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

Flight Control is the one of the more successful products from Firemint for the iPhone. At what point did you consider the app a success in the App Store, and what was your reaction to its reception by iPhone users?

Flight Control is definitely our most successful title, in fact with over 1,000,000 downloads it's one of the most successful paid apps ever. We've always loved the game in the studio, but we weren't sure whether we'd be able to rise above the noise in the App Store and get noticed. When Flight Control started to head up the US charts I was chuffed that it was heading up rather than down, as the US is the biggest market and the most competitive. When it hit #1 we were pretty much celebrating, but then it stayed there for about a month, and that was absolutely extraordinary. We love hearing all the anecdotes from people about their experiences with Flight Control, from those who have never played a game on their iPhone before, to those who are making a roster at work to figure out who gets to borrow their phone to play it. It's incredibly creatively satisfying to discover that so many people love our game.

How do you attempt to differentiate yourself from the other iPhone app and game developers in the App Store?

Definitely through the quality of the finished game and the application of very high levels of polish. We've got a real desire to make our games as fun as possible, and we don't stop refining until we've got a few addicts in the studio! Finally, our team can deliver some pretty amazing features and functionality at the very highest technical levels, as we've demonstrated with Real Racing. That is still extremely rare.

What do you think about the Australian iPhone development community, and how do you see it growing in the future? As a whole, is it particularly competitive compared to international communities?

We're a little bit insulated from companies that don't come from a games background, as we are first and foremost a game development studio rather than an iPhone development studio. So we know a lot of the other Australian game developers, but not so many of the other non-game app developers. Size-wise we are the largest company predominantly making iPhone games at the moment. The beautiful thing about the App Store is that a developer can really be located anywhere in the world and be competitive. We've got some extremely talented people working in games in Australia, so I think we can hold our own internationally! We also have a very supportive Victorian state government, which is an enormous help to us.

What are Firemint's plans for the future in regards to development for the iPhone?

We're putting a lot of effort into continuing to support and extend Flight Control and Real Racing. We're also working on lots of prototypes for new games, although nothing has quite been up to the standard we've set for ourselves yet. It's going to be pretty tough to follow up our first two titles!

How are you dealing with the release of the iPhone OS 3.0 Software Update? Have you needed to significantly update your apps to support the new operating system? What do you see as the biggest innovation in the software update that's relevant to iPhone games?

We're really keen to implement some of the very cool new features in OS 3.0, so we've been learning the ropes there. We haven't had to make any changes to our existing applications for them to work. There are some interesting possibilities that arise with 3.0, the ones most relevant to games are things like the peer–to-peer network functionality, and in-app purchases — although we will be watching and waiting a bit before we jump into that, to see how the market responds.

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