Inside the business of children's digital media

An App’s Development Secrets Revealed, Part 1

I’ve frequently lamented how hard it is to find out the story behind games, the failures and successes. The sales and marketing strategies. Even the cost. Well, with the release of Williamspurrrrg, my first independently developed app, I’m going to start over sharing.


Williamspurrrrg is a family-friendly, cooperative, multitouch puzzler where you outfit cats in mustaches, fedoras, bowties, and other hipster accoutrements. To win the puzzles, hold all the pieces in place at the same time, creating finger-twisting awesomeness for kids and adults alike.



Development Team

  • 1 designer (me, who’s also handling marketing, business development, public relations, etc)
  • 1 programmer
  • 1 artist
  • 1 composer
  • dozens of testers (friends and families, paid with everlasting love and gratitude)


Total budget (development, marketing, etc) is estimated at $50k. We’ve spent $25k so far.

Toughest moments (in no particular order)

  • Greenlighting the a programmer. It’s one thing for me to mess around with code on my own. But paying someone out of my pocket to execute my insane idea about cats and mustaches challenged how committed I truly was to this game idea.
  • Really, iPad only? Am I nuts? I fully believe in cross-platform development whenever possible. In this case, it was truly in our best interest to develop first for iPad and then go from there.
  • Watching users struggle playing the first and second puzzle. The second puzzle in the game (Level 1, Puzzle 2) is the hardest moment. That’s when users understand the multitouch dynamic. Some get it immediately. Others struggle. It’s painful and amazing to watch when they figure it out!
  • When it didn’t magically take off and sell a zillion copies the first weekend. I knew the chances were less than winning the lottery, but still, a girl can hope, right?

Greatest moments so far

  • The review by Amy Kraft
  • The live demo of the game at the NY Gaming meetup.
  • Watching two kids and their mom test a new (unpublished) level with 10 touches and cheer after they finished it. Actually, watching anyone play is an absolute awesome experience.
  • My husband wearing a Williamspurrrrg t-shirt to a Cubs game.
  • The photo at the top of this blog, which is Scout, my sister-in-law’s cat, playing Williamspurrrrg.

Road ahead

  • Finish the next 30 levels
  • Create a level editor, so people can upload their own photos and make their own puzzles
  • Turn on the marketing machine.

If you want to be in on the latestWilliamspurrrrg news, sign up for ourNo Crusts newsletter or follow us@NoCrusts! If you have particular questions about my experiences, please feel free to ask. Additionally, if you’re a developer willing to share some stories or post-mortems, please drop us a note at I’d love to do a q&a or have a guest blogger share their experiences.

Otherwise, next chance to catch a session by me is Cartoon Digital in Munich,The Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield, England, andCasual Connect USA in San Francisco.

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