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Indie iPhone developer earning $21,000 a day from iPhone game

By on January 26, 2009
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This is the kind of story that will make old-school developers misty-eyed for the days when they could conceive, develop, code and publish a game from their teenage bedrooms.

Developer Ethan Nicholas works at Sun Microsystems. In his spare time, he developed a game called iShoot which allowed you to play as the gunner in a tank. You blew things up. Lots of them. With 25 different types of ordnance.

It was released in mid-October 2008 at $2.99 and after a flurry of downloads, it disappeared into obscurity.

 

Nicholas tinkered with it over Christmas and issued a free version, “iShoot Lite” on 3rd January.

By 11th January, it was the top free app and the top paid app on the iTunes AppStore, with 16,972 downloads in one day.

Apple takes a 30% cut so Nicholas is doing pretty well from his product. He has quit his job and plans to be a full time developer. And he is likely to be an inspiration to new developers, especially as he was not an experienced game developer (as the interview with Ethan Nicholas at iphonesaviour makes clear).

This is interesting for a bunch of reasons:

  • Nearly 17,000 sales of a small budget product in a single day is pretty good by any standards.
  • The approach of a free version plus a $2.99 full version seems to have worked for iShoot.
  • The iPhone is capable of supporting a development eco-system, and lots of people are likely to give it a go.

So good luck to Ethan Nicholas, and to all the other thousands of programmers who seem likely to try to emulate his success in 2009. Unfortunately, not all of them will be so lucky.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com