Friday, December 21, 2012

Episode 7 - Developer Diary: Locked Up For The Holidays

Today is the big day.

Or should I say the end of days, if you believe the Mayans. It certainly looked, felt, and sounded like the apocalypse when I stepped outside this morning, dodging fallen garbage cans and overturned recycling bins, in a relentless assault of howling wind and rain.

But I made it to work and what I really want to talk about is the other big day. Today, the App Store will officially go into lockdown and us developers will be locked out until December 28th.

If you’ve been following our story, you’ve seen a small indie development company strategically target high App Store visibility with a new app launch and an app promotion right before the expected holiday ranking freeze.

Our game plan paid off, and today our new Marble Math Lite: Multiplication app is a featured iPad Education New and Noteworthy selection for a second straight week, and our Alien Buddies sales are up over 30%.

Even more important than short term rankings and sales spikes, it does appear that our plan to drive up sales of Marble Math and Marble Math Junior by offering the Lite Multiplication version as a free test drive, is working.

One thing we’ve noticed about the iPad App Store featured window space, If you hold your iPad vertically and view the New and Noteworthy picks on the main category page you’ll see that the apps are presented in neat groups of 6 (8, if iPad is in landscape). You have to swipe to get to the next group, for a total display of 18 apps in 2 swipes. There are however 24 New and Noteworthy selections in all. The only way to see the entire collection is to tap “See All” at the top right of the list.

So what, you ask?

Well, every time you ask a user to do something, like swipe, you’re losing downloads because the act of swiping takes effort.

If the user has to swipe and tap - forget it.

Marble Math Multiplication landed on the New and Noteworthy features at position 8 last week which means you had to swipe once to see it, if you hold your iPad like a book, but you wouldn’t need to do a thing to see the app if your iPad was in landscape.

We’re thrilled to still be a New and Noteworthy pick and viewable on the Education category page going into the holidays, but now we’re at the back of the line. It takes 2 swipes to find the app and that means an instant drop in downloads and rankings. We went from #40 to #70 overnight which means a drop-off of something like 300 daily downloads from the previous week.

And if you end up somewhere in the last group of 6, and you can only be found by locating and tapping “See All”, you’ve probably only got a week in the New and Noteworthy holding pen before you're released back to general population with all of the other 70,000+ apps in the Education category that aren’t featured. And I’m pretty sure the holding pen is where you’ll find Marble Math Multiply next week when we return from the holiday break.

But we’re not complaining.

We’ve got a new app set to launch in 2013 and we’ve got lots of hope heading into the Holidays.

We’ll wrap up this diary in January with a full report of life on the inside during the lockdown.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Episode 6 - Developer Diary: Locked Up For The Holidays

How was your weekend?

After a sudden turn of good fortune, we found ourselves strutting around the App Store with the big dogs in the Education category.

It’s exciting to see our marketing strategy and efforts to promote our new app, Marble Math Lite: Multiplication, pay off handsomely in a featured App Store Education window spot.
In an instant, Marble Math Multiply went from New and Not Possible to Find, to New and Noteworthy - and what a difference that visibility makes.

Before the New and Noteworthy feature, Marble Math Multiplication was struggling to stay above the Top 300 fold, averaging around 200 downloads/day, today it’s holding steady at around #40 in Top Free Education apps.

That’s about 1,000 downloads a day.

We also ran our free Alien Buddies promotion on App Friday.

App Friday is a weekly web event and Facebook party, featuring select family-friendly developers and their discounted apps, and it’s been a really good platform for us to mingle with folks who use our apps, as well as other developers.

The simple act of switching your paid app to free triggers the alarm for all of the app price change aggregators, but you also want to reach out individually to reviewers, bloggers and friends in your network ahead of your promotion, to make sure they are prepared to lend social media support.

With the full force of our social media network behind them and a generous push from AppAdvice Apps Gone Free, our little Buddies raced up the charts on App Friday, leaving even Marble Math Multiplication in their dust as they reached exalted Top 10 territory, settling at #7 with only the likes of Mickey Mouse and Toca Boca ahead of them. We waited until Saturday afternoon to manually switch Alien Buddies back to Paid to make sure everyone worldwide had a chance to download the app during the promotion.

Alien Buddies was downloaded over 11,000 times.

It’s always hard to pull the plug when you’re staring at your app in a Top 10 position, and when you do, your app ceases to exist on the charts at all - it falls into a black hole as the charts re-calibrate and that’s when the fear creeps in.

“Will I ever make it back?”

Before the promotion, our Alien Buddies were hanging around in the 250-300 chart range.

Today, they’ve jumped about 100 spots and look quite content around #150.

It remains to be seen whether they can hold their turf higher up the charts. Typically, sales and free promotions are good for a quick rankings injection and a short-lived status bounce, before things settle  back to their natural order.

But sometimes the bounce is just enough to get some extra attention.

With any luck, Alien Buddies will hang on to their new chart territory and Marble Math Multiplication will still be a New and Noteworthy app when the dust settles from the App Store changes this Thursday, before the holiday lockdown.

There it is again - hope.

Without it, we’d be working in a shoe repair shop or delivering pizzas or something.

