Interview With Ivica Aracic

Tell us a little about yourself. What projects have you worked on before founding Sponge Forge and creating The Greedy Sponge for iOS? Having worked on a WiiWare title already, why did you switch to iOS when you decided to strike out on your own as an indie developer? And what do you do when you’re not creating videogames?

If there is one big constant in my life, it is the desire to make video games and to know that people are playing and enjoying them. In 2008, I got my first chance to do it professionally, full-time. At that time, two friends of mine were running a company (extra toxic), making premium Flash content for big videogame industry players. When we heard that Nintendo would be starting WiiWare soon, extra toxic applied for the license and as soon as it was there, I left everything else aside and joined the company. tons of bits was created and we started working on our first WiiWare game: chick chick BOOM.

After three hard and painful years, in which we lived on bread and water, we made it to the finish line. chick chick BOOM reached the Top 10 world-wide and it stayed there for a couple of weeks, but to make the story short, we didn’t earn enough money to survive as a development studio. I was forced to return to a regular IT job and financially recover from the last three years. However: once a game developer, always a game developer! I decided that I’ll keep running, but on a much smaller scale, beside my regular 40-hour-a-week job. iOS is a very good platform for that. No big license costs, no expensive development hardware, no need to run a company. My new slogan became: “Making money to make games.”

My first iOS game was The Greedy Sponge. The second is Instamory. By the way, there is a card set in Instamory that is based on cute chick chick BOOM characters!

What’s been the most difficult part of iOS development for you – or is the actual development process much easier than simply getting noticed on the App Store? If you could be emperor of the iOS industry for a day, is there anything you’d change to make life easier for indie devs on this platform?

I really appreciate iOS from a technical standpoint. For someone with good programming skills it is very easy to get started, and there are a lot of great resources available.

However, making a successful game is very hard. “Successful” not in the millionaire sense, but in the sense that you earn enough to cover your costs and time investment. Basically, it is 50% game development and 50% marketing. Everything else is like playing roulette. This is something every indie should seriously think about.

Being the emperor of the iOS industry? I probably wouldn’t want to change anything. One million devs selling one copy each, or one dev selling a million copies alone — for me, the emperor, it doesn’t matter in the end. Okay, let’s be more constructive: I would try to organize and unite indies better, let them share common resources, better coordinate their efforts, prepare them better for marketing and give them a stronger voice in general. But no need for an emperor, each indie should connect to his or her peers and look for synergy effects.

I want to ask lots of things about The Greedy Sponge, but first, it looks like you’ve just released Instamory for the iPad! Give us the lowdown on that, and how it’s been doing at the App Store compared to your first release. Did the fact that you already have an App Store presence help you on the sales end at all with Instamory, or has it been just as much of an uphill battle as your first release?

Greedy has some one hundred thousand installs, but we didn’t profit yet from this fact. This might change when we link both Apps. Unfortunately, Instamory will also not appear on Greedy’s iTunes page, because Greedy is a universal App and Instamory is for iPad only.

We also didn’t make a big promotion before the release, so the start has been a roulette game again. In Germany we were lucky. We got featured in New & Noteworthy, which catapulted us into slot #1 in games and slot #2 overall. In the USA we had no luck. Apple’s staff there decided not to mention us at all, so we turned invisible within two days.

In sum, it is an uphill battle again, but the circumstances are much better than with Greedy. The target audience is more general with Instamory, and there are also twelve million Instagramers who would love the game if they knew that it exists. This is our main problem at the moment: how to tackle this twelve million group. If Instagram would mention us in their blog: bingo! But I assume, at the moment, they have no benefits in making us famous, so it’s up to us.