The iPhone as a gaming platform: we speak to the Aussie developer of FlightControl

Firemint is the developer behind the extremely popular FlightControl game for the iPhone

What is your background and how did this help you move into the iPhone app field?

The vast majority of people in the studio have a background in game development. We've been working on mobile and handheld games for seven years, so it was a really natural progression for us. The first Firemint developed game on iPhone was actually The Fast and the Furious: Pink Slip, for our publisher I-play, so we eased into things a little bit rather than dealing with all the additional complexities of self-publishing straight away as well.

Who comes up with ideas for iPhone apps at Firemint and how are they conceived?

For our commissioned work, our publishers will give us an outline of the sort of design and features they want to see in the game, and we work up a full Game Design Document from that. For our self-published titles, the initial idea can come from anyone at Firemint, although we will usually then assign one of our game designers to the project to flesh it out. Our programmers and artists also contribute a lot to the design process, and we often do a lot of rapid prototyping as that's really the only way to know for sure whether something will be fun or not. We've got about 10 prototypes that would probably take another week or so to finish enough for publishing, but we just don't find them fun enough yet to put our name on them. We may find that magic ingredient that makes them work, or we may end up discarding them.

Firemint's current offerings for both the iPhone and other mobile devices are a combination of in-house intellectual property and licenced games. Can you explain a little bit more about how the apps came about and the development process? Does Firemint look to focus on its own IP or is it always a combination of both?

It's actually only recently that we've been in a position to fund our own original titles, and the App Store has given us a channel for publishing. We still work with publishers on a number of interesting titles, but we are also doing a lot more of our own IP. Both publisher work and original IP each have their unique advantages and it keeps us a bit diversified rahter than being 100 per cent dependent on publishers. It also means that as a company we take on a lot more risk by self-publishing than by remaining purely a work-for-hire studio.

Is there a particular reason you decided to develop games for the iPhone? Was it a natural progression or something else?

It was very much a natural progression. There are a lot of attractive aspects to iPhone development. The SDK is a joy to work with, and there is hardly any device variation (unlike mobile games where you would routinely have to think about hundreds of different handsets). The App Store makes it extremely easy for people to get content, and when self-publishing we are a lot closer to the consumer than when we work with external publishers. We are able to retain our IP, and we also see a much bigger slice of the profits.

How do you see the iPhone as a gaming platform? Is it a simple, casual device, or do you think it is competitive against the likes of the Nintendo DS and Sony's PlayStation Portable?

In terms of the quality of games possible, it is absolutely competitive against the DS and PSP. It is a more powerful device than the DS, and I think Real Racing has shown that it also seriously competes with games on PSP's level. It's going to be interesting to see what we can push the iPhone 3GS to do! However, I don’t think that the iPhone is necessarily considered a competitor by Sony or Nintendo. I think the iPhone has grown the overall market, rather than simply poaching users from PSP or DS. It may well have a positive effect for all companies in the space. There may come a day when the portable games market saturates and the whole business becomes a fight for territory, but I think we are a long way off from that time when it comes to digitally distributed handheld games. I think this industry is still in an early growth phase, and that means that growing the overall market is more important than fighting for existing customers.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags iPhonegamesiPhone 3GSiphone apps

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Hutchinson

Good Gear Guide
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?