* The author actually worked in a shoe repair shop and delivered pizzas once upon a time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Episode 4 - Developer Diary: Locked Up For The Holidays

If you’ve been following our Developer Diary, you know tomorrow signals a changing of the guard in the App Store - every Thursday the App Store features get a scrubbing and the stale apps get rotated to the back of the shelf to make way for the New and Noteworthy big dogs.

When we launched Marble Math Lite: Multiplication, a couple of weeks ago, I assumed the established success of our two paid Marble Math apps and the news of a new free app would land Marble Math Multiply on the Top 300 Free Education Charts.

I was wrong.

The plot to launch a free app was designed to take purchase price out of the equation and throw open the doors to parents and educators who really want to try before they buy - and what better way to get their attention than with a shiny new app?

You can always make your app free, but your app can only be new once.

Apple used to give each new app a few minutes of fame at the top of the lists when viewing by release date but with Marble Math Multiplication we suddenly realized that there is no list to view by release date anymore - it’s been eliminated from the iPad (I don’t even bother searching on my iPhone - do you?)

But don’t think for a second that being new doesn’t matter - it’s still your best time to share your excitement with others and entice app reviewers, bloggers, educators and parents to commit their impressions to writing and/or video for all of the world to see.

Marble Math Multiplication may be the first app we’ve launched as a free download straight out of the gate, but we’ve run free promos before and we know it takes a lot more downloads to crack the charts when you’re free - roughly 10 to 1.

So if it takes 20 downloads to get a Paid rank of 300, it will take 200 downloads to get a Free rank of 300 in the Education category.

And it’s hard to see quite how those 200 trigger happy users will find you if you’re choking on dirt, buried below the App Store fold at #301 with over 70,000 other helpless apps.

Apple doesn’t hand out floodlights and mining gear at the front door.

But we had a breakthrough Monday.

A sliver of light.

Marble Math Multiplication finally popped up and made an appearance on the Top 300 Free Charts and it’s been hanging around doing little jailhouse chin-ups above and below the fold, ever since.

It’s not much, but it’s a little bit of hope.

And when you’re locked up in the App Store, sometimes hope is all ya got.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Alien Buddies Kids App - Updated & Free This Friday 12/14!

Stock the fridge with eggnog and put out your finest fruit cake, the Alien Buddies are coming to town!

This Holiday Season we’re pleased to offer our award winning Alien Buddies as a FREE download for your iPad/iPhone - 1 Day Only, Friday December 14th.

And thanks to the latest update, these adorable little critters will look their best on your iPhone 5.

Good looking and Free - it really doesn't get much better.

Please share with your friends and followers (human or other).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Episode 3 - Developer Diary: Locked Up For The Holidays

“Your app status is In Review.”

When I saw the iTunes Store email last Sunday night I was shocked.

On any other day, the email subject “Your app status is In Review” would trigger a harmonious concert of promotional efforts: a press release would fire, app reviewers would receive the signal that something new and exciting had just happened, and our social media army would buzz our network, expertly stoking the fire of anticipation for an attractive upcoming offer designed to boost downloads and get the app on devices.

“In Review” is pretty important - that’s why they use capital letters.

It means your app will be likely be approved or rejected in a matter of hours.

If your app is approved, you’ll get two more emails in pretty quick succession after review, “Your app status is Processing for App Store” followed by the glorious “Your App Status is Ready for Sale.”

I was just finishing dinner with the family when I saw the status for Marble Math Lite: Multiplication change to Ready for Sale.

I didn’t even have a press release ready.

When we huddled a few months ago to map out our strategy aiming for prime App Store Holiday positioning, we decided to launch a new app, Marble Math Lite: Multiplication, and to update an existing app, Alien Buddies.

Marble Math Lite: Multiplication was approved after 5 days in the iTunes review queue.

Alien Buddies v.1.2.2 was also approved after 5 days and went live last night - on a Sunday, just like Marble Math.

This is unusual in more ways than one.

New apps and app updates normally take 7 days for approval, and I’ve never heard of Apple working the weekends for approvals until now.

So instead of longer review times it appears Apple is working overtime to speed things up.

As an app developer you need to learn to sleep with one eye open.

I just finished writing the Alien Buddies press release to go out Friday morning, and we’ll offer the app for free for the day as part of the weekly family-friendly App Friday festivities to boost downloads.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you free promos don’t work.

It’s like an instant shot of app sales adrenalin and can be extremely useful, especially for a quick lift, say the week before Apple locks down the App Store and freezes app rankings.

Just make sure to tip off your social media networks in advance, and make sure you have a solid press release ready to go.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Episode 2 - Developer Diary: Locked Up For The Holidays

Episode 2

Welcome to the second installment of our developer diary, chronicling our efforts to stand out in the App Store during the the Holiday rush and iTunes Connect lockdown.

We're indie app developers making educational games for kids and our apps are consistently ranked in the Top 5% of all Paid Educational Apps in the US.

That's pretty respectable considering there are more than 75,000 active apps in our space.

But we’re still saving for our private island and we still rely on client work to make a living. Our little patch of App Store turf is under constant threat as big brands move in and each day is a fight to hold our rank in the Top 300.

If you’re not in the Top 300, you’re a needle in a haystack and you better be working on your next app.

The Top 100 - these are the big dogs, the Disneys, the Nickelodeons, and the Toca Bocas.

The Top 200 to 300 - this is our turf. We usually have 2 or 3 apps hanging around 200.

