trip_hawkinsWilliam 'Trip' Hawkins III was the Director of Strategy and Marketing at Apple when he left in 1982 to form software house Electronic Arts which, during his tenure, became the world's largest video game publisher (and today, remains one of the world's leading publishers).  He left EA in the early '90s to form 3DO which, thanks to Sony and the Playstation, was a venture of rather less sucess.

As mobile devices began seeing widespread use, Hawkins formed mobile game development company Digital Chocolate in 2003.  The now 350 person, San Mateo, CA-based company has developed games for a wide variety of mobile handsets and has received a number of accolades, including the Best Developer of the Year awards from both IGN and Mobile Entertainment.

And while four of the five iPhone games Digital Chocolate has released for the iPhone since December have hit No. 1 in the App Store -- no small feat -- Hawkins admits to VentureBeat that the company was late to the game with the iPhone.

The iPhone for us was a spectacularly pleasant surprise. We had no idea it was going to be as good for us as it turned out to be.

Hawkins indicates that the iPhone presents a rare opportunity for Digital Chocolate and that it is really incomparable as a game platform to the myriad of mobile handsets on the market.

It’s by far our most effective platform. We make as much money with these games on one device as we do putting a game on 100 different cell phone platforms. Between the iPod Touch and the iPhone, I think the platform is freaking out Sony and Nintendo. Apple has sold 30 million units so far and it has created tremendous awareness. It has taken ground all over the world. But it has only penetrated one half of one percent of its total market.
...
The platform can finally keep up with the things that you want to do. It reminds me of the Sega Genesis, when EA finally had a platform that could keep up with the games we wanted to make.

See VentureBeat's full interview to hear more of Trip Hawkins' thoughts on Apple's mobile games console.

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

    I was a big fan of Hawkins' "fireside" Amiga EA ads in the magazines back in '85.

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

    I was a big fan of Hawkins' "fireside" Amiga EA ads in the magazines back in '85.

  • Veteran Game Developer

    I am happy for Trip with his iPhone wins.

    What I do not understand about the iPhone biz is this: How does anyone know they will get Apple promotion (or a good chance at it)? Because it appears to me that if you do not get promotion, you will not cover development costs, no matter how good your game is. Because users cannot find you in an ocean of 30,000 apps. There are random non promoted game winners, but they seem like very rare lottery tickets.

    While the App store seems open to all, it functions like a closed system not unlike carrier decks. Meaning only Apple chosen promoted apps/companies can win.

    Am I right on this Trip?

    • http://www.starscenesoftware.com Eric5h5

      I see that a lot of the games featured by Apple aren't currently in the top 100. And on the other hand, my Realmaze3D hasn't been featured by Apple, but has been holding steady around #76 for several days now. I was fortunate enough to be featured by TouchArcade, which I'm quite sure gave it the necessary boost, but being blessed by Apple isn't necessary. Not that I'd complain if they decided to do so. :)

  • Veteran Game Developer

    I am happy for Trip with his iPhone wins.

    What I do not understand about the iPhone biz is this: How does anyone know they will get Apple promotion (or a good chance at it)? Because it appears to me that if you do not get promotion, you will not cover development costs, no matter how good your game is. Because users cannot find you in an ocean of 30,000 apps. There are random non promoted game winners, but they seem like very rare lottery tickets.

    While the App store seems open to all, it functions like a closed system not unlike carrier decks. Meaning only Apple chosen promoted apps/companies can win.

    Am I right on this Trip?

    • http://www.starscenesoftware.com Eric5h5

      I see that a lot of the games featured by Apple aren't currently in the top 100. And on the other hand, my Realmaze3D hasn't been featured by Apple, but has been holding steady around #76 for several days now. I was fortunate enough to be featured by TouchArcade, which I'm quite sure gave it the necessary boost, but being blessed by Apple isn't necessary. Not that I'd complain if they decided to do so. :)

  • Adams Immersive

    Well, I'd say that Apple promotion helps a LOT (and nobody can know ahead of time which of the bazillion apps Apple will notice and promote). But it's not the ONLY way to achieve sales success. There's also blind luck... assisted, I believe, by having quality products. (Sadly, quality alone does not insure success--in this venue or most others.)

