Saturday, January 2, 2010

iPhones impact in Calgary in 2009

2009 has seen a huge increase in the visibility of apple's iPhone App Store. The app store hit it's billionth download in May, then just before the end of September it doubled that number. Over 100k apps have been developed for the app store since it launched in the summer of 2008. Even in the humble little oil, gas, and cowboy town of Calgary, we've seen a significant pool of developers working on apps for the device.

The biggest category of iPhone app developers in Calgary have been those who are developing games. Companies in Calgary that are involved in this space include:

Broken Kings is a fledgeling Game Design company that so far has two games published on the iPhone. The first, Castle Conflict, was initially developed in 10 days, pirated over 10k times, featured by apple, and hit the top 50 in the US App Store for all apps. Their second app, Ant Attack, took longer to develop and did not sell as well. They released an update version of Castle Conflict before Christmas. The company also has two PC games that is is searching for distribution for, and does some consulting. They have one full time employee, Stephen Gazzard, and hire contractors to aid them on projects.

A lot of press has been given to Sally's Spa, which knocked EA's The Sims off of the #1 slot in the iPhone app store to becoming reigning champion. While it is no longer in the top slot, it still made makes large amounts of sales. The game was developed by a Calgary game development company, Games Cafe. The two man team responsible for most of the design, programming, and art then left Games Cafe to start their own iPhone game company, Blue Unit Games, although they were bought by Phoenix New Media shortly afterwards.

WNRS (which stands for We Are Not Rocket Scientists) and is another success story from a Calgary development house. The company includes Boris Cosic, who worked on Flapjack Finder, an app that allowed users to find Calgary Stampede Pancake Breakfasts with their iPhone. Two apps have been released by WNRS so far. The first was HallowCarver, a Halloween themed app where the users carved pumpkins with their fingers. The app was featured by apple and hit the top 50 in Canada. Their second app, a game called SnowRumble, was released in the app store shortly before Christmas.

FPM software is a company run by Lopi Mackenzie. The company is technically incorporated as a BC corporation but its offices are now located in Calgary. Their first app, ShiftMaze, was released shortly before Christmas, and developed in coordination with Vertical Motion.

Big Nerds in Disguise is a hobby developer, meaning that the employees still work full time jobs and makes their apps at night. Their first app, Own This World, went live shortly before Christmas. Is is a location based app where players gain territory using the GPS on their iPhone. In total, BNiD has three employees; two programmers and the graphic designer/marketer. (They also wrote another app, Ask JC, that was rejected by Apple).

Soma Creates is a company run by Josh Heidebrecht, a parent of two. Like many other companies in Calgary, Soma Creates makes games for the iPhone, but where Soma Creates is unique is that their apps are aimed at the children of people who own iPhones. Their first app, I Can Garden went live earlier this year, and is aimed at children 18 months and older. Soma Creates already have several projects planned for 2010, that follow their goal of creating apps that entertain children while at the same time unlocking their potential and inspiring their creativity.

Another young iPhone company in Calgary that develops games and does consulting. Notably, they recently worked on Hootsuite, which won an award on Mashable for best Twitter app.

Mindless Goods is a small Game design company based in Calgary that is near to releasing their first title, Bait, which is like a combination of the hit iPhone app Koi Pond and the hit PopCap game Feeding Frenzy. It is run by Greg Taylor outside of work hours.

The iPhoenix Fund is perhaps the biggest movements in game development in the city. It was started by Phoenix New Media, a Calgary games company that has a hit series, "Curse of the Pharaoh", on Big Fish Games. In 2009, they began iPhone operations, including the purchase of Blue Unit Studios and the start of the iPhoenix Fund, which intends to build a number of iPhone games over the next five years. Development partners that will be working with Big Stack Studios (the company Phoenix New Media is using for iPhone games) include Broken Kings, Robots and Pencils, Chayowo Games, and Phoenix New Media.

Among all the game developers, there are also some companies who dabble in more than just games.

Robots and Pencils is run by Michael J. Sikorsky and his wife, Camille Sikorsky. They consult and work on their own projects. Throughout the year, they were involved in various websites, businesses, and iPhone apps. The four iPhone apps that are live in the app store that Robots and Pencils were involved with include: Crush Factor, iHydrate, Kawi, and an app for iPhoenix Fund investors.

Finally, there have been several movements in Calgary that have not been related directly to the development of iPhone apps, yet have still benefited from the growth of iPhones on the market.

iPhone Dev School and iPhone Dev Camp are initiatives started by Michael J. Sikorsky of Robots and Pencils. He teaches iPhone Dev School with Stephen Gazzard of Broken Kings; so far, they have taught the course twice (once in Calgary and once in Edmonton). It is a weekend course, and students have gone on to write successful apps. Included among the students were Boris Cosic of WNRS, and Randy Troppman, who founded RunningMap Trackometer, an app that tracks users positions over time. (It hit #10 in the Fitness category on the iPhone). The next is being held at the University of Calgary at the end of January.

iPhone Dev Camp is a little more loosely structured than iPhone Dev School, and at the first one (which was hosted in Autumn), the "App Track" began developing an app for the Calgary Science Center.

Appboy is a website for developers to promote their apps, for people to submit app ideas, and for users to look at what apps are available. In short, it's an app-lovers hub.

iPhix is not involved in iPhone Development, but they still make their living off of the iPhone. This mom and pop shop specializes in fixing broken iPhone screens for less money and time than it takes Apple to do so.

From work-at-home entrepreneurs to hobbyists working in their free time, to large funds - the iPhone has definitely made it's presence known among the development community in Calgary. 2010 should see many more exciting advancements.

Every effort has been made to keep the content in this post accurate. If any information seems incorrect, please e-mail stephen at broken kings [dot] com

1 comment:

Chad Smith - Hybrid Forge said...

There many alberta-based app builders doing excellent work - check out the app Hybrid Forge build for over 150 libraries in the province