Why you don't want to make an universal app

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by drPedro, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. drPedro

    drPedro New Member

    May 28, 2010
    indie dev
    French Riviera
    #1 drPedro, Sep 20, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010

    I've got some business/marketing issues when I decided to make an universal app or update my app to universal. In this blog post, I share my (bad) experience:
    Why you don't want to make an universal app

    hope it can prevent people to do the same mistakes as I did, or just understand what's up with universal apps from a business point of view.

  2. Photics

    Photics Well-Known Member

    Jun 1, 2010
    Personally, I like separate apps - one for iPad and one for iPod Touch / iPhone. These are different markets and they should be treated as such. The problem with making a separate app is that they have to be separate. Otherwise, if the two are too similar, Apple might reject one of them.

    It seems that iPad users are more likely to pay more for an app. So, don't just rip them off. Instead, I think it's a good idea to create features that take advantage of the newer platform... and not just higher resolution graphics
  3. robotsvswizards.com

    robotsvswizards.com Well-Known Member

    Mar 29, 2010
    Game Development, Music
    CA, USA
    #3 robotsvswizards.com, Sep 20, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
    I tend to go back and fourth on this issue
    My last release was a universal app and so is my next one.

    If there is buzz and it's a hot game It should sell either way.
    SLice it is a universal and doing fine it seems.

    You can certainly take advantage of some of the features even in a universal.
    For Paper Monsters, I was thinking about making an exclusive level(s) for ipad and ipod .

    A quick check to see which device can take care of rather or not to unlock those features or even display settings.

    I guess the important part would be to make sure the "locked" stuff only shows up on the specific device or apple will disallow it.

    The issue i have is that it kills you in the ranks as it is ranked based on which device it is downloaded on. And it ranks on iphone if it is downloaded from the desktop.

    My app was only featured on the desktop so rather the user intended it for pod or pad it was only counted towards pod sales.

    Ironically most users dont realize optimizing a game for both is as hard as making two.... I think it can be even trickier with some features.

    I just hate it when people think you are greedy for releasing two .99 cent apps while others release one 4.99 app. The app store has really put the value back in a buck lol
  4. Stroffolino

    Stroffolino Well-Known Member
    Patreon Silver

    Apr 28, 2009
    Software Engineer
    I'm curious to read your blog entry, but the link is not working for me.

  5. GlennX

    GlennX Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2009
    There is a third option which may be best of both, may be worst of both, I wonder what people think:

    I'm updating my library to have support for OpenGLES2.0 which of course runs on 3gs, iPod Touch 3, iPad, iPhone4 and iPodTouch 4.

    I'm thinking I could release an "ES2/Arm7" (I can of course compile for Arm7 on all ES2 devices) 'universal' version of Ground Effect instead of an iPad version. Of course it wouldn't really be universal as it wouldn't run on old devices.

    The big problem is, how do I present this?, it seems kind of obvious but nobody seems to have done it yet.

    I could sell it for a little more, everyone with a capable device would get the new nicer version with new shaders for everything (shiny water, rim lighting on the landscape etc.) but would customers find it confusing?
  6. MrBlue

    MrBlue Well-Known Member

    Sep 3, 2008
    iPhone Developer
    #6 MrBlue, Sep 21, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
    All legitimate points about universal apps.

    You can embed some analytics to get a rough idea of usage. It's not perfect, but you can get a rough idea. I see about 10% iPad users for my universal app.

    Being on the new release list nowadays isn't as important now as it was 2 years ago or even a year ago. For me, it comes down to maybe missing 100 units sold. iPad new release list is also much less effective than iPhone.

    I haven't decided if I'll continue to release universal apps. Why should an iPhone user w/o an iPad pay (both in cost and storage) for something they're not going to use? It's also a huge pain to try to fit below 20mb 3G d/l limit for an universal app. Now with Retina display, it's going to be difficult to fit into that limit for an app that supports all 3 devices.
  7. Just added retina graphics to Charmed this week, and I went from about 9.3MB to 28MB, and I don't really have that much art!

