island”.
Hi Eric it’s a pleasure to speak with you. I understand you’re in France so it’s great to be able to speak with you about this particular subject.
Firstly could you tell us a little bit about the Anuman company? just to expand on what we already know.
At the end of 2009, Anuman Interactive acquired the Microids brand and portfolio, which is known globally for its high quality video games. Thanks to games like Syberia, L’Amerzone, Still Life or Dracula, Anuman is now positioning on Adventure games and is willing to develop Microids’ most famous games on mobile platforms.
Established in 2000, Anuman is a leading French publisher and developer of interactive entertainment products and video games for several platforms (PC, Mac, consoles, mobile phones). The company has a dedicated team that creates, publishes and develops games and products such as HdO Adventure, For Dummies with worldwide distribution. This year, Anuman has celebrated its 10 years existence.
How did you come to manage the Microids catalog?
Before the acquisition of Microids brand, Anuman had already released adventure games such as Dead Mountaineer Hotel and Bone. It was a very positive experience and we saw that there was still a great interest towards adventure games all over the world. Moreover, we also launched more than 15 hidden object games and we came to the conclusion that players of this kind of games are naturally coming to Adventure games. Therefore we have decided to develop our portfolio with very famous franchises like Syberia, Dracula and Still Life or Return to Mysterious Island.
It’s clear that the introduction of the iPhone sent the mobile handheld gaming industry into full acceleration. When did Microids decide to capitalize from that?
It’s been now 2 years that we, Anuman, are developing applications and games for iPhone. We have +300 applications on the Appstore on different categories. With the addition of Microids titles on our portfolio, it seemed obvious that we had to develop those famous licenses on mobile platforms.
MC2 published Syberia some years ago on mobile and even on NDS and they began the development of Return to Mysterious Island on iPhone and even created an app synchronized with the version of RTMI 2.
This was also natural for us to continue what they began and the first title was Dracula, the path of the Dragon published with Chillingo.
Anuman has a multiplatform strategy and it doesn’t concern iPhone only but also iPad and Mac. It is now a great opportunity for a larger audience to discover Microids games with a new gameplay.
It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing an iPhone now. But the iPad is still much too expensive for some people. Could you give us any specifics on the market potential for iPad development?
Indeed, iPad is more expensive that iPhone or iPod but it has additional features like a larger screen that fits well with video games. I am really convinced that iPad could be the best platform for some genre of video games like Adventure games. For a point & Click game, iPad is the best platform.
iPad is the first tablet on the market and competition is arriving with their own device. It means that the platform is good and has its place between a phone and a computer. Therefore, I truly believe in the success of the tablets.
The mobile application development industry has become a real money maker. What do you think are the chances of this market drying up any time soon?
The mobile application development industry is at an early stage and will still grow for the next 4 years. Since a lot of actors from independent developers to huge companies are developing a huge quantity of applications, the landscape will change and especially the business model. Traditional mobile games will decrease in term of market share and Free games including in-app purchase will rise. That’s how we see the evolution of the market.
The Android operating system is beginning to threaten Apples market share. What are your thoughts on Android?
We follow the development of new operating systems. For instance, we have already worked with the Samsung operating system (Bada) and we are obviously willing to work on Android also.
As a third party publisher, we are happy to see that the mobile market is made up by different operators.
Tell us about your outstanding game for the iPad, Return to Mysterious Island.
After Dracula – The Path of Dragon and Egypt – the Prophecy, Return to Mysterious Island is our 3rd title on the Appstore for iPhone and iPad.
The game has been freely adapted from the book “Mysterious Island” written by Jules Verne, “Return to Mysterious Island” is the sequel to the novel.
While participating in the famous solo round-the-world sailing expedition – the Jules Verne Trophy – the navigator, Mina, strands on an island without any way to contact the emergency services. Therefore the courageous young woman will only rely on her senses and her ability to recuperate, before trying to escape the island. However, a mysterious shadow hovers over this land, cut off from the world, which does not appear so uninhabited as it seemed at first sight…
In the role of Mina, you explore the mythical locations of the original work (Granite House, Volcano, Nautilus, etc.) and solve many puzzles hidden in the mysterious island.
How long does it take you to create something as fascinating as Return to Mysterious Island for the iPad?
Concerning the iPad version, challenges encountered by our teams are more technical than scriptwriting. Indeed, story, scenery and characters are the same to the PC version.
Otherwise, the interface and the playability for example have evolved. To give you an example, we had to find a system to transform the cursor (present on PC thanks to the mouse) and adapt it to the iPad, a device that uses the player fingers to interact thanks to the touch screen. It was very exciting for us to think about a new way to play “Return to mysterious Island”, more smooth and natural, without changing the original game spirit. Precisely, the adaptation of the PC version on iPad took 4 months, with the serial back and forth.
Microids has done a lot of games on the PC. Tell us about the process of making these compatible with the iPhone or iPad. Do you face any major difficulties?
The developers first started working on the Macintosh version to get more familiar with. Then they move it on to the iPad, which shares the same screen resolution as the Mac version. By then, the game is running smoothly on iOS, performances issues have been solved and it is fully multitouch capable.
Finally, they scale it down some more to fit on the iPad display & aspect ratio. The only major issue they have with iPad development is related to the relatively low amount of onboard RAM in the current models. On the other hand, they have optimised the size of the game weighting 752Mo against 4Go on PC.
What advice would you give to aspiring iPhone or iPad developers?
Since there is now more than 300.000 applications available on the AppStore, it is not enough to provide a high quality game or application. It‘s important that the application meets the consumers’ expectations. And above all, developers will also need to use marketing technics to inform the consumers and create awareness.
There are many out there who could be making a killing by putting their ideas on device like the iPad. Most of them do not have a clue of where to begin. Could you speak a little on different frameworks, and the financial costs involved in getting started?
First of all, fun is essential in a game. Graphics are important but not always. When you play “Doodle jump” you have fun even the graphics are intentionally “simple”.
Secondly, if you can divide your game in levels, you don’t need to publish your game with all 100 levels included. You can begin with less levels and make frequently updates (like Angry Birds). Your development must not last more than six months. Last but not least, think international.
About the cost, it can go from some thousand euros to hundred thousand euros so it will depends from what you want to invest.
Lastly, I can suggest developers to share their projects with Anuman (above all, we are publishers) and see how we could work together. That could be another option also.