2XL Games Interview: Gamers Will Pay For Great Content
Talented studio discusses the extreme world of smart phone development.
To say developer 2XL Games loves extreme racing would be a huge understatement. The studio has spent the past few years exploring new ways to bring these real life sports to different platforms, including iOS and Android.
Suffice to day, it succeeded. Not only have its games received a big thumbs up from a hungry fan base, but titles like 2XL ATV Offroad and X Games Snocross pushed the proverbial envelope in smart phone graphics.
Now the company just released its latest effort, 2XL MX Offroad, and it appears the community has nothing but great things to say. The fact that they get to race ATVs and dirt bikes head to head doesn't hurt.
That said, we contacted Creative Director Robb Rinard to talk mobile game development, the possibility of bringing 2XL's games to 3DS and PlayStation Vita, and more importantly, the keys to releasing a successful iPhone and Android title.
Why did you release 2XL MX Offroad on the App Store, as opposed to 3DS or Sony's upcoming PlayStation Vita?
Both the iOS and Android platforms have great distribution and market share. I think Google is adding around 700,000 new devices a day to the current install base. For now, we are continuing to monitor 3DS and Vita hardware numbers.
What advantages do iPhone and iPad present over more traditional handheld gaming systems?
Certainly, the biggest differences are the level of connectivity offered by the new devices. Not just low level networking, but also the ability to integrate so many levels of social networking into the experience is a big deal. Friends want to play with their friends, and using things like the Facebook friends list for match making is huge.
Your game costs $4.99 on the App Store when $0.99 appears to be the norm. How did you arrive at that price?
We launch our smaller games at $0.99 and our deeper gaming experiences at $4.99. MX Offroad has the complete feature set of a retail console title, which ships for $40-$60 dollars. Triple A mobile games like MX Offroad and Real Racing have a higher market value of five dollars or more, so we are providing an excellent value to gamers.
Going back to the last question, do you feel all these $0.99 games will stunt the growth of more fully featured and graphically intense titles moving forward? A couple years ago, publishers were talking about $20 App Store games. Is that impossible at this point?
At this point, I wouldn't rule anything out in the mobile games market. It's still in its infancy, and frankly, its mayhem out there. It reminds me of the movie Idiocracy. Any yahoo with a laptop can bring his or her app to market. And certainly, about one out of every 10,000 random apps that hit the store will actually represent a well-executed, good idea. I think the average revenue of most apps launched right now is less than $1,000 over the lifetime of the app. Hard to pay rent on that kind of revenue, even for a solo developer. In contrast, the apps 2XL Games have produced make multi-million dollar revenue streams. Our 2XL Supercross title is priced at $4.99 and is now up over eight million downloads, and our new MX Offroad is a more feature rich game than Supercross. Ultimately, I believe gamers will pay for great content and new mobile devices and tablets are allowing us to make bigger and better games.
You've been able to do some impressive things graphically with 2XL MX. What tools did you use to achieve this?
2XL Games has its own internally developed game engine, the XL Engine. It represents millions of dollars of C++ code and tools development that is all highly optimized to deliver the best graphics and gameplay we can engineer. As a result, on my iPhone 4S, the game runs at around 100 frames per second, even with the complex scenes we are rendering.
Do you have plans to support this game with downloadable content in the months ahead? Is there anything you still need to fix via free update?
The 1.0.0 version of MX Offroad has a few minor bugs we are fixing this week. We'll submit the update in the next few days. Overall, the game has been very stable. We're wrapping up some other new titles at the moment including Ricky Carmichael's Motocross Matchup Pro for Android, which will allow players to race head-to-head with players on the recently released PC and iOS versions of the game. In addition, we are finishing Jeremy McGrath Offroad for XBLA and PSN. As soon as they are released, we'll circle back and have a look at adding even more content to 2XL MX Offroad.
It seems like iPad graphics continue to advance at a rapid pace. How long until they're superior to what we'll see on PlayStation Vita? Will this even happen?
iPad 2 and iPhone 4S are amazing devices. We haven't really scratched the surface of the type of graphics these platforms are capable of rendering. In another year or so, we'll be seeing graphics in our iOS and Android titles that will rival PS3 quality graphics. It's an exciting time!
What mistakes should young App Store developers learn to avoid?
Managing scope. Small developers should take the kernel of an idea and try to bring it to market at the lowest possible cost. If the idea takes hold, then continue to invest in new features and updates. Many folks invest in trying to build their dream, only to find out no one else shared their dream.
How big is the team that worked on 2XL MX Offroad, and what special connection do you have to "extreme" racing? Why are you so passionate about this?
2XL Games has a staff of around 25 folks. We're located in the desert southwest of Phoenix, Arizona. We've been developing offroad racing titles for a long time, going back to the days of Microsoft Motocross Madness when we were at Rainbow Studios. We have a lot of great relationships with the top riders in the sport. Folks like Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath are amazing to work with because they're eager to get involved and make the games as authentic as possible, and so far that has really resonated with our fans.