"iPhone AppStore is not an easy business." said Hareo Shiiya, the CEO of Appliya, a Tokyo-based iPhone app publisher who dressed as one of the characters from popular Sci-Fi anime "Evangelion."
"Sometime, the application you devoted yourself into can be easily ruined by the rivals or copy-cats.".
APPLIYA made a Japanese sword application called "Katana" last fall. Before that there was a light savor app., so they thought it will get approved easily. Wrong. They had to wait five months before the app get approved. And after it was finally released, another Japanese sword application called "iKatana" was also released. Because the latter was free, it almost destroyed the sales of APPLIYA's application.
But Hareo said, he knew this would happen looking at how other iPhone app developers are doing. And the solution he came up with was using copyrighted characters and contents. Because they are copyrighted, people can't just copy them; if they just copy the idea, it would only be half the value of what it is. Plus, if the buyer value that character/contents, they wouldn't mind paying the premium.
In my previous post, I wrote about a series of 'Evangelion' apps but that was the thought behind how Appliya came to produce them.
After my article, there was an official press announcement event on March 4 deep in the heart of Akihabara, in a eight-story building full of Otaku stuff. And even though it was an announcement of a few $1-$2 applications, about two dozen press from IT publications, game publications and anime publications showed up to cover the event.
Yohei Takada, the producer and Taisuke Odajima, the director of APPLIYA said iPhone is a "嗜好品 (Shiko-hin)" and so are the iPhone apps.
"Shiko-hin" in Japanese means some non-essential staff that shows someone's taste.
Some collectible items or tobacco are a good example of "shiko-hin" although non-essential, those who love tobacco shows distinctive taste and shows strong attachment to certain brands; sometime, it is to show that "I am a manly Marbolo type guy" or some would go deeper into explaining the different flavors.
Anyway, because Appliya think both iPhone and iPhone apps are "Shiko-hin", they made it as collectible items.
They have already release three apps I mentioned before:
But there soon will be two more apps, one is to make your own customizable Evangelion calendar which can also be used as your iPhone wall-paper.
Another one if a Evangelion 16 puzzle which if you solved will give you a new official Evangelion iPhone wallpaper.
Because they unified the look of each application, if you are Evangelion fan and buy one of the apps, you would want to collect all five of them.
I don't know if I would do it, but as a big Lost fan, I understand that if abc would make a Lost application with the official characters, I might collect them ;-)
BTW. at the moment, Appliya doesn't have any free versions of the apps, but along with the five iPhone apps, Appliya has silently announced a new 'free' hardware and I was more impressed with that.
The iPhone stand is made of paper and if you access the web site of Appliya and download a PDF, you can make one for yourself, too.
French-Japanese Appliya director, Taisuke Odajima believes to enjoy the Evangelion clock app and calendar app, you would need an iPhone stand. But asking people to buy a stand just for their apps would be asking too much. So he asked his wife to make an iPhone stand using Japanese tradition of Origami.
For those of you not as Origami expert as Taisuke's wife, Appliya is sharing a PDF file with instructions over here:
Last week, there were two parties related to iPhone packed full with Japanese iPhone developers.
The one on Friday took place at the corporate headquarter of APPLIYA.
APPLIYA is a very interesting company. They aim to become an iPhone software publisher; they don't have any internal engineers. They find interesting iPhone engineers and produce interesting iPhone apps.
Most of the software made by a single engineer (or small group of engineer) can be interesting but very rough cut application and may not have good graphics, etc.
APPLIYA tries to match the engineering with right kind of contents such as manga, anime or more traditional Japanese contents such as Ukiyoe, and produce more convincing apps.
As such, the party at APPLIYA drew about 50 to 60 people, most of whom are iPhone software developers interested in working for APPLIYA and about 30% were media and blogger including the world-famousdanny choo.
You can find the list of their apps by searching their name: "APPLIYA."
