TicBits was founded in April 2010, and, now as 2011 nears it’s end it marks the end of the first full calendar year that we’ve worked with TicBits full time. The year started off in a good way, we had achieved the goals we set for ourself for 2010, we managed to reach our estimated budget and we had managed to release iAssociate 2 both on iOS (iAssociate 2 in the App Store) and Facebook (Facebook iAssociate 2) in a quite successful way. So the foundation for 2011 was already set, we now just had to follow our plan and stick with it.
The beginning of 2011 was a really fun time for us. We kicked off 2011 with a trip to the Mobile Games Forum conference in London in late January, and stayed there for 3 nights, meeting some fun people and having a few drinks, as well as getting some good insights and contacts from the conference. After that we had just enough time in February to finally get our first non-iAssociate game released. The game in question was Sudoku, which we released around the middle of February. Sudoku (Sudoku in the App Store)was our first game that we’d monetize fully by only showing ads during gameplay, so we were really interested to see how it would perform.
But before having too much time to check those stats (just a few days later) it was again time for us to go to another conference, this time the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. We had decided to head there early, so that we’d have time for some other activities besides the conference itself, so we flew into San Francisco already a week before the conference and started the trip by renting a car and taking the Pacific Coast Highway down to Los Angeles, where we’d stay for a few days before driving back up. (During those days we had time to visit Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, see Conan, and such). After leaving LA it was then time for the GDC itself, a really content packed conference which had grown a lot since I last was there (which was in 2003).
After GDC was over, it was finally time to get back home, and start writing code again. The next project that we finished after this was Minesweeper (Minesweeper in the App Store), which was released in April. We had already seen pretty good results with Sudoku so we were hoping to add more to that with Minesweeper. This project was followed by some recruitment as well, in late May and early June we recruited one more developer and one graphical artist to our team, which meant that we also got to move to a bigger office.
As we finally got a full time graphics guy this also meant that we’d be able to start working with a little bit more visually appealing games than the ones we had released so far. The first results of this can be seen in the next two games that were released, first Solitaire (Solitaire in the App Store) and then followed by Mahjong (Mahjong in the App Store). Mahjong was extremely well received immediately, and it’s steadily climbed in the charts since then, giving all our products much more exposure as well as many more daily active users.
Around the same time as Mahjong was released, in September, we were again recruiting, this time we added to our iAssociate 2 level design capacity, by bringing on full time level designers. With iAssociate 2 our biggest bottleneck had been in getting enough content released before this, so with this move we hoped to finally start producing enough new content so that we could give our users more content more than once a month.
Our final expansion for 2011 came now in late October, when we hired one more developer to join our team. This meant that we now again got to move into a bigger office, where we finally had everything under our own roof, meaning our own kitchen, poker room (also used as meeting room) and recreational room, everything a game development company needs in other words!
Our final release for 2011 will be FreeCell, which as I’m writing this has already been submitted to Apple for review, and should appear in the App Store within a week hopefully. After that we’ve already got a few projects that are progressing nicely, so we should have more new games coming ut in early 2012 as well. All following the same formula as all our games in that they’re all free to download and play.
Our growth in 2011 has been number wise quite significant. Not only have we released more games and added more developers to our team, we’ve also managed to do this in a profitable way which means that we go into 2012 with a really strong foundation on which to build on. For 2012 we have again raised the bar on what we hope to achieve, and our long term goal is to one day have at least one of our games installed on every mobile device out there.
2011 – Awesome times behind us
2012 – Awesome times ahead of us
Links to our games:
iAssociate 2 for iPhone and iPod touch in the App Store
iAssociate 2 for iPad in the App Store
Facebook iAssociate 2
Sudoku in the App Store
Minesweeper in the App Store
Solitaire in the App Store
Mahjong in the App Store
A lot of people, including me, seem to be of the kind that have a problem saying No, making tough calls when they are needed. Most people always try to please each other, promising to do stuff when asked for, never trying to disappoint other people. For some reason saying No to someone, no matter what the reason is, is a hard thing to do. So, sometimes instead of immediately saying No, we just extend the inevitable, saying Yes, sure I’ll do that, only to later realize that there’s no way you can fulfill that promise.
In business this kind of behavior ultimately leads to failure, as sooner or later, something will come up that will require a tough decisions, a decisions where you cannot exactly predict where each choice will lead and which path leads to success. In these places, all you can do is trust your own instinct and your own ideas, and, if that means making a decision that might make other people unhappy then so be it. Ultimately, you answer to yourself, and if you compromise your own thoughts and ideas then there isn’t much left to work for.