    I agree on the lottery ticket metaphor--but I'm getting into iPhone gaming (on the side) because I figure the odds of paying are at least better than a REAL ticket :)

  • Adams Immersive

    Well, I'd say that Apple promotion helps a LOT (and nobody can know ahead of time which of the bazillion apps Apple will notice and promote). But it's not the ONLY way to achieve sales success. There's also blind luck... assisted, I believe, by having quality products. (Sadly, quality alone does not insure success--in this venue or most others.)

    I agree on the lottery ticket metaphor--but I'm getting into iPhone gaming (on the side) because I figure the odds of paying are at least better than a REAL ticket :)

  • spiffyone

    And there's also, y'know...self promotion. There are loads of games that were promoted by developers on this site and others, had youtube "commercials" shot, had websites developed by the developers to further promote the games, etc., and, y'know what...quite a few of those games went on to sell pretty well. Doesn't happen all the time, but it happens often enough that one gets the picture: developers/publishers have to put their hard work in marketing their apps. The hard work doesn't stop after the game is developed, nor should marketing and promotion of the games start when the damned things are released or after they have been on market for some time.

    It's not Apple's job to promote a 3rd party's game; it's the 3rd party's job to promote their own products. Far too many 3rd parties (whether "big" devs or indie devs) don't do that very simple to grasp but difficult to execute job. Having a "good" game is not enough. You have to have eyes and ears on it from when it is announced to before release to after release and periodically afterwards as well to bump up sales. And Apple ain't gonna do it for you. And even if they do, you still have to put in most of the work by self promotion.

  • spiffyone

    And there's also, y'know...self promotion. There are loads of games that were promoted by developers on this site and others, had youtube "commercials" shot, had websites developed by the developers to further promote the games, etc., and, y'know what...quite a few of those games went on to sell pretty well. Doesn't happen all the time, but it happens often enough that one gets the picture: developers/publishers have to put their hard work in marketing their apps. The hard work doesn't stop after the game is developed, nor should marketing and promotion of the games start when the damned things are released or after they have been on market for some time.

    It's not Apple's job to promote a 3rd party's game; it's the 3rd party's job to promote their own products. Far too many 3rd parties (whether "big" devs or indie devs) don't do that very simple to grasp but difficult to execute job. Having a "good" game is not enough. You have to have eyes and ears on it from when it is announced to before release to after release and periodically afterwards as well to bump up sales. And Apple ain't gonna do it for you. And even if they do, you still have to put in most of the work by self promotion.

  • cosmicrob

    Developers have to be responsible for their own promotion and advertising of their games. This has always been the case on other platforms and is still the case with the iPhone.

    Apple can highlight some choice apps, but it's not their job to promote everyone.

  • cosmicrob

    Developers have to be responsible for their own promotion and advertising of their games. This has always been the case on other platforms and is still the case with the iPhone.

    Apple can highlight some choice apps, but it's not their job to promote everyone.

  • spiffyone

    One thing that Trip stated that stood out for me was the idea that iTouch/Phone not penetrating the Japanese market has a lot to do with it being "tethered" to a Mac or PC running iTunes.

    I think he has a point.

    So what I really think Apple should do with the next iTouch/Phone (not the small increment, but rather the major hardware revision coming in a few years) would be to merge the idea of iTouch/Phone with that of Apple TV. This merged idea would look like this: the iTouch/Phone would be the Apple TV (the hardware used), with a set "station" consisting of a connection dock for the iTouch/Phone, a harddrive, ethernet connection, and TV output connection facilitating charging, TV output, and downloads via iTunes...without the need for a computer as we know it.

