Tiny Invaders-maker Hogrocket weighs in on the console-to-mobile transition

These days, its pretty commonplace to hear about teams of console developers announcing they have formed an independent studio to go into mobile development.

One of the many triple A-turned-mobile studios that has formed in the past year is U.K.-based Hogrocket, a three-man team that emerged from the ashes of Bizarre Creations after Activision decided to close the studio at the end of 2010.

Known for creating the Xbox Live Arcade hit Geometry Wars and the Project Gotham Racing franchise, Bizarre’s senior level designer Pete Collier, community manager Ben Ward and Geometry Wars creator Stephen Cakebread set out on their own in March 2011, forming a bootstrapped studio to take advantage of the opportunities in mobile development. The studio’s first (and so far only) game, Tiny Invaders has been a decent hit, and recently spawned a free-to-play spinoff.

Inside Mobile Apps recently had an in-depth discussion with Hogrocket co-founder Pete Collier to check in on the studio’s progress and ask him what the transition from console to mobile development has been like.

Inside Mobile Apps: How is Tiny Invaders doing? Are you happy with how its performing?

Pete Collier, co-founder, Hogrocket (pictured right): It’s doing very well. It’s hard to judge because you don’t really get that many download figures from other developers. It hasn’t been an out-and-out Angry Birds-type success or anything like that, so we’re not millionaires yet. I think its done very well considering its our first game. We launched Sep. 1 and we’ve always been featured in some capacity by Apple in that time. Over Christmas we were featured as a benchmark game so we’ve had a nice steady set of download figures since launch. Having come from the console space means we’re quite happy with that.

IMA: Tiny Invaders started out as a paid app, but at the end of January you put out a free app with an in-app upgrade. Why the change in tactics?

Collier: In November we had a really exciting event happen — we were featured in the Apple iPhone 4S announcement keynote, on the big screen while they were demonstrating some of the 4S features. But the thing was that it didn’t have the name Tiny Invaders scrawled over it, it was just a screenshot and we needed to capitalize on it and tell people that it was our game. To do that, we made the game free for three days following the keynote. In those three days we got just under a hundred thousand downloads. It was obvious to us at that point there were a lot of people interested in the game and lot of awareness around the game, but the premium price point and the fact that we were an unknown developer and not a known brand might have been putting people off.

IMA: How much did going free increase your downloads? Did you see the 10-fold increase other developers have seen, where a free app is downloaded about 10 times as often as a paid app?

Collier: It’s hard to tell without having prior comparisons, but I think our experience certainly seems to follow that. That promotion was on making our premium app free for three days, so that wasn’t a fair test, but we decided to make a free version of Tiny Invaders because of those three days. We are actually seeing about 10 times more downloads for the free version, which is good, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into people converting through in-app purchases. We’ve seen about three percent conversion, which is generally the accepted stat that you’ll hear from other developers.

IMA: Are you looking at taking Tiny Invaders to Android?