My first observation is that the eight years have flown. I still feel like we’re a startup trying to get our big idea off the ground. These blog posts usually focus on our cool apps, the hits, the awards, etc. but it’s not always plain sailing. We’ve had a pretty stress free rise; when we’ve had a setback we’ve always come back stronger, and walked into bigger and better deals. Stress is not being able to pay the bills, and we’ve never been close to having cashflow issues like that, maybe once it was looking sticky but the universe delivered the next project.
I set Citrus Suite up as a limited company back in 2008; and I wanted to pitch a game idea to Sony. They gave me some cash to produce some art assets and design docs. And they very nearly signed the full game for PSN. A surreal (not of any genre) set of minigames. I think they got cold feet because I got ill and the ideas were all in my head. Was fairly big budget for a start-up studio. Fair play. Aim high young men and women of Citrus Suite.
At this time we were living in a pre-fab nightmare office up the north Dock Rd, Liverpool, I was also designing a game idea with a guy who went to play a major role in the success (succailure) of ustwo who are known for the massive mobile hit game Monument Valley. I had Bill from The Coral lined up to do the music and a team of 3D artists and animators who honed their craft working on projects published for Microsoft, Sega, Codemasters, Sega, Electronic Arts, Disney, etc. ready to start work. It was an odd game. Odd. These were big ideas.
So Citrus is less than two years old (keep up, it’s 2010 now) and two near misses to hand. The two games described may be revived as VR / AR experiences in the future.
My fellow directors Steve Donovan and Macca are onboard, with another genius developer Dom, and we’re hunkered down learning how to be a great mobile app development agency.
We’re writing our technology framework (aka Citrus Engine) to help us deploy mobile apps to iOS & Android quicker and of a better quality than other methods. It’s not technology for technology’s sake – in parallel we’re designing an eLearning product. Our educational distributor pulled the plug on a project (because they didn’t have the rights to include their content in non-print formats). Massive problem, we have a 25% finished game, and no route to market.
Schrodinger’s App and the Enlightened App Development Team
So I’m going to introduce the concept of Schrodinger’s App. An app lives, in the universe of Citrus Suite, when a proposal is accepted; or, if the client don’t commission it, or take the work elsewhere, it’s dead.
It’s worth pointing out here that nothing has ever floored us, it’s always about the current projects and the next ones. Why be despondent about something that never happened?
There were one or few things that just didn’t happen in any form: I spoke to Disney, Nickelodeon, Penguin Books and Samsung (was via a third party actually, never sat at their table) about projects one Friday afternoon. THEY ALL CALLED US! Give over guys, it’s the weekend, see ya later.
So back to the 25% finished game. We opened discussions with possibly the hottest mobile app publisher at the time. They were coming off the back of a phenomenal hit game, massive brand. They wanted to publish our game, but they asked us to add new features, but they wouldn’t share the revenue deal they were thinking of, or their sale projections. I gave them an analogy; their proposal was like an estate agent coming around to a house, not sharing their valuation of the property, asking the homeowner to build an extension out back, but not giving any idea of what value the extra work might add in the long run. See ya later dudes. This Schrodinger’s App is for you.
But we somehow pulled back from these setbacks to finish the apps, find an international publisher, and see the game rocket up the app store charts to number one in 15 countries including the UK & US. We dropped the ‘learning’ angle early on, looking back a good decision one million downloads later (of the free versions, but we had a cracking conversion rate to paid upgrade).
Set The Controls To Hyperdrive
Through this period we flew into hyperdrive as an agency, winning massive clients, and producing content for the likes of Penguin Books, HarperCollins, Sony and others.
We’ve never entered a competition for an award but we keep winning them because our clients and publishers enter our apps for international awards, and sometimes they win. We even got App of the Year, just because the reviewers at an apps magazine liked one of our releases more than the other 6000 apps they’d reviewed that year. It makes us smile, but we move on quickly. But this stuff has to go on the website though, right?
The good news is, we’re working on our biggest and best apps right now. Looking forward to telling you more in the coming months.
Oh yeah, happy birthday Citrus Suite and thanks to everyone who has been a part of our journey so far.
Citrus Suite is a creative digital studio building award-winning mobile apps for globally based clients and designing innovative cross-sector products for emerging markets. Developer on iPhone, iPad, Android, PC, Mac and Web.
Future Leader Award / Best App @ Digital Book Awards / THREE Number 1 Apps / App of the Year Award / Best Apps Ever Listing
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