Your app has been removed from the App Store

We recently received an email from Apple telling us that our app had been removed from the App Store. We knew it was coming, and I am absolutely delighted.

Let me back up a bit…

It’s 2011, and we had been building mobile apps for around 3 years. Really good stuff, great clients, but mostly enterprise and commercial stuff. We started getting a bit of an itch to do something a bit more gamey. And by ‘more gamey’…

…I mean ‘a game’.

It was October, and we thought we’d make a super-simple title for the Christmas holidays. We’d spend just 4 weeks making it.

8 weeks later (well…), we had our game (Santa’s Sleigh Ride), and we launched early December 2011 to massive coverage and adulation. Or, put another way, we had a single review in the gaming press (via a friend who took pity on us) and a single 2-minute piece on local radio…

Fame… & fortune…

We scanned the App Store fervently, and for a (very short) time even made it into the top 50 paid games in the UK. We were blown away. Success. Fame. Fortune. I mean, what does a top 50 game pull in? We had no idea. We had no analytics, so had to wait for the Apple reports, but it must be thousands of $? tens-of?

Nope.

Turns out, by the end of December we’d taken about $200. ALMOST enough to cover the cost the music we licensed to include in the game (you have to have good music!).

Every year, we got a little bump in sales around December (some people do buy Christmas games in July #justsaying), and ended up — after 5 years — making a total of 1,360 sales, netting us the grand total of around $910.

What’s my point? Well a few thoughts…

  1. For one, with a lot of things it’s often about just *starting*. Putting one foot forward, and actually making or doing something. Although a total failure commercially, Santa’s Sleigh Ride gave us a taste for the interactive, a sense of the fun and play. The enjoyment of making something that others enjoy. It flowed through everything we did, and changed who we were as a studio.
  2. Secondly, and the reason I’m particularly delighted that Apple is removing Santa’s Sleigh Ride, is that it’s a signal of a change in mentality around what makes an app store work. For years, the apparent indicator of ‘success’ for an app store was the number of apps available — something trumpeted every year at WWDC and Google I/O.

However, it’s been clear for a long time that ‘number of apps’ is actually a very bad metric to use for the definition of success. As the app stores get clogged, it gets harder to find exciting new things beyond the smallest percentage of ‘featured’ apps and games. People get fed up when they pay real money for something that frankly isn’t designed for the device they are using.

Having a good clean-up, removing old, unsupported, and often abandoned apps is a small step, but it’s a great way to underscore the emphasis on quality, and give consumers confidence in the store itself. It’s also sending a message to creators of apps — effectively “move it or lose it”. Keep updated, support and fix your apps.

This is a great thing for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong — I still love Santa’s Sleigh Ride — always will. It got us started on our journey making more games and other fun products ultimately culminating in us winning a BAFTA ‘best game’ award last year.

It was also a fantastic, fun, twitch runner with an awesome soundtrack.

And everyone loves Santa.