Many of the comments I’ve read over the past week encouraged me to simply combine the games and follows Apple’s dictum. The general inclination was that I chose to play in Apple’s world, so I need to follow their rules.
I’ll talk about the business issues about this later, but combining games is a disservice to many people in the blindness community. Most of you are so experienced on mobile devices, you may have lost the perspective of people with less expertise, or who have mild mobility restrictions or mild cognitive issues.
Take Blindfold Bop Gesture Game for example. I created it at the urging of the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. When I met with Ben, he said they were getting more and more seniors who were losing their vision, and needed a better way to train them. We discussed the idea for the game, and it’s now being used to first train seniors on a handful of gestures, and then to help people become competent in using all gestures.
Luke, one of the Blindfold Game testers, who is both an IT expert and a teacher of the visually impaired, evaluated Blindfold Bop Gesture, and suggested an alternative main menu that was even simpler. He wanted a mode for his students where they didn’t even have to use any voice-over gestures in this simpler main menu, but could get to the game easily on their own, after a training session. I added a simpler menu, and now his students can practice without his assistance.
Consider what happened with Blindfold Word Games. At the suggestion of some testers, I put five different games into this app when I first released it: Word Ladder, Hangman, Unscramble, a variant of Boggle, and 7 Little Words. On the main menu, you can scroll through the games to pick the game you want. However, only first two or three games were ever played, and the other games were rarely evaluated or upgraded.
Initially, I thought only the first three games were fun. To test this theory, I split off versions of Boggle and 7 Little Words into their own games. The downloads and upgrades of these two games now matched all of the other games, and that showed me that some people have, as Apple described, a discoverability issue. If something’s not on the main screen, it’s ignored. People don’t always scroll down.
The analogy to the discoverability issue is a newspaper. If the story is below the fold – the place where the newspaper is folded in half – then the story is considered less important. Even on most websites, people read what’s on the screen when they visit the website, and never scroll down.
Now onto the business issues.
Several of you wondered why combining games would cost money. In actuality, it would cost time – hundred or thousands of hours – to combine old games into a merged application. Had I started from the beginning to build the games into groups, it might have had less of an impact, but at this point, it would require restructuring many of the games, changing how the help, settings and upgrades screens work, and how control flows between screens. I would have to come up with ways to convert your in-app upgrades to the new app because the new app would have a different id in the app store from the original game. Otherwise, people would have to purchase the in-app upgrades all over again. And no one would agree to that. In general, it would unleash a nightmare of unintended consequences.
And those hundreds of hours would simply be lost time – most of the downloads and upgrades occur in the first 3 months. No one would benefit. Doing all of the engineering work would result in no new revenue and new no downloads. That same time could be used to build more games, or work with other programmers to move the games to other devices.
My discussions with Apple on Friday night went through these issues; Apple is keenly aware of accessibility issues and they want the best possible user experience on the iPhone.