The iPhone platform and the iTunes App Store present a rare opportunity for game developers.  Never before has there been a highly capable device with such a unique array of input technologies married to so elegant and intuitive a software distribution model.  Not to mention the free SDK and zero barrier to entry.

We've highlighted a number of iPhone developer success stories in the past, such as that of Steve Demeter (author of Trism) and Ethan Nicholas (author of iShoot).  And while not every developer's tale is one of extreme success--in fact most aren't--an opportunity is there for those with innovative titles, a solid pricing strategy and, perhaps, a little bit of luck.

To the list of App Store success stories, we can add Simon Oliver of HandCircus, author of the critically acclaimed Rolando [App Store], published by ngmoco.  It's really no surprise, given the quaity of the title and the consistent raves it's received from iPhone game reviewers.  What we didn't realize was just how well the title has performed in the App Store.

The Daily Mail reports that Oliver's Rolando has sold over 700,000 copies since it made its App Store debut last December at a price of $9.99.  Thanks to the game's amazing success, Simon has just moved his development studio from his bedroom to a proper office complex.  Thirty-one year old Simon, who was rejected by dozens of game development firms because of his lack of experience, is now running his own games publishing firm--a dream come true.

And for Simon, likely this is just the beginning.  The British designer / developer that ngmoco's Neil Young calls the next Shigeru Miyamoto is hard at work on a sequel to Rolando.  Congrats, Simon!  We're anxious to see what lies ahead.

  • mek

    I wouldn't say "zero barrier to entry."
    you need to have some logic and knowledge of programming and or game design...and a mac

  • mek

    I wouldn't say "zero barrier to entry."
    you need to have some logic and knowledge of programming and or game design...and a mac

  • Vicente

    Great news for Simon, can't wait for rolando's sequel! I can't imagine how's gameloft doing in the apstore...

  • Vicente

    Great news for Simon, can't wait for rolando's sequel! I can't imagine how's gameloft doing in the apstore...

  • marco

    "The next Shigeru Miyamoto," ahahahah thats funny! His only developed one game....u cant compare him to a living legend!

  • marco

    "The next Shigeru Miyamoto," ahahahah thats funny! His only developed one game....u cant compare him to a living legend!

  • alza

    I'm pleased that rolando has been such a success - I still think it's the best game on the store.
    Simon's having his own firm is definitely excellent news for iPhone/ipod touch gamers.

  • alza

    I'm pleased that rolando has been such a success - I still think it's the best game on the store.
    Simon's having his own firm is definitely excellent news for iPhone/ipod touch gamers.

  • http://philnelson.name Phil Nelson

    I'd say $100 and the App Store "whatever we feel like" approval policy is more than a zero barrier to entry, at the least.

  • http://philnelson.name Phil Nelson

    I'd say $100 and the App Store "whatever we feel like" approval policy is more than a zero barrier to entry, at the least.

  • Capone

    Congrats!
    I did some programming a few years ago, too, and know how hard it is to develop something people really can enjoy. There are hundreds of experienced developers out there, but only a few have found out how to form something that really fits the iPhone.
    Good work, Simon!

  • Capone

    Congrats!
    I did some programming a few years ago, too, and know how hard it is to develop something people really can enjoy. There are hundreds of experienced developers out there, but only a few have found out how to form something that really fits the iPhone.
    Good work, Simon!

  • http://costa.kofeina.net CoSTa

    @Phil
    Those ARE zero barriers, that's the true. Just try to release a game in let's say game stores. Good luck with that...

    Congrats to Oliver and I'm wainting for sequel! Buying it for sure...

  • http://costa.kofeina.net CoSTa

    @Phil
    Those ARE zero barriers, that's the true. Just try to release a game in let's say game stores. Good luck with that...

    Congrats to Oliver and I'm wainting for sequel! Buying it for sure...

  • PeterM11

    This is the kind of stories that inspired me to want to develop for the iPhone!
    If only Macs weren't so expensive I would try to learn how.... Oh Apple... Why must you make this such a love/hate relationship!?

  • PeterM11

    This is the kind of stories that inspired me to want to develop for the iPhone!
    If only Macs weren't so expensive I would try to learn how.... Oh Apple... Why must you make this such a love/hate relationship!?

  • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

    Phil: It's true that Apple is somewhat selective in what it approves. (Well, iSperm did ge through...) But $100 / year to get access to the iPhone SDK and Apple handling the store for only a 30% cut -- I still call that a zero barrier. Try to get a game on the shelf for DS or PSP...

  • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

    Phil: It's true that Apple is somewhat selective in what it approves. (Well, iSperm did ge through...) But $100 / year to get access to the iPhone SDK and Apple handling the store for only a 30% cut -- I still call that a zero barrier. Try to get a game on the shelf for DS or PSP...

  • Stanley

    Well considering this game is pretty much a blatant Loco Roco clone with tacked on tilt controls, i think it's done well. A bit shameful but the best ideas are stolen.

  • Stanley

    Well considering this game is pretty much a blatant Loco Roco clone with tacked on tilt controls, i think it's done well. A bit shameful but the best ideas are stolen.

  • Greg

    Its good to see games with a slightly higher pricing and bit more involved gameplay find success. The iPhone is filled with minigames now and its good to see that a product like Rolando can break through. Its time for the iPhone to start maturing as a platform.

  • Greg

    Its good to see games with a slightly higher pricing and bit more involved gameplay find success. The iPhone is filled with minigames now and its good to see that a product like Rolando can break through. Its time for the iPhone to start maturing as a platform.

  • lolller

    LOL 700k downloads of the lite version... these stories are purposely deceiving. He did NOT sell 700k copies of this considering you only sell 10k a day as the number #1 paid app a spot of which Rolando never achieved.

  • lolller

    LOL 700k downloads of the lite version... these stories are purposely deceiving. He did NOT sell 700k copies of this considering you only sell 10k a day as the number #1 paid app a spot of which Rolando never achieved.

  • arn

    @loller

    you are wrong. they sold over 700,000 copies of the full-version of the game. read the article.

    and as of January, the #1 spot was about 17,000 downloads a day.
    http://toucharcade.com/2009/01/16/ishoot-developer-quits-day-job-to-focus-on-iphone-development/

    arn

  • arn

    @loller

    you are wrong. they sold over 700,000 copies of the full-version of the game. read the article.

    and as of January, the #1 spot was about 17,000 downloads a day.
    http://toucharcade.com/2009/01/16/ishoot-developer-quits-day-job-to-focus-on-iphone-development/

    arn

  • Shinto

    Congratulations Simon! I love Rolando, you deserve all that good things

  • Shinto

    Congratulations Simon! I love Rolando, you deserve all that good things

  • lolller

    Even at 17k downloads a day that would be 41 days at number 1 which rolando never got to. The story is PR and thats it.

  • lolller

    Even at 17k downloads a day that would be 41 days at number 1 which rolando never got to. The story is PR and thats it.

  • lolller

    they would have had to sell a AVERAGE of 7,216 apps a day since launch (not including the price drop they did last month). At those kind of numbers it would have been pegged in the top 10 for the past 3 1/2 MONTHS!

    Now if we were talking about touchgrind....

  • lolller

    they would have had to sell a AVERAGE of 7,216 apps a day since launch (not including the price drop they did last month). At those kind of numbers it would have been pegged in the top 10 for the past 3 1/2 MONTHS!

    Now if we were talking about touchgrind....

  • http://ifonekit.com bomber

    The 700k are definitely including the Lite version downloads, good non the less.

  • http://ifonekit.com bomber

    The 700k are definitely including the Lite version downloads, good non the less.

  • http://blog.ngmoco.com Neil

    Guys,

    The original article is wrong - we generally don't discuss numbers and so we're not sure where this newspaper got the info. from.

    --- Neil.

  • http://blog.ngmoco.com Neil

    Guys,

    The original article is wrong - we generally don't discuss numbers and so we're not sure where this newspaper got the info. from.

    --- Neil.

  • arn

    @neil thanks for the clarification neil. lolller, I guess you're right. ;)

    arn

  • arn

    @neil thanks for the clarification neil. lolller, I guess you're right. ;)

    arn

  • Aaron Sullivan

    This game sure is a hot button. lol.

    It's a great success story no matter how you spin it. It has similarities to Loco Roco, but anyone that says it's a clone with just some stuff tacked on hasn't played both or is being dishonest.
    While the zero barrier to entry thing isn't true strictly, it IS true relatively. Looking at comparable options shows you this very quickly.