And then you have the Editor’s creme de la creme - the collections, the New and Noteworthies, and flavors of the week.

Getting picked can make you an instant big dog.

And guess what.
Apple just made their picks for the week.

And we didn’t get picked.

And we’re okay with that because getting picked by Apple for a featured spot is not a marketing strategy. A marketing strategy works on multiple fronts and takes time to cultivate. First and foremost, a marketing strategy needs an excellent product.

Which brings me to our latest app, Marble Math Lite: Multiplication.
It’s new and free and we think it’s pretty excellent.

Now pay attention:
People (and Apple) like things that are shiny and new.

People (and Apple) like things that are free.

People (and Apple) like things that are excellent.
Marble Math Multiplication is a free app but it’s also a gateway to our two established paid apps, Marble Math and Marble Math Junior, which we also think are pretty excellent.

We know the Marble Math apps are popular in classrooms, but schools and teachers are often reluctant to pay for apps, even with their educational discount.

Of course we have a demo video on the Marble Math website and we’ve got tons of great reviews from reputable sources like and Common Sense Media, and we regularly share news and reviews across our social networks, but some folks really want that test drive.
And we want them to play the game.

And we especially want them to play the game over the holidays on their shiny new iPads.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

App Store Developer Diary: Locked Up For The Holidays

We’re Artgig Apps, developers of educational apps for kids, and this is our experience marketing and promoting our apps in the App Store leading up to, and during, the holiday break.

The App Store developer portal, iTunes Connect, is closed from Dec 21 to Dec 28th, so expect a mad rush as developers scramble to get new apps approved and rank positions locked up before the Store is locked down.

And when I say locked down, I'm talking Alcatraz.

No new apps, no price changes, and no updates are allowed in this period.

So yeah, you better not pout and you better not cry, but more importantly, you better plan your promotions and maximize your exposure now to plan for extended review periods and possible delays before the freeze.

And remember, your App Store rank on December 28th will be exactly the same rank it is on Dec 21.

So you’ll want to look your best when Apple takes your snapshot before the freeze.

Our holiday marketing strategy features 2 primary promotions:

1 - Launch a new free app
2 - Make an existing app free for a day

We just launched our new free app, Marble Math Lite: Multiplication.

And we’ve got another app scheduled for a free Dec 14th promotion.

Stay tuned as we share the highs and lows of our holiday journey, ending with a January recap.

It’s like reality TV without the TV.

Monday, December 3, 2012

New Marble Math Multiplication App Launches! (And It's Free)

I noticed the other night that the lights are up here in town so we figured we better do our part to start spreading some Holiday cheer.

Please welcome the newest member of the Marble Math family, Marble Math Lite: Multiplication.

The icon even looks festive, doesn't it?

So, why don't you cozy up by the fire with your friends and family and download our newest educational app for FREE this Holiday season.

Marble Math Multiplication features the same great gameplay as Marble Math and Marble Math Junior, and it's a fun way to practice times tables.

It also goes well with roasted chestnuts.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Artgig Apps - Thanks For Being Such a Tease

Know what this means?

Here's a hint - our plan to get Marble Math on every iPad this Holiday Season is right on schedule.

We'll have more app news once we wake from our turkey coma.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Open Your Goodie Bag - We Got Treats!

I'm sorry, were you under the impression that Halloween was over?

Not while we've still got treats!

We can’t wait to share our new Marble Math and Marble Math Junior updates with you. Both apps now feature international currency options so you can practice counting with Australian, Canadian, Euro, or British money in addition to US coins and bills. You can download the update today from the App Store and it’s optimized for the iPhone 5.

And if you don’t have Marble Math Junior ($1.99), get your goodie bag ready, because you can download the app Common Sense Media calls
“ of the most fun, customizable, and effective math games available for early elementary school-age kids” 
for Free this Friday, November 2nd!

Like I said, we’re all about treats.

And once you’ve downloaded Marble Math Junior, join the other ghosts and goblins at the Moms With Apps App Friday Facebook Party where you can mingle with family friendly developers and get more great apps on sale (costumes optional).

Perhaps you've heard of the rare double rainbow phenomenon.
Well, today you've witnessed something even more remarkable – the double blog post.

Go on, run off and tell your friends.

And have a happy and safe Halloween!

Happy Halloween From Artgig Apps!

With many of us on the East Coast still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, and the usual Halloween festivities on hold or canceled, we're doing our best to keep the spirit strong.

We've been shaking up our favorite Monsters with our Shake-a-Phrase app all month and posting them on the Artgig Apps Facebook page.

As an extra treat, we thought it would be fun to get our artist, Lis, to illustrate some of her favorite spooky sentences.

What's that? You wish we'd post all of the limited edition sketches right here, right now, so you can go straight to the curiously creepy couples and sinister scenarios our little random sentence generator concocted without enduring the agonizing wait of loading Facebook.

Well, allow me to step aside...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Follow the Cuban Missile Crisis on remains one of my favorite website projects, first because it's JFK!

And we got to work with the good folks at ESI Design and the JFK Library to come up with an award winning website to share the legacy of JFK.

I'm especially fond of the graphic novel treatment we designed to underline watershed events from the Kennedy administration in the History Now section of the site.

You can skim the watershed pages to get a feel for events, or (if you have Flash) dive into individual panels for more story and media.