    Basically, think of it as a package consisting of the iTouch/Phone hardware and this "station" (which would look like the current AppleTV, but have only those things I pointed out) used for the things to which I alluded earlier. iTouch/Phone would drive the apps, and the music and shows and movies, but the "station" would take the place of what people normally use their PC or Mac for now when connected to iTunes and iTouch/Phone (extra storage, downloading system updates, faster downloads, etc.). Packaged and sold together, this would end the "requirement" of being tethered to a computer for system updates, etc., which would make it more likely to do well in the Japanese market.

  • spiffyone

    One thing that Trip stated that stood out for me was the idea that iTouch/Phone not penetrating the Japanese market has a lot to do with it being "tethered" to a Mac or PC running iTunes.

    I think he has a point.

    So what I really think Apple should do with the next iTouch/Phone (not the small increment, but rather the major hardware revision coming in a few years) would be to merge the idea of iTouch/Phone with that of Apple TV. This merged idea would look like this: the iTouch/Phone would be the Apple TV (the hardware used), with a set "station" consisting of a connection dock for the iTouch/Phone, a harddrive, ethernet connection, and TV output connection facilitating charging, TV output, and downloads via iTunes...without the need for a computer as we know it.

    Basically, think of it as a package consisting of the iTouch/Phone hardware and this "station" (which would look like the current AppleTV, but have only those things I pointed out) used for the things to which I alluded earlier. iTouch/Phone would drive the apps, and the music and shows and movies, but the "station" would take the place of what people normally use their PC or Mac for now when connected to iTunes and iTouch/Phone (extra storage, downloading system updates, faster downloads, etc.). Packaged and sold together, this would end the "requirement" of being tethered to a computer for system updates, etc., which would make it more likely to do well in the Japanese market.

  • Veteran Game Developer

    I have watched the app store since it went live. Clearly several companies products are always featured in iTunes and on the device. In fact some companies get all products in the featured lists. To me it looks like it is rigged by Apple, big publishers, and venture capital firms. Think about it, Apple wants to sell iPhones, not fart apps, they are going to give free promotion to anyone with lots of money, talent, and properties that will help sell iPhones. Question is, after they suck you in with some promotion, will you get it on your future titles (when there are 60,000+ of them). If it was a true free market, Apple would allow developers to pay for a featured spot. Plus I do not see how other marketing could possibly be as good as being featured by Apple (unless it was over priced TV ads). So my question is, can the best apps float to the top, without Apples help, and within a reasonable level of risk?

    • spiffyone

      No offense...but this reads like a wah-wah-wah post.

      Of course bigger firms have the advantage. They ALWAYS do. Apple never stated that this was a "free market". There is really, in the present day, no such thing. There is ALWAYS some form of control over the market. Apple has a great deal of amount of control, yes, and bigger firms on the app store market, just like the market in real life, have an inherent advantage over small firms. This is widely known and accepted. The app store is NOT some newfangled market totally outside the realm of the same things that influence other markets.

      How can other marketing be as good? No one said it was "as good", but rather that being featured by Apple is NOT the ONLY way in which marketing works for apps on the App Store market. Developers/publishers have the real ultimate power. There have been, in fact, apps that are NOT featured by Apple which have done well, and then, after doing well, Apple features them and they do better. But the fact remains that said apps did well without Apple's help initially, so there is no reason to think that success, at least initial success, depends SOLELY on being promoted by Apple. In fact, there have been reports of some apps that are promoted by Apple (featured apps in one of the feature spots) which STILL haven't done well. So it is NOT the "be all, end all" of marketing in the App Store market.

      Again, if you want to ensure a better chance of your app doing well, you have to put in the legwork, and that doesn't mean just developing a "good" app. It means self promotion, self marketing. It doesn't ensure that your app will do well, but it ensures a better chance of it. And, again, being featured by Apple ensures an even better chance, but it doesn't totally negate the possibility of a financial failure.

      • Veteran Game Developer

        The store has over 30,000 unique items to choose from. The placement of those items in the store has a great influence on sales. If you are not in the top 100 sales drop off a cliff to nothing. As a user I find the store frustrating ... try searching keywords using the on device app store ... it does not even work right. I think it is fools gold for all but those who get a chance to be seen and discovered.

