When Amos Marvel and his colleagues at Hidden Variable Studios decided to launch their startup, these former console game developers decided to take their gaming expertise to the mobile arena, where they believe they can satisfy their entrepreneurial aspirations and also work with their own intellectual property.
Today the company is gearing up for the November launch of its first mobile game, which will first debut on Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS via a soft launch in October in smaller countries with similar backgrounds to the U.S., including Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The company will then debut the app on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android OS.
Marvel said that the company is targeting smaller countries first so that it can get feedback on game play and aesthetics. It's also an opportunity to test the firm's analytics and fix any potential bugs that may occur. "We then will launch globally in November with a strong product," Marvel said.
Hidden Variable is developing its games for iOS and Android and will develop for both smartphones and tablets and will consider developing for other operating systems such as Microsoft Windows Phone 7. "We want to get in front of as many people as possible," Marvel said. "We will look at other opportunities that make sense."
Premium or freemium?
Clearly, Hidden Variable's choice of developing for Android and iOS isn't unusual. Most mobile developers choose the same model. Hidden Variable, however, is taking a bit of a chance with its decision to price its game at 99 cents instead of using the freemium model, which offers the app for free to incentivize the user to try it but then offer add-on services for a fee. A recent study from Flurry found a growing number of freemium apps in the top 100 grossing games list in Apple's App Store. The number of freemium apps in this category jumped from 35 percent in January to 65 percent in June.
While Hidden Variable did consider the freemium model, ultimately Marvel said the company decided to price the game at 99 cents because it believes its game offers a gaming experience that users will want and will pay for. "Gaming should be a solid experience and not just looking to get into your pocket," Marvel said. "We want to make that type of product. We hope to have a great product that gets in front of the masses and is something that people enjoy."
Discoverability is big concern
But Marvel admits that his company is concerned about getting its app "discovered" by potential buyers. He said that Hidden Variable plans to launch a multipronged approach to marketing-- that includes social networking, getting visibility in publications and other media and cross promoting through various partners--but admits that there is no sure bet. "Our approach is to test a number of different ways and look at what will give us the greatest or lowest cost of acquisition for a player and then continue to pursue that," Marvel said.
Although Hidden Variable has not yet launched its first mobile game, the company is already looking ahead to its next phase. Marvel said that they are already exploring potential new titles and looking at various monetization models. However, he also admits that as a startup he and his partners are already struggling to figure out how to balance the demands of working on the existing product as well as keeping an eye on future products.
In fact, Marvel hopes that by sharing the Hidden Variable's startup story with other developers that others will reciprocate by telling some of their experiences as a startup. "We'd love to hear about what other developers have learned and how they have shifted their business models accordingly. How are they supporting multiple titles? Those are the types of questions we ask each other every day."
If you would like to share your mobile developer startup story, please contact Sue Marek at [email protected]