Most of the events on the JFK timeline are one or two pages, each with 8-10 panels of deeper story.

The Cuban Missile Crisis spans 13 action-packed pages, so not only is it one of the standout watershed moments from the JFK presidency, it was also a major production milestone for us. 

Take a moment...
Imagine our nation on the brink of nuclear war.

Follow 13 increasingly tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, beginning today, as it unfolds...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Artgig Apps - Halloween Treats!

Monsters, aliens and ghosts...oh my!
Don’t look now, but Halloween is sneaking up on you.
So in addition to updating our apps this October for the new iPhone 5 screen size, we’ll be sprinkling some Halloween treats about.

One of our most popular classroom apps, Shake-a-Phrase, offers a Monsters theme to shake up some spooky language learning fun. Last year, we teamed with a class in Westchester, NY for a Halloween-inspired creative writing activity and they enjoyed it so much, they requested that we do it again this year.  And we’ll be posting some of our favorite scary sentences on our Facebook page as Halloween draws near.

Meanwhile, our Alien Buddies were featured in this New York Times Gadgetwise post, sparking some pretty loud shrieks and howls in the comments section over screen time for babies (for the record, we don’t make apps for babies and we enjoy playing outside with our kids!)

If you’re looking for a fun activity for your early learner that doesn’t involve your phone or iPad, why not download a free Alien Buddies coloring book featuring your favorite martians.

Rolling right along, Marble Math recently made news in Australia’s The Sunday Mail paper. There’s nothing scary about this impressive list of kids educational apps from the iMums, but you may bump into a ghost while playing Marble Math if you don’t watch where you’re going.

Speaking of Marble Math, we’ve got a special update brewing in the lab. Soon you’ll be able to customize your currency to practice counting with Australian, Canadian, Euro, or British coins and notes for Marble Math and Marble Math Junior.

I told you we had some treats for you.

Stay tuned for more goodies from Artgig Apps!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pirate Buddies! A Special Treat From Our Game Artist

One of the best things about my job is the people I get to work with every day.

If I have a crazy idea like "wouldn't it be cool to dress our Alien Buddies up as buccaneers for Talk Like a Pirate Day," I can just wait until the last minute to spring it on Lis (in Australia) and when I come back to work in the morning - there they are, in my Inbox.

Of course, it may take almost another full day for me to get to actually writing this blog post but that's life in th' fast lane 'o app development, matey.

Now onto investigatin' 'tis iOS 6 I be hearin' much 'bout.

Enjoy talking like an alien pirate today...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

FREE Apps This Friday!

What better way to follow up a Back to School Sale than with...another Back to School Sale.

I may have to talk to our Marketing Department about this one.

I mean, let's at least call it something else.


"Return to Learn"

Run with it.

See you this App Friday at Moms With Apps.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back to School App Sale This Friday!

We know it can be tough, dragging the kids back to school after a fun-filled summer.

My suggestion to minimize kicking and screaming?

Trick them.

That's right, give them some educational apps that are actually fun to play.

They'll be too busy earning cool rewards and high-fiving over high scores to realize they're skilling and drilling.

And stuff.

See you this App Friday, with our friends at Moms With Apps.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Multi-User Accounts Added to Marble Math Apps!

You say you've got a small army of kids at home or in the classroom who really want to play Marble Math or Marble Math Junior - and you've only got one iPad.

Sure the kids are willing to take turns but...

Little Billy really wants to try adding coins in Level 2 and...

Maria is way beyond that, she wants to focus on Level 3 multiplication.

And Daniel finds the obstacles distracting, so he'd rather turn them off.

And naturally, they each want to earn their own marbles.

And they want to see only their scores.

And wouldn't it be cool if they could also have their very own character?

Sounds to me like like you need more than one user account.
Well, you're in luck.

We just submitted an update to Apple that lets you create as many player profiles as you like.

And it comes with a pretty sweet avatar creator that your kids will love.

Each profile can be customized for specific problem types by level and will save the game state and scores for each player.

The updates should be live in the App Store in about a week, just in time for the start of our Back to School promos.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Managing Post New and Noteworthy Stress Disorder (PNNSD)

See that furry little guy?
Yes, he’s as soft as he looks.
He even smells cute.
His name is Rocky and he’s the newest member of my family.

I got Rocky to help manage the debilitating effects of Post New and Noteworthy Stress Disorder, or PNNSD.
And if you’re going to do business as a developer in the App Store, you better go out and get your puppy now - because you’re going to need it.
As the saying goes, what goes up must come down and I can tell you a soft furry pillow helps to cushion the fall.

The last six weeks have been an app roller coaster ride for us.

Two of our apps, Alien Buddies and Marble Math, were featured by Apple as Education New and Noteworthy selections.
Alien Buddies got picked first and Marble Math followed a week later, after Apple rushed it through review.

Being featured by Apple in the Education category is like being rousted from bed by a team of personal assistants who dress you, throw you in a limo and rush you to a black tie party where you rub elbows with Dora the Explorer and Cookie Monster - oh, and those Toca Boca guys (maybe you’ve heard of them).

It’s quite exhilarating.

And then you’re getting featured by the likes of The Washington Post and and people just can’t seem to get enough of you.

And the sales.

They go up.


Over 1,000 %.
(Alien Buddies profit graph New and Noteworthy period May 31 - June 28) 

And because you’re featured, and because your sales go up, your apps shoot right up the Top Charts.