    Now, things have already begun to change in that regard thanks to the Billion dollar success of the App Store. We can thank Apple (once again) for expanding a market and helping to cut out middle men.

  • Aaron Sullivan

    This game sure is a hot button. lol.

    It's a great success story no matter how you spin it. It has similarities to Loco Roco, but anyone that says it's a clone with just some stuff tacked on hasn't played both or is being dishonest.
    While the zero barrier to entry thing isn't true strictly, it IS true relatively. Looking at comparable options shows you this very quickly.

    Now, things have already begun to change in that regard thanks to the Billion dollar success of the App Store. We can thank Apple (once again) for expanding a market and helping to cut out middle men.

  • Aaron Sullivan

    While that's a nice olive branch Arn, I'd say that no one on this board is right, including loller. Neil said the numbers were wrong and confirmed nothing. :)

  • Aaron Sullivan

    While that's a nice olive branch Arn, I'd say that no one on this board is right, including loller. Neil said the numbers were wrong and confirmed nothing. :)

  • Ataru

    Rolando is one of the better titles, but it's really a shame that the developer's chose to ape LocoRoco's art style so much. They didn't even do it as well as Sony did, not by a long shot.

    Oh and for those that don't know, which I presume includes the guys who run this site - The Daily Mail is not a source to be trusted. It's notorious in the UK, one of the worst gutter press tabloids with a reputation for racism, scaremongering, anti-science, and a strong push for more censorship, particularly when it comes to video games. They also tend not to worry about actually printing the truth, just whatever will sell papers to their far right readership.

    They're known as 'The Daily Hail' (due to the paper's racist viewpoint, and it's support for the nazi party in the run up to WW2), or just 'The Daily Fail'.

  • Ataru

    Rolando is one of the better titles, but it's really a shame that the developer's chose to ape LocoRoco's art style so much. They didn't even do it as well as Sony did, not by a long shot.

    Oh and for those that don't know, which I presume includes the guys who run this site - The Daily Mail is not a source to be trusted. It's notorious in the UK, one of the worst gutter press tabloids with a reputation for racism, scaremongering, anti-science, and a strong push for more censorship, particularly when it comes to video games. They also tend not to worry about actually printing the truth, just whatever will sell papers to their far right readership.

    They're known as 'The Daily Hail' (due to the paper's racist viewpoint, and it's support for the nazi party in the run up to WW2), or just 'The Daily Fail'.

  • http://www.shanenassiri.com Shane

    @PeterM11

    It's called an investment. Spending a couple grand on a Mac is a drop in the bucket if you're committed to developing a quality title that could really go places.

    As it's said: you have to spend money to make money.

  • http://www.shanenassiri.com Shane

    @PeterM11

    It's called an investment. Spending a couple grand on a Mac is a drop in the bucket if you're committed to developing a quality title that could really go places.

    As it's said: you have to spend money to make money.

  • Michael Le

    Yeah it probably includes lite versions... I remember iFart showed their sales around 10k a day at #1, so its not inconceivable to sell 700k copies, but you're probably not going to sell 700k at $9.99 ...maybe moto racer did.

  • Michael Le

    Yeah it probably includes lite versions... I remember iFart showed their sales around 10k a day at #1, so its not inconceivable to sell 700k copies, but you're probably not going to sell 700k at $9.99 ...maybe moto racer did.

  • eVp

    700k sounds VERY low if it includes the lite version... Wooden Labyrinth 3D has shipped 500k lites in just a couple of weeks (40k on the best day). Anyway, it's nice to see people succeeding. :)

  • eVp

    700k sounds VERY low if it includes the lite version... Wooden Labyrinth 3D has shipped 500k lites in just a couple of weeks (40k on the best day). Anyway, it's nice to see people succeeding. :)

  • NotAddicted

    Look at the goodwill here between Apple, the community, and someone like Simon -- it's just great :) Apple has a person developing a platform unique brand, the community benefits from originality, and Simon has nothing but good feelings about the platform. I think this sort of setup leads to future loyalty from developers who got such an opportunity. Certainly, they won't ever forget the platform that allowed them to see through their vision and change their career. Good things ahead for the iPhone!

  • NotAddicted

    Look at the goodwill here between Apple, the community, and someone like Simon -- it's just great :) Apple has a person developing a platform unique brand, the community benefits from originality, and Simon has nothing but good feelings about the platform. I think this sort of setup leads to future loyalty from developers who got such an opportunity. Certainly, they won't ever forget the platform that allowed them to see through their vision and change their career. Good things ahead for the iPhone!

