Oli Christie might not have won the National Lottery on Saturday night but at about the same he hit a jackpot of his own. Having just put his kids to bed the MD of Cirencester based app development firm Neon Play went down stairs to find a missed call on his phone from America along with a voice mail and text message which read:
“Mr Christie. This is Apple in Cupertino. Can you call us back ASAP. We’ve some exciting news we’d like to share with you.”
But what he still hadn’t twigged was that his company’s app had just made history as the 10 billionth one ever downloaded from the Apple App Store.
“I was excited. I thought they were calling because they wanted to feature one of our apps on the front page of the App store and wanted some artwork,” a buzzing Christie told Pocket-lint when we called to congratulate him.
“I called back straight away. When the lady on the phone from Apple asked if I knew about the 10 billionth app countdown, for a minute I thought I’d won the $10,000.”
Instead Apple told Christie of the lucky lady who had won the prize, a Gail Davis from Orpington, but that the app that she’d downloaded had been his - a game called Paper Glider.
“My reaction was just one of incredulity. I just laughed nervously. Of all the billions of apps, you’d assume it would be one of the huge ones like Angry Birds but it was little old us.”
It turns out that Ms Davis, herself, took the news from Apple with an even greater sense of disbelief. When she got the call saying that she was the lucky winner of the equivalent of £6,250 her reply was “no thanks” before putting the phone down. It was only after that her daugther explained that it was her that had downloaded Neon Play’s app on Saturday and that it wasn't a hoax call.
“With one call unanswered and the other hung up on, it probably wasn't quite how Apple thought this would go,” joked Christie.
As thrilled as he still is, to put the whole experience down to dumb luck is something that Christie explains wasn’t really the case.
“Paper Glider was number one in the UK at the time and number two in the US which are the biggest two app markets. So, the odds were good."
The game was also featured as part of the Free App a Day app which gets developers to drop the prices for their work as a promotion for people to download it en masse, but does that mean that Christie rues the fact that Paper Glider is free?
“Not at all. It’s really put us on the map. We’ve had and are still to get lots of press and publicity through this and the fact that it's free means that there’s no barrier for people to download it. At the same time, there’s a button on Paper Glider to take you through to our other games, some of which are paid for, and there’s already been a big uplift to their sales as well.”
Launched in June 2010, Neon Play has hit 6 million downloads in just seven months. Paper Glider’s figures make it the fourth of their apps to pass the 1 million mark joining Flick Football, Hotshot Pool and Golf Putt Pro on the way. So, exactly how much of an instant effect has the news made on the winning app itself?
“Well, we’ve actually been getting crazy numbers since last week. There were 400,000 downloads on Thursday and 370,000 on Saturday but the PR from this hasn’t really kicked in yet. When Apple updates its pages to show the results of the 10 billionth app, it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens.”
Christie has been in casual gaming for the past 10 years in one way or another. Before Neon Play, he developed for the web in Flash and was even responsible for the very first, original and non-mobile version of the hit app Paper Toss. Going forward, the company has a follow up to Flick Football coming out in February, a Royal Wedding app for William and Kate’s big day featuring over 100 official photos from a royal photographer and Chrisite is also starting a separate division called Jick Jack which will be working with licensed partners on apps for children’s brands at the level of shows like Peppa Pig.
For the minute Neon Play is iOS only but its preparing a move onto Android and the Mac Store, for desktop apps, as well as a possible look at Windows Phone 7. With expansion on the horizon, Christie will be on the look out for more staff and developers, so if you’re not too far from Cirencester then Neon Play might well be worth an e-mail. They promise a day off on your birthday and the poshest office bog roll that money can buy.