At their peak, Alien Buddies was a Top 10 Paid App and Marble Math reached Top 20 - out of 68,000 Education apps.

That’s week one.

Each app was featured for a full four weeks in the US iPad App Store which is where our primary market shops.
That’s another thing, exactly where you appear in the App Store and on what device, is really important.

Marble Math is still featured in the App Store at this very moment.
Apple even gave it a special small banner.
Try and find it.
Go ahead - I’ll wait...

There it is, the orange banner in the bottom right corner.
Nobody will ever see that banner unless they are looking for iPhone apps on a desktop machine.
In other words, you, me and Apple are the only people who will ever know that banner ever existed.

On an iPad, there are 24 Featured New and Noteworthy apps at a time, with six on a page. When you’re first featured, you get the prime page one real estate at the top of the list.
But with each passing week, our apps moved a page in, requiring a swipe to get discovered.
And not surprisingly, each swipe a user has to make to find you puts a dent in sales.
Apple updates the App Store every Thursday around 4pm EST, so that’s when you either get your big break - or get broken.

And that’s the magic phrase of the day, “App Discovery.”
And the only sure way for an indie developer to get discovered is for Apple to give you a lift.

So, you ask, what is life like since our apps fell off the charts?

Well, we’re doing the same things we always do.

We’re monitoring the App Store trends.

We’re establishing and maintaining relationships with app reviewers, teachers, and parents.

We’re improving and updating our apps.

And we’re developing a new app.

We’re doing all of these things in the hope that Apple will throw us another bone when we launch our Back to School promotions next month.

And if they don’t - well, I’ve got a little furry guy waiting at home who could care less what happens in the App Store.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Marble Math in the iTunes Education Spotlight!

Anybody else get this email Friday?

See that little hot red Marble Math icon in the Apps for Learning column?

Amazing how even the smallest mention by Apple results in a significant sales boost.

This came at a good time as I've been grappling with the devastating effects of PNNSD (Post New and Noteworthy Stress Disorder).

More on that later...

Hope you're having a good summer - and remember to unplug and recharge!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Download Marble Math Junior for FREE Friday, June 22!

He-llo Summer!

Our new Marble Math Junior app won't keep you cool...

But it will make you smarter!

That's right, those crazy kids at Artgig Apps are at it again.

We're giving away Marble Math Junior (ages 5-8), tomorrow - Friday June 22, to celebrate launch!

This is also a great opportunity to "try before you buy" for parents and teachers interested in the featured New and Noteworthy Marble Math for older kids.

Join us and Moms With Apps as we kick of the summer with some sizzling app sales - straight from the developers.

And please, share this offer with your family, friends, and followers!

Thanks for supporting Artgig Apps.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Marble Math Junior Launches and Alien Buddies at Toca's House

So, what did you do this weekend?

I hope all you dads got the Father's Day free pass to celebrate being such a great dad.

I sat down with my Brother-in-Law and some chips and beer to watch Portugal roll over the Netherlands in the Euro Cup.

Good times.

And speaking of rolling, Apple extended our New and Noteworthy run for another week so Marble Math and our Alien Buddies are hanging with some pretty impressive company on the Education Top 20 charts.

Ever hear of Toca Boca?

If you have an iPad and a child under the age of five, I think you know what I'm talking about.

Our Alien Buddies are over at Toca's House with Dora right now - probably in the Kitchen, playing Bingo (sorry, could not find a good way to get Solar Walk in there).

And that's not all.

Have you seen Marble Math Junior?

That's right, we just launched another Marble Math app – specifically for younger kids (ages 5-8).

We think they'll actually enjoy solving math problems while dodging obstacles like sticky green slime and boxing gloves that spring out of maze walls when you least expect it.

And they'll probably get a kick out of earning cool new marbles as they gain points.

And you can totally customize the problem types to make a perfect educational app fit for your young learners!

Who knew math could be this much fun?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Marble Math Rolls Into The App Store!





So much happening on the other side of my desk at Artgig Apps.

First, our Alien Buddies got picked as an Apple Featured Education New and Noteworthy App, which sent them rocketing up the charts.

Then, Apple surprised us with an expedited review of Marble Math this week, approving our new Educational app in record time – one day after submitting the app for review!

And yesterday, when Apple updated their charts, I happened to be watching as Marble Math joined Alien Buddies as a New and Noteworthy pick!

To say we're thrilled is an understatement.

But we're thrilled.

And we still have Marble Math Junior to release next week!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Alien Buddies Land On App Store Front Page - Again!

Guess who just landed on the front page of the App Store iPad Education Apps.

This is big.

Since our Alien Buddies got featured as New and Noteworthy they've been flying up the charts and now look at them.

Eyes all big and bugging out.

Mouth wide and grinning.

They're absolutely ecstatic!

We are too.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Alien Buddies App Sale Weekend Blowout!

Ah yes, summer...

The smell of freshly mowed grass.

A tall cool glass of iced tea.

The sound of over 31,000 Alien Buddies landing on iOS devices everywhere.

We're thrilled with the weekend summer sale results:

Alien Buddies reached Top #3 Free Education iPad Apps!

The app was downloaded nearly 32,000 times!

Thanks to all of our friends who helped to spread the word.

