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August 27, 2014

Toronto-based developer will leverage Windows 8.1 features to more deeply engage gamers

Onome Igharoro is a co-founder of Toronto-based Sterling Games Inc., which makes the hugely successful Xtreme Joyride game. After two years of publishing their games on Windows platforms, Onome and his partner, Steve Fernandes, are now porting their games to Windows 8.1. They like that Windows 8.1 provides them the convenience of single sign-on through universal apps and creates a better experience for their players. I caught up with Onome to learn more about his innovative games and his plans to embrace Windows 8.1.

 What excites you most about Windows 8.1?
“From a development perspective, building our apps in Unity and porting them to 8.1 is seamless.”

Xtreme Joyride icon
Xtreme Joyride icon

The Windows 8.1 release marks a huge turning point in the history of Windows development. Windows 8.1’s universal apps and converged platform make development easier and faster, and it opens up both Windows marketplaces to us. We can easily use features such as persistent data saving or single sign-in across multiple devices, and create a better and more engaging user experience across different form factors.

Those kinds of capabilities are important to us at Sterling Games, and we know they’re unique to Windows. We established Sterling Games three years ago, and since then, we have developed eight games that have accrued more than two million downloads across various platforms. Developing for and publishing on Windows Phone has been a lot simpler and faster than it is for other platforms. We can design a more consistent user experience on low-end Windows Phone devices than we can on Android or even iOS.

From a monetization standpoint, the 8.1 release provides developers significant opportunities. We have earned enough on Windows Phone alone to cover our expenses and payroll and invest in our future releases and updates. As we expand our user base to all of Windows and more form factors, our earnings potential increases dramatically.

From a development perspective, building our apps in Unity and porting them to 8.1 is seamless. The most exciting part of 8.1 is the various new features that enhance the competitiveness of Windows Phone devices against iOS and Android in the high-end device market.

What Windows Phone 8.1 features do you intend to leverage to make your game even more successful?
“The Azure Mobile Services backend is scalable across platforms and that makes it a very attractive combination for our multi-platform games built on Unity.”

Xtreme Joyride screenshot
Xtreme Joyride screenshot

Xtreme Joyride, a 2D side-scrolling car-driving game, is our most popular game; it has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times. The game’s user base continues to grow; users download it an average of 500 times every day, and they consistently rate the game 4.5 out of 5. By adding the cool features available in 8.1, we will attract even more users.

We intend to take advantage of the live tile improvements and the new Action Center so we can engage our users by delivering personalized and non-intrusive notifications. These notifications and the user experience will be consistent across the various form factors, keeping users engaged no matter what device they’re using. As a developer, I feel I can better control notifications and avoid spamming my users.

I also intend to use Windows Azure Mobile Services to power our backend, and I am investigating ways to enable social sharing of match replays for our upcoming game, Super Triclops Soccer. The Azure Mobile Services backend is scalable across platforms and that makes it a very attractive combination for our multi-platform games built on Unity.

What advice do you have for developers?
“Most importantly, build for Windows 8.1!”

Super Triclops Soccer
Coming Soon: Super Triclops Soccer by Sterling Games

Developers need to build quality apps to showcase their talents. It’s hard to see the finish line in terms of developing games, especially when a developer has big plans. So I tell developers: come up with a fixed scope and work towards it. Iterate and change your scope if you feel it is not satisfactory, but realize what it means to your bottom line.

Throughout the process, developers should get feedback from people that are not involved in the design—and more than one or two people. Getting 10 people to play a beta version is incredibly valuable, and candid feedback is crucial. If players don’t like an element of the game, the developer needs to look at it from the player’s . point of view and be prepared to scrap portions of their work and take others’ suggestions.

Game design should be something you love, not something to put food on the table. No matter how hard it is to see it from that perspective, try to understand that. But be realistic, because you need food to make games.

Most importantly, build for Windows 8.1