But right now, there focus is to sell series of Evangelion (a Japanese anime) apps for die hard Evangelion fans:
No.1 and 3 are basically camera app which will add Evangelion elements to the taken photo.
The party on Saturday was a big one, over 100 developers, media and those interested in iPhone business gathered in a loft in Mita. The event started as the reunion of January event held at Six Apart, San Francisco.
The party was organized by Conit, the developer of Melody Bell
All the presenters did their Japanese version of presentation.
And at the near end of the party, there was a lightning talk session.
Here are some of the highlights:
Geppetto introduced iNinja, a real Japanese Ninja action game. The guy said that there is a whole collection of ninja app on App Store but few are real Japanese ;-)
Kazutoshi Otani, a well-known Mac advocate based in Osaka presented the equipments he use to take photographs with his iPhone. He plans to have an iPhone based photo exhibition soon.
Takayuki Fukatsu, is one of my favorite developer, he is the guy who developed the guy famous for making LiquidPics. He is also very vocal iPhone developer and runs a network of iPhone developers on twitter. He showed the upcoming sequel (or maybe the update) to his popular camera app Quad Camera.
Pankaku, Inc. was the last to present. He is the author of LightBike, one of the few Japan made app which reached the no.1 in U.S. AppStore.
He said he is pretty lucky and it wasn't something he had expected. He just worked hard on the app trying to refine it even after the release. And suddenly they were at the top.
On the party floor, there were a few dozen developers who didn't take the stage but were showing around interesting stuffs which assured that the developer momentum is also very strong in Japan although most of them now realize the Japanese iPhone market alone would not be a good business; for the successful ones, the U.S. AppStore sales can be 2-3 times bigger than that of Japanese.
Because many developers in Japan are desperate for information from the other developers as well as for partners who can help, I think this kind of developer activities will take place more often this year.
I still get so many comments, e-mails and even phone calls about the mishap last Friday.
But as Elvis Costello sings "Accident will happen" and there are some bright sides to it, too.
First of all, that mishap generated so much interest about Japanese cell phone market.
Second, it generated so much traffic to this blog which sort of make me motivated to start writing what's going on in Japan right now.
Third and above all, I got this wonderful words on my facebook wall from Sam Furukawa, the guy who started Microsoft Japan (although he is the man behind Microsoft Windows success here in Japan, he is also one of the first Japanese to bring the original Mac back home to Japan and so with the iPhone):
Nobi-san, your qualification as a Professional Jounalist will never be changed with such a wrong quote. It is a good chance to ciculate your deep insights of the iPhone in Japan. I had hundreds of such wrong quotes for last 30years, but the myth I learned was, not try to accuse the publisher nor poor writer, but to stick with what you belive in. I myself and whole of the audience are at your side! Thx, SamF
(perhaps, by 'the myth I learned', he meant 'the lesson I learned')
He may not be as well known as Bill Gates, but Furukawa-san has been running Microsoft Japan for almost 20 years and as being such, it would be very easy for us that how many times he had become upset by wrong quotes; this kind of incident happens around the globe all the time.
I happened to be a victim this time but I am not a saint nor a journalist without a dirt.
In Japanese, because Japanese has so many modes and our spoken language and written language are a bit different (especially in traditional print publications). Modifying quotes are done very often. And once you start doing that, journalists are tempted to modify quotes to match the story line they had drawn.
Of course, to avoid conflicts with the interviewee, I would interview people for long time going around the same question over and over and try to reach the real message behind. And we (I+the editors) would ask the interviewee for approval for that quote.
Sometime, especially before the summer or winter vacation, these approval can take time to be responded and we waited making two versions of stories, one with the exact quote (with mode modification) and one with the slightly bigger modification.
In anyway, there were bitter side but also brighter side of that mishap.
It won't be a mishap, if it happen twice but for now let's just forget about personal attacks and focus more on what's going on in Japan.
I will try to provide as much info as possible in the time allowed.