Let us know if the aliens landed on your iPad or iPhone by leaving an iTunes review.

Stay tuned - Marble Math and Marble Math Junior are coming soon!

Friday, June 1, 2012

iTunes Featured New and Noteworthy Alien Buddies!

The news broke yesterday around 5pm:

Alien Buddies is a New and Noteworthy iPad Education App!

Talk about a big weekend for our Alien Buddies – this just turned into a blowout!

Download Alien Buddies for FREE this weekend!

Exclamation point!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alien Buddies Educational App Update and SALE!

There's a party on your iPad/iPhone this weekend and we're bringing our Alien Buddies!
  • 8 New Puzzles!
  • 8 New Dot to Dots!
  • 16 New Stickers!
  • Lots More Buddies (and Fun)!
What better way to kick off the summer?

Friday, May 25, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Summer Splash! Big Alien Buddies App Update Coming!

You learn something new every day.

For example, did you know our Alien Buddies love a good BBQ?

They're terrible cooks so don't let them anywhere near your grill, but they'll eat those hamburgers and hot dogs as fast as you can cook 'em.

And corn on the cob.

They even eat the cob.

You know something else?

We just submitted a huge Alien Buddies app update to Apple with all kinds of new goodies to entertain and educate your little humans.

We love getting feedback from you on our apps, and to prove we're listening, we added:
  • 8 New Puzzles!
  • 8 New Dot to Dot Games!
  • 16 New Stickers!
  • Lots More Buddies (and Fun)!
We're gonna need a bigger spaceship for all these new Alien Buddies.

We also made some adjustments to the Puzzle games to make the placement of pieces easier.

And that's not all, we've got a very special promotion planned next week with our good friends at Moms With Apps.

So have a happy and safe Memorial Day, save your corn cobs, and stay tuned!

For a closer look at the new aliens, check out our FB page:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Two New Educational Apps On The Way!

Ahhhhh – you know how much I like that new app smell.

Even better when it's two.

That's right, we're tuning and polishing our two new math apps, Marble Math and Marble Math Junior, to get them just right.

And if all goes well with our final testing over the next few days, we'll submit them to the App Store this week.

It's really exciting to see how far the concept has come since the original functional prototype.

And we can't wait to share it with you.

Stay tuned!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Birthday Shake-a-Phrase! App Update & Sale!

How time flies!

Shake-a-Phrase, our fun little grammar app turns one today.

Its been downloaded over 25,000 times.

It's an iTunes featured Storytelling App.

And we just updated the parts of speech Quiz to add prepositions and conjunctions.

That's our gift to you.

Shake-a-Phrase is a funny little educational app - people seem to either love it (thank you, loyal and vocal educators), or hate it (because it doesn't do your laundry).

I personally love it.

Every now and then when I shake it up, it's bound to give me something unexpected that brings a smile to my face.

And if that isn't worth a measly .99 (on sale today), I don't know what is.

Much more on the way from Artgig Apps, so stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Jekyll and Hyde of App Review - Part III

...Continued (Part 3 of 3)

The Next Day

I wake to this headline "Strong Earthquake Strikes Off the Coast of Mexico."

Steve is in Mexico - and pretty close to the earthquake, according to the map I'm looking at.

I scan the news for appears the quake was unsettling, but fortunately not a catastrophic event, and there are no reports of injuries - or worse.

I send Steve a message to make sure he is okay.

And, despite my sharp instinct to barricade myself in the safety of my home, I go to work.

On the ride, I try to focus on the things I may actually be able to control.

I last spoke with Steve overnight and we discussed our options for fixing and resubmitting Word Cracker.

We both agreed that rebuilding the app from an Xcode snapshot of a previous state, effectively, reverting to the previous build, was too risky without intensive testing to be certain the snapshot didn't introduce a new, and possibly even more disastrous bug.

And in the time it would take to thoroughly test the app, Steve would be back from his vacation.

That's when Steve pulled a rabbit from his sombrero.

He had an idea that I could possibly modify the supporting .plist files from the previously accepted build to match the newly created iTunes version.

It was so crazy, it might just work.

By the time I arrive at work, hope is surging through my veins.

I'm determined to fix this Word Cracker and I'm gonna do it for Steve.

I open up the previous Word Cracker app bundle, locate the .plist files that had the version numbers, and edit them to the new version.

I save the files and upload the app bundle to iTunes.

The upload progress bar appears on screen, and in that instant I can practically feel the warm hand poised over my back - ready to give me a good pat, and I allow myself to think "well, that was easy."

Only, It doesn't work.

An abrupt error message taunts me, underlining the failed effort.

I'm officially out of ideas.

I check my email - no word from Steve.

But I do see an email from eoz games - a message was waiting in the App Resolution Center.

I shift gears, back to Roman Backgammon.

Mr. Hyde Calls... 

When I opened up the App Resolution Center in iTunes Connect, nearly 24 hours had passed since I responded to the original Roman Backgammon Rejection notice.

The Roman Backgammon app status is still red - not a good sign.

Quite a bit of effort goes into planning an app launch, and surprise delays can be costly.

We've consistently found it takes seven days from App Review submission to get to the store, so our launch marketing efforts are coordinated with that timeline in mind.

We like to aim for a mid-week launch and we always schedule a press release along with more specific grass roots marketing efforts and social media support, on launch day.