  • Veteran Game Developer

    I have watched the app store since it went live. Clearly several companies products are always featured in iTunes and on the device. In fact some companies get all products in the featured lists. To me it looks like it is rigged by Apple, big publishers, and venture capital firms. Think about it, Apple wants to sell iPhones, not fart apps, they are going to give free promotion to anyone with lots of money, talent, and properties that will help sell iPhones. Question is, after they suck you in with some promotion, will you get it on your future titles (when there are 60,000+ of them). If it was a true free market, Apple would allow developers to pay for a featured spot. Plus I do not see how other marketing could possibly be as good as being featured by Apple (unless it was over priced TV ads). So my question is, can the best apps float to the top, without Apples help, and within a reasonable level of risk?

    • spiffyone

      No offense...but this reads like a wah-wah-wah post.

      Of course bigger firms have the advantage. They ALWAYS do. Apple never stated that this was a "free market". There is really, in the present day, no such thing. There is ALWAYS some form of control over the market. Apple has a great deal of amount of control, yes, and bigger firms on the app store market, just like the market in real life, have an inherent advantage over small firms. This is widely known and accepted. The app store is NOT some newfangled market totally outside the realm of the same things that influence other markets.

      How can other marketing be as good? No one said it was "as good", but rather that being featured by Apple is NOT the ONLY way in which marketing works for apps on the App Store market. Developers/publishers have the real ultimate power. There have been, in fact, apps that are NOT featured by Apple which have done well, and then, after doing well, Apple features them and they do better. But the fact remains that said apps did well without Apple's help initially, so there is no reason to think that success, at least initial success, depends SOLELY on being promoted by Apple. In fact, there have been reports of some apps that are promoted by Apple (featured apps in one of the feature spots) which STILL haven't done well. So it is NOT the "be all, end all" of marketing in the App Store market.

      Again, if you want to ensure a better chance of your app doing well, you have to put in the legwork, and that doesn't mean just developing a "good" app. It means self promotion, self marketing. It doesn't ensure that your app will do well, but it ensures a better chance of it. And, again, being featured by Apple ensures an even better chance, but it doesn't totally negate the possibility of a financial failure.

      • Veteran Game Developer

        The store has over 30,000 unique items to choose from. The placement of those items in the store has a great influence on sales. If you are not in the top 100 sales drop off a cliff to nothing. As a user I find the store frustrating ... try searching keywords using the on device app store ... it does not even work right. I think it is fools gold for all but those who get a chance to be seen and discovered.

  • David

    Now Tripp knows how to make a baseball game!! I used to LOVE High Heat Baseball for the PC. Hopefully, maybe, Tripp thinks about bringing it to the Iphone?? Please, Tripp, make me happy.

  • David

    Now Tripp knows how to make a baseball game!! I used to LOVE High Heat Baseball for the PC. Hopefully, maybe, Tripp thinks about bringing it to the Iphone?? Please, Tripp, make me happy.

  • http://www.nogreedybastards.com Fair Share

    People of color, boycott this Greedy Company for creating too many games for the iphone, thus making it more difficult for independent Game developers to make a decent income off game development. It's greedy people like Trip Hawkins that spoil the industry.

    Digital Chocolate is planning to release many games in order to saturate
    the iphone Free Market place.

    BOYCOTT DIGITAL CHOCOLATE/TRIP HAWKIN GAMES.

    Give the independent developer a chance you greedy bastards.

  • http://www.nogreedybastards.com Fair Share

    People of color, boycott this Greedy Company for creating too many games for the iphone, thus making it more difficult for independent Game developers to make a decent income off game development. It's greedy people like Trip Hawkins that spoil the industry.

    Digital Chocolate is planning to release many games in order to saturate
    the iphone Free Market place.

    BOYCOTT DIGITAL CHOCOLATE/TRIP HAWKIN GAMES.

    Give the independent developer a chance you greedy bastards.