10 Burning Questions with Xeno Bits, creators of Pirate Cat

Today we’re talking with Maxime Millet of Xeno Bits, the people who created Pirate Cat. The game has a unique black and white design, which only makes the adventure seem more epic. It currently has almost a hundred reviews in the Marketplace. Here’s what Maxime had to say:

1. How did you get started with Windows Phone?

Around May 2010, my former company got contacted to port a newspaper’s application to WP7. We had very little time to create a prototype which would be shown to the press for a Microsoft event. Soon after, the company was selected to port an AAA 3D game (not sure of being allowed to mention it) from iPhone to WP7 and it fell under my responsibility. That was my first contact with XNA (the game framework on WP7), but I immediately enjoyed it.

2. What phone do you personally use?

I use a Lumia 800, kindly provided by Nokia. I left my Apple phone and got a WP7 a little while after the platform release. Eat your own dog food, they said!

3. What was your biggest challenge in developing for Windows Phones?

It is a really nice platform to develop for: the tools provided by Microsoft are the best in terms of mobile development, there is a strong community and a lot of resources are available online. Now, the fact is that creating games on Windows Phone is a hobby for now, and given that Pirate Cat was not really a technically advanced game, I would say that the biggest challenge was getting some time to speed it up after coming out of work or on the weekends.

4. Do you have any ideas for any more games on the way that you’d care to share with us?

Actually, Pirate Cat was one of those side projects that you start because you think it will be done quickly and you’ll have at least something released. In the end the side project took almost one year (I must look like the slowest developer right now), and I should now return to the “main” project but I’m at a too early stage to announce anything yet!

5.  Monetization: in terms of driving revenue, can you tell us about your experience, your strategy, and the overall potential? (We know this is a touchy subject and confidential issue, but we appreciate any details you’re willing to share)

Pirate Cat got released fairly recently, so it is a bit too early to tell whether my strategy was successful. In a nutshell, in order to compete with Xbox Live games in the paid category (and that’s a pretty unfair competition!), I release the game for free at launch, to gather user attention, feedbacks, and reviews. Then I set a price. At the moment, I do not consider releasing an ad-supported version, because from my own experience, the income is really low, especially in comparison with other platforms. Last but not least, ad banners during the game would substantially deteriorate the user experience.

6. What do you want to see in Windows Phone 8?

As for the developer/publisher, many things could be improved: the tools to publish and manage applications are really painful, the reports are poor and available after 6 days. The whole procedure to get income is also a long fight with no transparency, especially in comparison with other platforms.

Moreover, it would be great to have Xbox Live games in a dedicated category on the marketplace. The irony is that most of the Xbox Live games are indie games which were successful on other platforms and got ported at Microsoft’s request. But now they monopolize the top ranks and prevent new, worthy, exclusive games from meeting the audience. Furthermore, regarding the platform itself, I really like it the way it is currently, so I just hope that they will add these last little things it lacks to become a stronger competitor and pioneer against Android or iOS, like in-app purchase, native code development, this kind of things.

7. Do you develop for other ecosystems and how does Windows Phone development compare to those?

At the moment, I focus on WP7, but I used to work on Java or Blackberry devices, and hopefully I will never go back to it!

8. If you could give one tip to fellow Windows Phone developers, what would it be?

Use what I call “fresh testing” (there must be a proper naming for this) as much as possible. Basically, show your app to all the people you meet and have never seen it, don’t say anything, observe how they use it, ask them feedback. The more you question, the better your app. At first, I was foolish enough to consider my game self explanatory and fun, but after such tests, I realized that it was boring and a tutorial was greatly needed!

9. Tell us one thing that most people don’t know about you.

When I was nine, I wanted to become a paleontologist, and this even before Jurassic Park was released!

10. (silly) Do you have a favorite song you’re embarrassed to say you

I would say the Rocking Son of Genghis Khan, a true masterpiece.

Thanks Maxime! You can find Pirate Cat, and other Xeno Bits games, here in the Marketplace. Follow them on Twitter for all the latest updates.

Are you interested in taking part in Developer Appreciation Month? Let us know by contacting us with the subject “Developer Appreciation Month”. We’d love to feature your app.

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