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An Interview with Erick Garayblas, Creator of Streetfood Tycoon

Written by Jayvee Fernandez

It was really great catching up with Erick Garayblas (@egarayblas) last week over coffee. We talked about the success of Streetfood Tycoon and how his life as a mobile game developer has evolved with the rise of the Apple App Store. We talked about a ton of things so here’s a more organized version of the interview.

** Ed’s note: Not mentioned in the written interview is how Erick was able to have his ‘kwek-kweks’ in many baskets. He noted how he’s shifted from an ad-driven business model (free to play but ad supported) which earned him a ton of money a month into in-app purchases which, although earns less, is more stable as the latter relies on Google’s Adsense platform which can be subject to a lot of technicalities.

1. How did Streetfood Tycoon come to be? What’s your thought process in designing a game?

Streetfood Tycoon came from my penchant for playing simulation and business-related games. I’m a huge fan of Lemonade Tycoon and Sim Tower. I “borrowed” a few mechanics from these two games and presented them in my own unique way w/in the game. I normally don’t follow a “thought process”, I just browse through my list of ideas (which come from dreams, reading books/comics, playing “other” games and talking to friends), try to mix them up, create a prototype and see how it goes from there. A lot of prototypes get shelved while the good ones become full blown games.

2. Now that Streetfood Tycoon is out, how is it performing in the App Store? How many downloads?

Streetfood Tycoon has over 150k downloads to date and its hovering around the top 200 overall apps in the Philippine App Store. 65% of those downloads came from the Philippines which is why I’m so ecstatic knowing that my fellow kababayans are enjoying the game.

3. Can you talk about the submission process with Apple? What is it like?

The App Store submission process is very straightforward. You build a game, zip it and upload to Apple for approval. The hard part is waiting for it to get approved and this usually takes a week or two unless you’re rejected. I’ve been doing this for almost three years now and I still get butterflies in my stomach whenever I wait for Apple’s approval. Luckily, I’ve only had about 2 rejections in the past and never got rejected for the past 2 years anymore.

4. How have you monetized your games? Do you have some figures to share?

Gone are the days when you just create a game and sell it. There are various ways you can monetize an app now and I think I’ve tried almost every kind of monetization strategy. So far, what has worked for me are in-game ads and the free-to-play approach. As you may have noticed, Streetfood Tycoon is free-to-play but I sell a few coinpacks inside the game to generate revenue. I will be posting some figures on my blog (http://digitalsinigang.blogspot.com/) when Streetfood Tycoon hits 2 months, please watch out for it!

5. You have a lot of local memes in SFT. Have there been any reactions from the local Internet community and celebrities?

Players seem to love the special characters in the game! Initially there were only four characters but I had to add more due to popular demand. Players have been tweeting about their “experiences” selling streetfood to “Pee Noy” or “Moony Puhkyaw” and there were a lot of Instagram pics posted all over the web.

Some sightings:

http://statigr.am/tag/sftycoon

http://statigr.am/tag/streetfoodtycoon

Unfortunately, none of the celebrities that were spoofed in the game has responded yet. Maybe they’re not too happy with it? 🙂

6. How long does it usually take you to develop games?

It usually takes me 3 to 4 months to develop a mobile game. One of the reasons I stuck with mobile games is because of the fast turn-around time. Streetfood Tycoon was an exception though because it became so huge that it took me a whopping 6 months to complete. I’m glad how it turned out though and grateful for all the people who have helped shape it up.

7. What’s it like being an independent game developer in the Philippines? How are the advantages and disadvantages of working solo vs going with a publisher / team?

A lot of people think I have the best job in the world–making games and playing them. The truth is, being an independent developer requires an enormous amount of discipline. Its hard to focus in front of a computer when your bed is just behind you, the TV is showing Game of Thrones or your friends are online in XBox Live. It took me years to get used to it and it wasn’t an easy task. Working solo has always worked for me because I enjoy doing things at my own pace. Plus there’s no one else to boss me around except for my li’l one who keeps on pulling me away from the computer to play with her. I’ve tried working with a publisher before and while they offload a few tasks from me like marketing, PR and support, I still find doing things on my own more challenging.

8. How different is creating games for iOS vs Android?

I’ve always designed (and created) my games to be platform independent. This easily allows me to support any new platform that comes out if I choose to. I’m only focusing on iOS for now because the Android Marketplace still doesn’t allow local developers to “sell” paid games on their platform. For now, local developers can only release free Android apps which is a bummer, especially that a lot of users are asking for an Android version of Streetfood Tycoon. Having said this, Streetfood Tycoon is actually working on Android now, I’m just looking for a “workaround” for me to be able to release it in the Marketplace with the in-game coinpacks intact. Otherwise, there would be no way for me to make money off it–which I also need to sustain myself (and my family) and to release future updates.

9. Any last words of advice for up and coming developers out there?

Start small, think big and aim high! Always! 🙂

For a more “technical” interview, head on here.

About the author

Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast, EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

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