I must say, that this past time at TicBits has taught me a great deal about these kind of things, we’ve been faced with some places where hard decisions have been required, without us having all the information at hand to know exactly where each choice will lead. The only thing we’ve had is our own vision and thoughts, and I’m really happy that we’ve been able to follow that, even though it’s meant saying No on a few instances.
And now, after these decisions have been made everything seems so much clearer. I believe that we’re on the right path for building TicBits into something even bigger, the future seems incredibly bright and we’ve got everything it takes to bring TicBits to the next level!
Tomorrow, April 12th, will mark the one year anniversary of TicBits Ltd, and a couple of weeks after that will mark the two year anniversary of the release of my first iPhone game, the word association game Mercury Mind.
Mercury Mind was quite short lived and I quickly re-released it as iAssociate, with improved graphics and levels. After that iAssociate led it’s own life for almost a year, until me and my cousin in April 2010 founded TicBits Ltd and decided that our first game that we’d release would be iAssociate 2.
Since the release of iAssociate 2 for the iPhone in May 2010 a couple more versions have been released, the iPad version in November 2010 and then a version for Facebook in January 2011. (And yes, we still have a Android version under work =))
To show a little how things have evolved since then I thought I’d post some screenshots, of how it looked back in the early days, and how it looks now. (There’s even a screenshot from a version that is still unreleased…)
For those of you looking for a fun way to kill time, something that you can do even if you’re at the office, then here’s some Great News! We’re happy to say that we’ve now launched the popular iPhone word association game iAssociate 2 also for the Facebook platform, meaning that millions of people will now be able to experience iAssociate 2 for the first time since the original game was launched for the iPhone in 2009!
If you are one of those wondering what Miss Piggy and Yoda have in common; how Chess and Jedi Knights are related; what common word Hardcore and Gender relate to; and so forth, then look no further, as in iAssociate 2 you will encounter word associations in lots of varied topics, covering everything from food, drinks, movies, video games and lots more!
You can find iAssociate 2 on Facebook from the following link: iAssociate 2
We’ve just launched a Facebook version of iAssociate 2. It can be found at http://apps.facebook.com/iassociate/
The game works just like the iPhone version, meaning that the basic game is free for all to play, with a number of levels unlocked already at the start of the game. The game features lots of never before seen levels, including one of my favorites, which is the Video Games level, which features all kinds of video games, both old and new, starting from the Super Mario games and including such classics as Max Payne, BioShock, games by LucasArts, etc. If you’re a video games fan then I suggest that you definitely check out that level!
As a followup to yesterdays 10 Reasons why it sucks to have your own company here’s my list of 10 reasons why it kicks ass to have your own (game development) company.
The 10 best things, in no particular order:
- No more 8 hour workdays =) I’ve managed to switch to 14 hour workdays instead and it kicks ass! (And weekends are nowadays just a myth)
- It’s like a hobby, fun as hell! (and just as expensive).
- Doing “research” is awesome! Based on the amount of “research” we’ve done you should expect a Star Craft II killer any day now.
- GDC in California when the weather is shitty back here in Finland.
- You get to make BIG decisions, like just last week when we were deciding what kind of beer to get for our new fridge. (I now understand why some executives suffer from stress)
- You get to do a lot of different things. Business meetings, investor meetings, software development, game design and janitoring.
- When something goes wrong and you need to find someone to blame all you need to do is look in the mirror.
- People always say that lots of money brings lots of problems. At least that’s one thing we don’t have to worry about, something that should compensate for the stress we get from the BIG decisions.
- If you worry about job security this is the dream job.
- You get to create these kind of Top 10 lists during working hours.
It’s been a bit over a half year now since TicBits Ltd was founded and I thought I’d share some thoughts on how it’s been, switching from a steady paycheck to a more uncertain future. I thought that it’d be best to get the negative things over with so I’ll publish them now and tomorrow publish the positive things.
The 10 worst things that I’ve noticed so far, in no particular order:
- It’s really hard to “steal” office supplies when you already own everything in the company.
- Long washroom breaks can no longer be considered as beating the system.
- Hard to bitch about management, at least behind their backs.
- I can no longer relate to Dilbert.
- Since our company doesn’t have a large enough budget we’ve been unable to hire consultants to tell us what our company values should be. It makes me feel lost and incomplete.
- Now that I don’t get an annual development discussion I won’t be able to develop my skills anymore. (A raise might also be hard to come by as I have a feeling that performance reviews are also out of the question)
- No more pointless meetings means no more time to hone up on my iPhone gaming skills.
- No more “fun” and “interesting” company Xmas gifts, bye bye food baskets, scarves and wine bottles, you will be missed.
