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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Avatar image for Unfallen_Satan

Although not an Applejack myself, I do see an opportunity on the iPad for the resurgence of adventure games like Sam and Max and Back to the Future. I used to love the stories in old school adventure games. They were frequently a step above the other genres because story-telling was the main draw of many of those games. Alas, due to their often unsophisticated gameplay, adventure games have atrophied over the past decade. If enough casual players became interested in adventure games on the iPad and the genre experiences a rebirth, it would add much appreciated diversity to the gaming industry.

Avatar image for Sagacious_Tien

Good on them. While I still prefer gaming on a PC, their games are a lot of fun and should be experienced by as many as possible.

Avatar image for psx_warrior

Well, I'm really loving gaming on my android phone. I've got a first person shooter that controls great, a top notch rpg that was on the ps2 and was ported over to android, and of course, Angry Birds. I very much consider my phone a gaming device.

Avatar image for plaintomato

There's a log of iStuff out there so if you can make some money developing for it great, but iStuff is for tech lovers who want to play around on their iThing. It is not a gamers platform. The tech industry is very confused over this right now and is constantly failing to recognize that their are too different markets at work - Tech Lovers and Gamers - and these industry talking heads will find out they were wrong not to differentiate between the two, even if there is some overlap.

Avatar image for smwat

Ok after all the Issues Ive had with IPods I doudt I will buy an Ipad for gamming...exspecialy after my ipods Hickup this moring. I agree with (Krafty_PK) " I can't stand the 'ithing' phenomenon" before Ipod touch I had 3 Ipods that Crashed Then I bought a zune...had it for 5 years it worked awsome...Now after 1 year my Touch is having software issue (no suprise cause Mac fails at making decent software) No way in Hell will I Buy an Ipad for gamming.

Avatar image for krafty_pk

i pad or i anything are just toys for people with too much money who want a fashion accessory, if you want a handheld then get a psvita or a 3ds, If you seriously want games then its the obvious choice. I can't stand the 'ithing' phenomenon, there are so many products on the market that are equal and cheaper and in my experience far more reliable.

Avatar image for WALLIX

Define what is a, "Gaming Console" then? A box that plays only games? A media player? An internet browser? All of the above? An iPad is just as much a gaming platform as an Xbox 360, it just has a unique control scheme in the same way a DS has its own control scheme. Adventure games in particular lend themselves well to iPad controls. If you know someone that has an iPad tell them to get Anomaly Warzone Earth and tell me there's no future in iPad gaming. What is a, "Gaming Console" was redefined and shattered with the Xbox 360. Times they are a changing and you all need to keep your minds open.

Avatar image for endorbr

@sk8oridie44 - Totally agree. You can play games on the iPad but it is NOT a gaming platform. And no matter how much they want to tell us otherwise a smartphone isn't a gaming platform either.

Avatar image for sk8oridie44

If they release simple games like "Back to the Future" I've no problem, but when iPad is being marketed as a gaming console, I'll shoot myself. There's a big, BIG difference between a dedicated handheld game console and the... iPad.