For the last couple weeks, Paul and I have been engaged in an intense debate about what game we should develop next. Seeking help from a more experienced authority, this morning I asked Steve Jobs how we could be successful on the App Store:

from:Jacob Stevens
to:sjobs ‘at’
date:Sun, Jun 6, 2010 at 7:56 AM
subject:Magical iPhone and iPad games?

Hi Steve,
My brother and I run a tiny game development studio called Riverman Media. We have made a couple simple iPhone/iPad games, published by companies including Disney, and enjoyed a small amount of success. We have also made games for other platforms, including Wii.

For our next project, we’d like to pursue a project that’s much more compelling and ambitious. Call it “magical.” Development will take a year or more. We are hesitant though, because of the huge amount of games being released on the App Store. What is the best way to ensure that we stand out against the hundreds of games being released each week? It doesn’t seem like the cream always rises to the top. Do you have any advice?

Also, my girlfriend just became a vegan. I’d like to cook her a really fantastic meal, any suggestions?


Much to my surprise, three minutes later, he responded:

from: Steve Jobs
to: Jacob Stevens
date: Sun, Jun 6, 2010 at 7:59 AM
subject: Re: Magical iPhone and iPad games?

My experience is that the cream almost always rises to the top, and that the opinions that it does not are held by the creators of less-than-cream apps.

Sent from my iPad

On the one hand, I agree with his response. Riverman’s games could be much better. We admitted, for example, in the MadStone Postmortem, that sometimes we don’t challenge ourselves enough with our designs.

However, I’m not sure I agree that the cream usually rises to the top. There are a lot of great, overlooked games on the App Store that have received only a handful of sales.

I don’t know if Mr. Jobs intended his response to be insulting or dismissive, but we’re going to take it as a challenge. We’ve made plenty of 2%, half-and-half, and lite whipped topping in the past. It’s time to try making real cream. Too often we’ve used excuses like time constraints or small team size as a reason for making games that are good but not great. Our promise to Steve Jobs, our players, and ourselves, is that we are going to make the absolute best game we can next time around, whatever it takes. Then we will see how the App Store treats it.

Thanks for the advice, Steve. Stay tuned.