- There’s no longer development cycles where most projects are missing specs. Instead it’s now more consistent with all projects missing specs.
- Hmm, I can’t think of anything else, so I guess there’s only 9 bad things. But anyway, don’t say you haven’t been warned of the horrors of having your own company!
Update: The second part has now been published 10 Reasons why it kicks ass to have your own company
Things are progressing really well with TicBits Ltd and I must say that I’m really excited about the upcoming weeks/months and how they’ll turn out. Every day it feels more like we’re going to do this, that we’re actually going to get some kick ass projects launched, and not just to a couple hundred thousand users, but that we’ll be able to reach millions of users with our games. Sure, both me and my cousin are endless optimists, but still, with iAssociate 2 already being well on the way, and with a couple of other really exciting projects soon to be revealed, I’m confident that we’ve got what it takes to reach those goals.
To help us reach those goals we’ve got a pretty well defined strategy set up now for the coming times, what to release & when, plus how to market it. Everything has been a great learning process so far and I think that we’ve managed to learn from some mistakes / missed opportunities, which now should help us with the coming releases. It’s really exciting to come up with some new concepts, either for the games themselves, or on how to market them, and then soon thereafter be able to try them out to see how they work.
And, we’ve not just got those other projects to be excited about, we’ve also got a brand new office to move into, our first real office for TicBits =) In comparison to Zynga, who according to an article on TechCrunch have an office of around 270.000 square feet and housing around 2000 employees, ours is just a tiny bit smaller, coming in at a whopping 231 square feet (21.5 square meters)! The office itself is located in Turku Science Park, a center for developing biotechnology and ICT companies. Our office is also just next door to the universities ICT building, which hopefully should help us when expanding.
We just released a video of iAssociate 2 in action on Youtube =)
Freedom, the chance to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Still some months ago that concept would have been quite unfamiliar to me. Sure, during my free time I could do whatever I wanted, but, as most of the week was occupied by work (in average like 10 hours a day if you count the time I spent commuting) I still felt like I was trapped, working for someone else, fulfilling someone else’s dream, without much chance to realize myself and without any chance of learning totally new technologies, ie, no chance to do something fun.
Work had become routine. Boring. Meaningless.
However, in my head I still thought that work should be something that you do because it’s fun, not just because you get a salary. It should be something you do and can be proud about, something that you’d want to tell others, something that’d actually give back more than it takes away.
Together with those ideas I had also for a long time dreamt about having a company of my own, a company where I could realize my own ideas and where everything I did, both good or bad, directly would show up in either happy, or not so happy, customers. But, however, due to the laziness of human nature nothing had so far come of this, instead I was settling for a regular income with regular working hours, I was caught.
Luckily though, I wasn’t the only one thinking of founding a company, my cousin had also been thinking about it for a long time, so when a good opportunity came in April, to get some initial marketing effort for an iPhone game, we decided in the course of less than a week, to actually do something, to stop talking, planning and dreaming of things that could be and instead just do them and see what will be.
So, we founded TicBits Ltd (TicBits Ab / TicBits Oy).
TicBits Ltd was founded on April 12th 2010, and our registration was officially approved on April 23rd. Since then we’ve been working full speed, first releasing iAssociate 2 on May 21st, after which we’ve been busy creating more content for it as well as working on our other ideas. (More about those later on, cool things are on their way, trust me! =))
Anyway, as TicBits Ltd was founded I felt that this was it, this is the dream coming true, a chance to get a taste of freedom, to get rid of the boring routine of working nine to five, with the same projects over and over again. And, as I write this, that freedom is now just around the corner. For the last few weeks I’ve already been on vacation (ie, working on TicBits stuff =)), and after my vacation is over I’ve only got a few days left at the old office after which I’m finally free!
Ever since TicBits Ltd was founded I’ve split my time between TicBits and my old employer, so that I’d work a couple of weeks with TicBits stuff after which I’d be at the office for a couple of weeks. Those weeks that I’ve spent working with TicBits have been the best of my life. Sure, my working hours have probably been twice the amount I’d put in at the office, but never has it felt tiring, never has it felt as if I wouldn’t want to do it. It’s been fun since day one, and it just keeps getting better all the time!
Nothing beats the feeling of going out for a long lunch, without having to look at what the time is, without having to care about when to get back or how long you can stay. Or taking a break at say 10 in the evening, just to go downtown to a patio for a beer, to get a chance to clear the head a bit before then returning back to work.
So, for those of you out there dreaming I can just say, the sooner you start turning your dreams into reality the better. Don’t waste your lives working with something you don’t believe in, money isn’t everything, fun and freedom are worth so much more! Believe in yourself and soon the world will follow… =)