The cost of an app review delay is hard to quantify, but I can tell you from a marketing and project management perspective, it ain't cheap.

Each little app has a small window at initial launch where they are in the best position to get noticed because they are "new," and our marketing efforts are concentrated on maximizing the potential of the natural attraction to all things shiny and new.

Everyone loves that new app smell.

Apple's response in the Resolution Center is hopeful but frustrating.

They just want to clarify that the app is only using Game Center Multiplayer features, and not Leaderboards or Achievements - and they look forward to our response.

Well, I certainly don't want to keep them waiting, so I respond immediately, "Yes, that is correct."

Now it's my turn again to eagerly anticipate Apple's reply and resolution of the issue.

It is Thursday.

Here I am still stranded, my chief developer is still missing in the wake of a Mexican earthquake, Word Cracker is still crashing, and Roman Backgammon is still in App Store limbo.

Did I mention Friday is probably the worst day to launch an app because the marketing and press momentum quickly dissipates over the weekend?

An email from Steve suddenly pops up - He's okay. Communications spotty. He'll see me soon.

Needless to say, I'm happy to hear from him.

But another 24 hours will pass before I hear from Apple again...

Friday the 13th

I wait for my daily Resolution Center communication.

And it arrives right on time, promptly at 11am.

Of course Roman Backgammon gets the green light and the app re-enters review, and is approved shortly after.

Roman Backgammon appears in the App Store at 12:40 PM on Friday, April 13th.

Yes, Friday the 13th.

You can't make this stuff up.

I huddle with eoz games and they decide to hold their press release until Monday morning.

Monday the 16th

I arrive at the office Monday morning to find my old friend Steve already there.

And Word Cracker is already fixed.

And the update is already submitted to Apple, along with a special request for an Expedited Review.

The request is granted that same morning and Word Cracker update v.1.02 lands in the App Store later the SAME DAY!

After all of the frustration and waiting and desperation of the previous week, the speed of Apple's response is nothing short of breathtaking.

All three eoz games are now live in the App Store.

I slump in my chair, relieved, but spent from the entire experience.

I need a vacation.

I hear Mexico is nice.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Jekyll and Hyde of App Review - Part II

...Continued (now that you've downloaded the apps we developed for eoz games during yesterday's free AppFest, continue reading the sinister story behind the scenes)

A Surprise

I'm stunned.


Not only do I have a client app, Word Cracker, crashing in the App Store, but I've also got another app, Roman Backgammon 1.0, Rejected by Apple App Review - for the same client!

And that's not all.

Did I mention our dynamic developer and engineer extraordinaire, Steve, was in Mexico on vacation?

That's right, Mexico.

We could open up the Xcode project and start tinkering without him but that wasn't high on my list of best path forward options.

I know how it goes.

What takes the rest of us mortals a day to do, usually takes Steve half the time.
And I knew, based on our contingency plan, that he wouldn't be available until later in the evening.

In the meanwhile, I've got to cut through the underbrush of uncertainty to give Steve a head start.

Introducing...Dr. Jekyll

My Word Cracker mission - minimize damage.

When an app is first released, it's a lot like a baby deer, taking shaky, tentative steps in the big scary world and that little app needs all the help it can get.

Word Cracker had only been in the App Store for a week before the update, so it was still a newborn, and eoz games was busy trying to help nurture and nurse it along, with various marketing efforts in motion.

There is no break glass in case of emergency option to revert the app state to a previous build.

And you can't simply resubmit the previous build without rebuilding and updating the version and resubmitting the app to Apple and...waiting another week for their approval.

I took one look at our little Word Cracker and just knew, there's no way this doe-eyed app will make it another week.

As the grey swirling sky took on a decidedly more ominous tone, I reached mom.

Well, "Moms" actually.

I called upon my friends at Moms With Apps, to help us find our way in these murky and dangerous waters.

And with a simple suggestion from another MWA member, "rebuild, submit and request an Expedited Review," the clouds part just enough to let a sliver of light through.

"Expedited" is exactly the kind of word I was looking for.

Now, I have a clear plan to discuss with Steve when he resurfaces.

I turn my attention back to the Roman Backgammon Rejection.

Introducing...Mr. Hyde

I open iTunes Connect and scan the rejection details noted in the Resolution Center:

"We found that Game Center has not been fully enabled for this version of your app. Though Game Center has been enabled on the Manage Game Center page, it must also be enabled on the App Details page in iTunes Connect."

I flip to the App Details and there's a big green "ENABLED" button shouting at me from the page.

I take a picture of the button, along with a note indicating that I don't see a problem, and send it back to App Review via the Resolution Center.

This, at least, seems like a simple misunderstanding - should be cleared up in no time, I tell myself.

And I wait, for a reply...

No time at all...

The clock ticks.

Day turns to night.

And I think to myself, "I bet it's nice in Mexico."

To Be Continued... 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Eoz Games Celebrates App Trio Launch With Huge Sale!


Yes, you.

Do you like free stuff?

Well, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret...

Roman Backgammon ($2.99), Ticker Quiz ($1.99) and Word Cracker ($1.99) will be free to download from the App Store tomorrow, 4/24 (EST).

Yes, I said free.

Yes, it sounds just like "tree."

Yes, they will work on your iPad and iPhone.

I guess they just want to share the fun.