    I could release a new version that is "HD" for iPhone 4 and iPad, but then existing users that upgraded to iPhone 4 would have to pay again, which is not desirable. It would also split my downloads which would hurt chart rankings.

    Users with older devices will now have to devote nearly 20MB to graphics that they will not use.

    I am considering a "download retina graphics" option or "download iPad graphics" option. Not necessarily an extra charge, but it would keep me under the 20MB limit.

    I would think Apple wouldn't have an issue with that, but who knows.
  8. sticktron

    sticktron Well-Known Member

    It's in the best interest of our platform (iOS) not to fragment.

    The iPhone has a unique advantage in the market. Unlike everything before it, every iPhone came from Apple, loaded by Apple, and updateable instantly by Apple. Not an Android, or WM phone built by one vendor, modified by a carrier, dependent on all three for updates, and scattered app stores. We just have a very homogenous system in place.

    Ok now we have a few screen sizes, resolutions, and he capabilities to account for. Yes it's more work, but is it really that much? Unless your iPad version is actually different, going Universal continues to keep things tight, and is the best for consumers of each device. If the iPad version is different enough, then I think it's perfectly reasonable to sell it separately (Chess XL or Chess for iPad, etc.).

    Please don't fork off 960x640 as a separate entity.
    I don't think that's the case right now, major releases seem to be Retina display-compatible by default, and there is negative response to those without.
  9. GlennX

    GlennX Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2009
    They wouldn't "have to", they could keep running the standard version and surely a 'universal' (iPhone4 and iPad) version that would run on their iPad and the iPhone4 they might be getting next time they upgrade would be more attractive than an iPad only version rather than less.
  10. sticktron

    sticktron Well-Known Member

    Let me clarify my above post. IMO apps should fall into these cases:

    1. Similar on all targets (eg "MyGame")
    2. Significantly different on large screen (eg separate "MyGame for iPad", "MyGame XL")
    3. Significantly different for latest hi-res targets (separate "MyGame HD").

    Case 3 is iffy as most people expect new apps to be designed for the latest devices, with graceful degradation for older devices. It would be mostly applicable to a re-working of an existing title.

    The apps in Case 1 *should* be screen size/resolution aware, although for a 99c app you might get away without it.
  11. If they want that update they do "have to" pay again. Most people (including many who have expressed their opinions in the TA forums) expect those updates for free and resent having to pay again "just for retina graphics", even though it can be a significant amount of work for the developer in some cases.

    So yes, the iPhone 4/iPad version would be more attractive, but nobody wants to pay you for it separately.
  12. Venan

    Venan Well-Known Member

    Jan 13, 2010
    We did that exact thing for Ninjatown: TOD. It worked out pretty well for us and Apple had no problem with it. If you don't want to deal with hosting it yourself, I recommend Amazon Web Services for hosting the files. We had like 5,000 downloads (about 15MB a pop) and have spent a grand total of about $10 on bandwidth charges :)
  13. Thanks, that's great to know. Did you get any flack from users?
  14. EssentialParadox

    EssentialParadox Well-Known Member

    Sep 21, 2009
    UK / Toronto
    After running a small music label, I've realized your hardcore fans are one of the most important aspects of your business. They will act like mini-marketeers for you if you keep them happy. Nurturing a highly satisfied (and thus highly dedicated) segment of users is what I believe to be a large contributing factor to even Apple's success.

    Ultimately, I will make all our games Universal on that basis, because I feel it could gain us a few hardcore fans for our development studio. If it turns out the customers don't care, we may change that.

    But I know myself, as both an iPhone and iPad owner, will pay attention whenever a developer creates a universal app. And if a dev does decide to make two separate apps, I like if they at least have the expensive HD iPad version be universal, even if the cheap iPhone version is iPhone-only. Thus giving me the option.

