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Telltale on taking advantage of the iPad

GDC Europe 2011: Back to the Future developer's James Lamorticelli talks about bringing adventure games to the fastest-growing gaming platform on the market and how other developers can do the same.


Who was there: James Lamorticelli is the vice president of publishing at California-based developer Telltale Games. He's been with the company for three years, working on franchises such as Back to the Future and Sam & Max, as well as the forthcoming Jurassic Park, which is being shown later this week at Gamescom.

Great Scott! We're on an iPad!
Great Scott! We're on an iPad!

What they said: Developers are excited about the iPad. Apple's device has sold over 15 million devices since launch, and 9.5 billion US dollars were generated on the iPad in 2010. Games are also the most popular category, accounting for 16.6 percent of all app purchases. This, according to Telltale Games' James Lamorticelli, makes it the fastest-growing gaming device on the market.

Telltale Games has brought 18 of its games to the iPad to date, including Back to the Future and Sam & Max. One thing it has learned is how Apple's worldwide iTunes store changes the split of worldwide game sales. Back to the Future, for example, enjoyed 42 percent of its sales in the Europe, Middle East and Africa territories, 36 percent in the US, 19 percent in Asia, and 3 percent in Latin America. The upshot of this is that the company now needs to localize and translate its games for these markets, and Lamorticelli promises to "localize all products going forward." This includes the second season of Sam & Max on the iPad, which the developer announced at GDC Europe today.

Another important part of iPad development is marketing. Lamorticelli admitted the company enjoyed a good relationship with Apple thanks to being an early developer, and the company helps market Telltale's games as a result. There's still a lot that the developer can do on its own though. The first is with price: "We've tried to discount to $4.99, then $2.99 and even $0.99. Also, free content for a limited time opens up a worldwide opportunity to play our games."

Another key component of Telltale's strategy is the episodic release of its games. "We want to try and drive people to download new episodes; we notify them if the next episode is coming out. Episodic is a great way to continually engage your audience." Despite the success of digital, though, he was quick to sing the praises of retail, with Telltale bundling a number of its franchises up on a disc this year across the PC, Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

Quote: "We find licenses that are underdeveloped or emerging," Lamorticelli said of working on licensed titles from Jurassic Park to The Walking Dead.

Takeaway: There's already huge potential for developers on the iPad, and the market looks set to continue to grow. An episodic release schedule is an approach that has worked for Telltale, while discounts and temporary promotions such as free episodes have also driven interest. However, the iPad is only one platform for the developer, which continues to release its content on as many devices as possible in both physical and digital forms.

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