  • NotAddicted

    @eVp
    Remember Rolando was something like 9.99 when it came out.

  • NotAddicted

    @eVp
    Remember Rolando was something like 9.99 when it came out.

  • spiffyone

    @loller and the rest of the doubters

    It's very conceivable that an app could have sold 700,000 units in the amount of time it was released. Remember that while the US is the largest for iTunes, there ARE other regions, and each region has their OWN App Store with different charts, iirc, and those aren't counted in the "10,000 sales a day for #1 spot" to which you allude as the figures thrown around usually specifically refer to the US Store. So it might be that Rolando HAS sold around half a million or so if one counts sales in all regions.

    Of course, the ngmoco rep just issued a "we don't release figures" statement, so we all could be wrong. But, still, it is very conceivable that this game could've sold ~half a million total worldwide.

    Then again, even if it didn't, I'm pretty sure it's broken even.

  • spiffyone

    @loller and the rest of the doubters

    It's very conceivable that an app could have sold 700,000 units in the amount of time it was released. Remember that while the US is the largest for iTunes, there ARE other regions, and each region has their OWN App Store with different charts, iirc, and those aren't counted in the "10,000 sales a day for #1 spot" to which you allude as the figures thrown around usually specifically refer to the US Store. So it might be that Rolando HAS sold around half a million or so if one counts sales in all regions.

    Of course, the ngmoco rep just issued a "we don't release figures" statement, so we all could be wrong. But, still, it is very conceivable that this game could've sold ~half a million total worldwide.

    Then again, even if it didn't, I'm pretty sure it's broken even.

  • spiffyone

    @NotAddicted

    So were Super Monkey Ball and Crash Nitro Kart 3D. Sega had sold ~half a million "units" before they even dropped price to $7.99, iirc, and who knows how much Crash has sold (it's only very recently dropped out of the top ten in the US Store's game section).

    Then again, those are pretty well known IPs, so they're bound to sell more than new IPs.

  • spiffyone

    @NotAddicted

    So were Super Monkey Ball and Crash Nitro Kart 3D. Sega had sold ~half a million "units" before they even dropped price to $7.99, iirc, and who knows how much Crash has sold (it's only very recently dropped out of the top ten in the US Store's game section).

    Then again, those are pretty well known IPs, so they're bound to sell more than new IPs.

  • Dudehuge

    Congrats!

  • Dudehuge

    Congrats!

  • lolller

    i dont doubt the game has sold a lot and I understand theres multiple regions but this game did not sell 700k copies. like i said its been live for 95 days and thats 7k+ paid downloads average PER DAY. AND the game hasnt been ranked in the top 100 for some time now. The game never reached number 1 for even 1 second (due to its price not quality). I think it maxed out at number 5.

    Just didnt happen with Rolando. Like I said the game we should be asking about is touchgrind. 4.99 and its lived in the top 25 since November.

  • lolller

    i dont doubt the game has sold a lot and I understand theres multiple regions but this game did not sell 700k copies. like i said its been live for 95 days and thats 7k+ paid downloads average PER DAY. AND the game hasnt been ranked in the top 100 for some time now. The game never reached number 1 for even 1 second (due to its price not quality). I think it maxed out at number 5.

    Just didnt happen with Rolando. Like I said the game we should be asking about is touchgrind. 4.99 and its lived in the top 25 since November.

  • Presnter

    People complaining about Apple's rules? Come on, when you write that game down, you already know if Apple is gonna approve it or not, don't play dumb and act surprised when apple disapproves it.

  • Presnter

    People complaining about Apple's rules? Come on, when you write that game down, you already know if Apple is gonna approve it or not, don't play dumb and act surprised when apple disapproves it.

  • http://obsessedwithapple.blogspot.com brewstermax

    While I respect Simon as a developer, and love Rolando-easily the best iPhone game out now, but how can you compare him and Shigeru Miyamoto? Not even close.

  • http://obsessedwithapple.blogspot.com brewstermax

    While I respect Simon as a developer, and love Rolando-easily the best iPhone game out now, but how can you compare him and Shigeru Miyamoto? Not even close.