    It's worth remembering the iPad only launched a few mere months ago. A lot could change in the App store market regarding the iPad and regarding Universal versions.
  15. Fleabag323

    Fleabag323 Well-Known Member

    Dec 19, 2008
    As a customer, my opinion is that if your game supports the Retina Display, and you want it to work on the iPad, make it universal. If you want it to be a separate app, at least add some content to the iPad version. I hate that Angry Birds HD costs 5x as much as the iPhone version, yet gets later updates and has no added content. However, with other games, it's perfectly fine. (like Flight Control HD).
  16. Naughty_Ottsel

    Naughty_Ottsel Well-Known Member

    Feb 24, 2009
    I think it also depends on the game/app. I am currently building an app that is controlled on the iPhone using the accelerometer. However I think for the iPad a different scheme of input would have to be used and tilting a 9" device to and fro would get painful on the wrists, plus it would be painful to try and tap the screen on the iPad when tilting (needed to fire in the game) whilst it is relatively simple to put it into a universal app and have the different controls, it may confuse users that have it on both devices, having 2 seperate apps means you can distinguish different control schemes if needed.
  17. Frand

    Frand Well-Known Member

    I suspect the main reason you see a lack of universal apps is because they are penalized on the charts. A dedicated iPad app has all sales counted against its chart position, a universal app loses all desktop sales from its iPad chart calculations. This means that going universal equals:

    1) facing a storm of complaints from iPhone users who are used to lower price points if you try to maintain iPad pricing
    2) losing your iPad chart position because universal app desktop sales are counted only against iPhone chart rankings

    Therefore making the iPad version universal while still offering an iPhone version would be equal to shooting yourself in the foot with a shotgun. Your iPad version would fall on the charts and your iPhone sales would be split between two SKUs.

    With the current way the app store operates, doing a universal app is a losing proposition for business-minded developers. You'll end up doing (a lot) more work but can't set a higher price, plus you'll end up with less revenue than from separate versions (which are also separately much easier to test and support).

    It's understandable why the chart rankings work that way - universal apps would dominate the iPad charts and erode the iPad price points.

    Providing an option to upgrade to universal via IAP would be great, but unfortunately isn't technically feasible.
  18. Stroffolino

    Stroffolino Well-Known Member
    Patreon Silver

    Apr 28, 2009
    Software Engineer
    I was one of many developers that was taken aback when I first found out that going universal could canibalize your ranking. It seemed ridiculous that Apple would effectively be building in a punishment for developers that went the extra mile to make their apps universal.

    That being said, the pros for being universal can outweigh the cons.

    All things being equal, a universal app is more appealing, and can improve your downloads through itunes/iphone.

    For games, the iPad appstore ranking is almost useless anyway. As far as I can tell, there are still no browseable subcategories for games, so unless you're in the top 100 apps, your only buy-from-ipad purchases will come through search and apple's own promotions.

  19. Qordobo

    Qordobo Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2010
    It's clear that Apple has a dilemma with charts and iphone vs ipad vs universal. I don't see good solutions. Myself since I know this detail I download all my iphone games from my iPad and never from desktop. But this won't solve the problem.

    As a consumer I admit I prefer separate versions because I don't care own an iphone version and sometimes I have been happy to be able play the iphone version on my iPad and few time I regret not have been able to do it because the game was universal.

    For those playing on both devices it's more a problem, pay two times the game or pay once the iphone version and use it on both devices.

    But when I pay an iphone version because I think it's pointless wait the HD version and the price is low enough. And if then the HD version is released, sorry for all dev and their logical marketing reasons but since now I'll rate one star the iphone version no matter its quality. It's as cold consumer logic than cold marketing logic of developers. No sentimentality on both parts and that's fine.

    The only solution I see are, release first the HD version or at same time than iPhone version. Or have Apple implement an upgrade from iphone to ipad system and developers use it.
  20. mr.Ugly

    mr.Ugly Well-Known Member

    Dec 1, 2009
    Berlin, Germany

    so you punish a developer for released an ipad version later?

    ever considered that the sales of the iphone version actualy funds the ipad version?
    99% of the ios developers out there are indies and probably 98% are turning every penny twice to fund their projects.

    possible consumers should make an reality check what they expect for their 99cents

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