Just go download them and tell your friends.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Jekyll and Hyde of App Review - Part I

Today is a good day.

We've successfully launched the app trio of Ticker Quiz, Word Cracker, and Roman Backgammon for eoz games.

We're working on interesting website projects.

And I stayed up last night, testing our next homegrown education app and I'm really impressed with the gameplay.

When I got out of bed this morning, there was a distinct bounce in my step and a genuine eagerness in my work commute as I considered the day ahead with hope and excitement.

But last week at this time was an entirely different story.

I shudder to think of the nightmare my waking life had become.

Heed this, my fellow developers, as a cautionary tale that dives into the deepest pit of darkness, before restored.

You too, can survive the mad science of Apple's App Review.

I know this, because I did just that.

And along the way, I met two very different characters.


Two weeks ago, we submitted a minor update to the App Store to fix a broken link for both Ticker Quiz and Word Cracker.

We also wrapped and submitted Roman Backgammon 1.0.

I was happy.

Eoz games was happy.

And love was in the air, along with various marketing efforts, including press releases and active app reviews.

We've developed many apps for ourselves, and for others, and we know the routine - app approvals and updates typically take a full week from the time they are submitted to the actual review and approval, so I kicked my feet up and set my cruise control.

At the time, I didn't even consider that anything could go wrong with Ticker Quiz and Word Cracker - my only concern with eoz games was Roman Backgammon because the first approval is always a bit uncertain.

A week passed, and I got notice from eoz games that Ticker Quiz and Word Cracker had passed review and both updates were available for sale in the App Store.

All according to plan, or so I thought.

I approached work the next day with only Roman Backgammon on my mind.

And then came the call from eoz:

"The Word Cracker update is crashing."

"No way" I thought, but I said (calmly) "Let me have a look and I'll call you back."

I hadn't even downloaded the update from the App Store yet - but I did.

And sure enough, the app crashed in Solo mode, upon completion of a game - every single time.

My first thought struck like a poison dart - we're going to have to live with this app crashing in the App Store for an entire week while Apple reviews it.

Before I could even mobilize the team to formulate a plan of action, I got an email from eoz:

"Roman Backgammon 1.0 - REJECTED!"

To Be Continued... 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There’s a New App Developer in Town - eoz games!

In the wild west of app development, it helps to partner up with a developer who’s no stranger to danger. And believe me, we’ve seen our share - as a soup to nuts indie developer, and as a hired gun.

We first met new game company, eoz games, right around the holidays, when they were just a bunch of sketches on index cards.

Today, we’ve developed and published two eoz games, Ticker Quiz and Word Cracker, for the App Store and another, Roman Backgammon, is in beta testing with Apple submission just around the bend.

It’s no easy task, launching a game company virtually overnight. We pushed and pulled and cursed and toiled, to get the specs and design just right. And once the dust (mostly) settled, we’ve got three polished apps - cocked and ready to download. They’ve filled out a bit since we first met, but in reality, these three games haven’t strayed far from their humble 3 x 5 beginnings. The trio might be bigger and shinier now, but the beauty and simplicity of the original game concepts remains intact.

App #1 is called Ticker Quiz - it’s a handy pocket game for those itching to test their stock symbol know-how. The game can be played two ways: by company name, or by ticker. The timed game can be played solo or in head-to-head mode and the top scores appear on the Game Center leader boards.

App #2 is called Word Cracker - if you’re daring enough to call yourself a wordsmith, you better be willing to lay it on the table and prove it with this app. The timed game is played two ways: with or without spaces (think hangman) and also offers solo and head-to-head play modes. Like Ticker Quiz, top scores appear on the Game Center leaderboards.

App #3, Roman Backgammon, is my personal favorite of the bunch. Addicting and challenging, this app takes the classic Backgammon game and adds a historical twist with slightly different rules and a custom game board and dice design to take you back in time. Once you’ve beaten the crafty AI a few times, you may think you’re ready for a high noon duel with a dice-slinger from another far off town, and the Game Center integration will bring the challenger to you - just pick a stranger and pit your wits.

Together, this app trio represent some of the finest games you’ll play this side of Dodge City.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shake-a-Phrase is an Apple Staff Favorite!

Q: What do NASA, MOMA and Shake-a-Phrase have in common?

A: They're all featured Staff Favorites in the App Store Education category.

It's always nice to be featured by Apple.

And celebrating the launch of the new iPad with some App Store stars in the Staff Favorites lounge ain't a bad way to spend the day.

More shrimp cocktail?

Why yes - don't mind if I do.

Oh look, there's Dr. Seuss - gotta run!...

(Stay tuned for the launch of a trio of game apps we're working on for a client - instant game company!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Or should I say, Happy Lupercalia.

From National Geographic news this morning:

More than a Hallmark holiday, Valentine's Day, like Halloween, is rooted in pagan partying. (See "Halloween Facts: Costumes, History, Urban Legends, More.")

The lovers' holiday traces its roots to raucous annual Roman festivals where men stripped naked, grabbed goat- or dog-skin whips, and spanked young maidens in hopes of increasing their fertility, said classics professor Noel Lenski of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The annual pagan celebration, called Lupercalia, was held every year on February 15 and remained wildly popular well into the fifth century A.D.—at least 150 years after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

However you choose to celebrate, enjoy the day!