  • mike

    couple thousand for a Mac? What year is this, 1992? You can get a Mac Mini for 600 bucks man. Did you even bother to look it up, or did you just pull that number out of your ass?

    Oh. You want something with power, that is better suited for PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, and thus are whining about the Mac Pro? Maybe then you're starting to make sense, but again, your argument falls down, cuz that kinda power would cost you 1000-2000 on the Windows side anyway. Make up your damn mind.

  • mike

    couple thousand for a Mac? What year is this, 1992? You can get a Mac Mini for 600 bucks man. Did you even bother to look it up, or did you just pull that number out of your ass?

    Oh. You want something with power, that is better suited for PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, and thus are whining about the Mac Pro? Maybe then you're starting to make sense, but again, your argument falls down, cuz that kinda power would cost you 1000-2000 on the Windows side anyway. Make up your damn mind.

  • http://www.hgrenade.com h.grenade

    Congrats Simon!

    It may not be a true "zero cost of entry" situation but it is very low and an opportunity that you cannot find anywhere. A developer is lucky to make 10% of the retail price with a console title. No matter what math you are using, Rolando has made a lot of money and Simon would not have been able to do this without the iPhone and the App Store. An XBox dev kit, well the licensing fee that you have to pay MS, is somewhere over 100,000 the last I heard. Of course you can do it for free using their tools but I don't think any of the "Community" titles have made any money.

    As far cost of entry, I have been developing my game while running Unity iPhone, iTunes, Email, Safari, CS2, AI and maya everyday simultaneously on a 1 year old MacBook Pro that cost me $1800. You could easily do it on a Mini. Software cost me a couple grand at best but it's the time that it takes to make a decent game that will kill you ; )

  • http://www.hgrenade.com h.grenade

    Congrats Simon!

    It may not be a true "zero cost of entry" situation but it is very low and an opportunity that you cannot find anywhere. A developer is lucky to make 10% of the retail price with a console title. No matter what math you are using, Rolando has made a lot of money and Simon would not have been able to do this without the iPhone and the App Store. An XBox dev kit, well the licensing fee that you have to pay MS, is somewhere over 100,000 the last I heard. Of course you can do it for free using their tools but I don't think any of the "Community" titles have made any money.

    As far cost of entry, I have been developing my game while running Unity iPhone, iTunes, Email, Safari, CS2, AI and maya everyday simultaneously on a 1 year old MacBook Pro that cost me $1800. You could easily do it on a Mini. Software cost me a couple grand at best but it's the time that it takes to make a decent game that will kill you ; )

  • Rohan Dalal

    congrats Simon!
    this game is just unbelievable
    it fits the iphone so well

    Simon, you have a really good mind..i mean srslly the levels, designs..its all complex

    again, great job

  • Rohan Dalal

    congrats Simon!
    this game is just unbelievable
    it fits the iphone so well

    Simon, you have a really good mind..i mean srslly the levels, designs..its all complex

    again, great job

  • Moff

    Not bad for a copy of LocoRoco.

  • Moff

    Not bad for a copy of LocoRoco.

  • el padre

    Bravo Simon!!! And good luck with you future projects!!!

  • el padre

    Bravo Simon!!! And good luck with you future projects!!!

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  • http://unreleasedgames.net Adam @ Unreleased Games

    that really is an impressive amount of downloads. good luck with the sequel

  • http://unreleasedgames.net Adam @ Unreleased Games

    that really is an impressive amount of downloads. good luck with the sequel

  • http://illusionlabs.com Anders

    We have about 7,000,000 for Labyrinth ;)

  • http://illusionlabs.com Anders

    We have about 7,000,000 for Labyrinth ;)

  • Hell_Gamer98

    Congrats, Simon! This game really was well made, very polished. Sadly, I never had fun with it, only depressions.

  • Hell_Gamer98

    Congrats, Simon! This game really was well made, very polished. Sadly, I never had fun with it, only depressions.

  • Insider

    Could TouchArcade.com be getting a cut from the Rolando pie?
    It seemed like Rolando got an awful lot of press before it's release....

  • Insider

    Could TouchArcade.com be getting a cut from the Rolando pie?
    It seemed like Rolando got an awful lot of press before it's release....

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  • Kolko

    So this guy made seven million dollars through this one game? Nice work if it's true...

  • Kolko

    So this guy made seven million dollars through this one game? Nice work if it's true...

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