In a packed gaming market, iPhone developers big and small are competing for iPhone owners' attention. Gaming applications are a huge draw, but their popularity is putting pressure on independent developers, who are competing with big-name publishers like Electronic Arts and newly venture-backed and angel-funded gaming houses such as Ngmoco and Tapulous.
Independent game developers, who may have the drive but not the capital and resources of big-name publishers, are feeling the pressure, especially with the number of active publishers in Apple's App Store at 15,300.
There are currently 13,732 gaming applications available on the App Store and 25 to 50 gaming apps are added to the store each day, according to Sunil Verma, cofounder of Mobclix, an analytics company.
Popular iPhone app developers such as Ngmoco and Tapulous have skyrocketed past some of the platform's independent developers because they have the capital to promote iPhone games. Ngmoco has also tapped top executives, including former SEGA president and COO Simon Jefferey, to help run the business.
Room For All
With nearly 80 percent of iPhone games requiring payment and 23.3 percent free, according to Mobclix, there is earning potential for both independent developers and big name publishers.
"I think independent developers will always be able to develop for the iPhone," said Krishna Subramanian, cofounder of Mobclix. "But you will start to see more big games and powerhouse developers like Electronic Arts and Ngmoco, big players that are looking at the iPhone as a gaming platform."
The two groups are developing to different audiences and offering a different caliber of gaming applications.
"I still think you will have one-app developers creating apps or casual games for the iPhone as a way to reach out to those users in other countries outside the U.S. who are attracted to the free apps," he said.
Demand for free downloads is still up, according the NPD Group. Nineteen percent of iPhone owners surveyed by NPD said they play games every day on their device, while 34 percent never do. For 66 percent of the owners who play games, 82 percent of the applications have been free.
Not all independent developers, however, are in it for the fun or recognition. "Independent developers are worrying about how much money they can make," said Subramanian.
Developer Steve Demeter earned enough from his popular TRISM application to quit his day job. TRISM is one of the most popular titles on the App Store, according to Apple, and has won several awards. Demeter, who took a few months to develop the gaming application, has become an Apple poster child so much that Apple decided to film a documentary on the developer.
"When we work with others such as Tapulous, they are more interested in what users are doing with the app and how they can get more growth with the applications and want to run ad campaigns," Subramanian said.
Analysts believe the gap between the two kinds of developers isn't that wide, but as things start maturing companies such as EA will be pulling away from the independent developers because they will be pouring hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars into developing games for hard-core gamers at the $10 and $20 price points for the iPhone, according to Subramanian.