SGN's CEO Talks About F.A.S.T. Going Free And The Realities Of A Changing App Store

Last week Apple surprised the iPhone’s developer community with the annoucement that it was finally allowing free apps to offer in-app purchases. The move will likely lead to a fundamental shift in the way developers conduct businesss on the App Store (we’ve already begun to see some changes). I sat down with SGN CEO Shervin Pishevar to talk about the annoucement’s effect on SGN’s upcoming games, as well as its impact on the market in general.

Pishevar says that he was estactic when he heard the news — he almost immediately recorded a video sharing his elation that he sent to all of SGN’s 100+ employees worldwide. He explains that this is really the announcement that he’s been waiting for, but that he had no expectation that Apple might do it so soon. Now the company is working at a brisk pace to take advantage of the change: it will soon be releasing a new free version of its smash hit game F.A.S.T., which has done over $1.8 million in sales before Apple’s cut. The new version of F.A.S.T. will feature an extensive array of virtual goods, which users will be able to purchase once they’ve downloaded the core game, which will be free. I also suspect that many (if not all) of SGN’s games will be released for free from here on out.

After discussing the impact on SGN’s apps, the conversation turned toward how this will impact developers in general. The App Store is going to see some major changes, and some of those won’t necessarily be for the better. For one, it will become even harder for premium applications to get noticed — before now they only had to compete against other ‘paid’ apps for a chance to appear on the Top Apps list. Now many of them will be migrating to the much more crowded ‘free’ section, which means they’ll be facing off with the vast array of ‘fun’ apps that are so enticing for impulse downloads. There’s also the possibility that the store will become flooded with applications that you can download for free, but really offer nothing of value until you start paying for features, despite what users may have been led to believe (a so-called ‘bait and switch’).

Pishevar agrees that the new market may pose a challenge to new developers, who may have trouble getting noticed and establishing trust with users. But he says that the development houses that can establish a relationship with users will be able to rise to the top, even more so than before. That scenario would obviously put SGN, which has millions of installs across all of its games, in a good position.

But Pishevar emphasized that SGN isn’t going to be content to simply rest on its laurels and exploit its large audience by rehashing games that have already been successful (he notes that the the highly derivative nature of many games on Facebook was one of the reasons SGN decided to shift over to the iPhone). Instead, he says he wants to push the limits of the iPhone, and eventually other mobile platforms. And to prove that wasn’t just marketing talk, he gave me a sneak peek at some of the projects that SGN has in the works. I’m sworn to secrecy on those for now, but suffice to say, SGN has some seriously cool things in the pipeline right now that really will take mobile gaming to the next level.