2 Years of Pixelated Plus

On this date, back in 2009 the first three copies of Pixelated Plus were sold. Not only did this kick off what is still my most successful game, but also was the first step towards allowing me to take on developing BlackBerry applications as a full time job.

The first version of Pixelated Plus only supported the BlackBerry Storm, and quite honestly wasn’t all that polished. The fact that very few people saw this application until version 2.0 was released 10 months later was probably a good thing. Still this was one of the earliest games in BlackBerry AppWorld, and is the foundation for all of the success that Ebscer has today.

Pixelated is now up to version 2.6 and supports 23 different devices including the BlackBerry PlayBook. Support for more features and more devices (9300/9330) continue to be planned.

So here is a thanks to the millions of people who have made Pixelated a success, and who continue enjoying this addictive pleasure of coloured squares.

Where are the new BlackBerrys?

Earlier this month RIM announced the BlackBerry Bold 9900, and 9930 but have still not released a launch date for them, and there are rumors that they may not be released until August. This is far too long a wait, and will put RIM in trouble if they take this long in order to come out.

RIM has not released anything at all since the 9780 over 6 months ago, and have not released anything of note since the Torch 9800 last August (already 9 months ago). Taking into consideration that the 9780 is hardly different then the 9700 (still lacking 802.11n even though other devices had it early in the year), that the 9670 was an odd device released on a single carrier, and never really had a chance, and that the 9300/9330 Curves were only a modest refresh to RIM’s budget brand, there has not been much new to look at in quite a while. As such it has been three-fourths of a year since any interesting BlackBerrys have been released, and RIM really needs to get going in order to catch up to the plethora of Android devices released in that time.

The situation on Verizon (still RIM’s largest carrier) is even worse. Half a year ago, I wrote that RIM needed to release a new touch screen device on Verizon, and that is even more true today. The last significant release of a BlackBerry on Verizon was the Bold 9650 which was more then a year ago (and even then at the time was considered to be a bit delayed). In terms of touchscreen devices the situation is even worse, as nothing has been released since the 9550 way back in October of 2009 (19 months ago).

RIM has some great devices lined up in the 9900/9930, 9810, and 9860, but that doesn’t matter unless they are actually offering them for sale. RIM needs to start shipping these devices sooner rather then later.

OS 6 finally seeing some uptake by older devices

Rates of older OS 5.0 devices upgrading to OS 6.0 has finally increased beyond being just a few percent. So far the CDMA devices are leading the way with both the 9330, and 9650 seeing more then half of their users on the newer operating system.


Device % at OS 6
91xx 5.4%
9300 11.3%
9330 69.7%
9650 61.2%
9700 15.9%


These numbers are much improved from January, but are still lower then they should be. Furthermore the overall situation is actually a bit worse because of the above devices the 9300, and the 9700 are the most popular.

This data comes from April downloads of Pixelated, the most popular strategy game in BlackBerry AppWorld.

PlayBook Sales estimate

According to BGR (found via BlackBerryCool), RBC is estimating that RIM has sold 250,000+ BlackBerry PlayBooks in what has now been about a month of availability. This is in line with my estimate last week at the same number.

I don’t know exactly as of what date the RBC estimate is based off of, but as of yesterday I am now estimating that RIM has sold between 238,000 and 570,000 PlayBooks. Based off of the data I have, my best guess is that have sold 272,500 tablets in the first month.

This estimate is based on a lot of assumptions, and guess work as I do not have the actual number of tablets sold. However, as Pixelated has been one of the most popular applications on the PlayBook, I do have better numbers then most people, so I figured that I would share.

Why Pixelated will continue to have a free version

A few weeks ago iOS developer Marco Arment wrote a very good post on why he would no longer be offering a free version of his app Instapaper. Unlike that app, however, Pixelated will continue to have a free version of the app available for download.

In many ways this is a response to that article, but that doesn’t mean that one approach is always better. As Marco said “Every app is a special case”. And what makes sense for Instapaper does not make sense for Pixelated.

Why Pixelated is different

While Instapaper saw very few users first download the free app and then upgrade there is no reason to think that anyone purchases Pixelated Plus without first trying the free version of Pixelated. The free version has consistently gotten higher on the overall charts including recently reaching number one overall spot for the PlayBook. This visibility has always been key for Pixelated and is the foundation for the success of this game.

Also having the free version of the app available results in no direct costs for me. Unlike Instapaper there is no backend component to Pixelated so using the free version of does not result in any server costs. Additionally it shares enough of a code base with Pixelated Plus that development costs are negligible.

Where Pixelated is not different

There are some downsides to having a free version of the app. For many people the free version of the game is “good enough”. Pixelated (by design) is not limited in game play so if you are the type of user that does not need to know your stats, the number of moves left, or a variable difficulty, there is not all that much reason to upgrade to Pixelated Plus.

Also as Marco also saw the reviews for the free version are slightly lower then the reviews for the paid version of the game. A good number of these reviews are simply asking for features that are in the $2.99 Pixelated Plus. The amount of money that the free version of the game brings in through advertising is relatively small.

Overall Consensus


While the free version of Pixelated brings in only a little revenue through ad views, its true purpose is to generate awareness and sales for Pixelated Plus. In that it is doing a great job to the point where the application is better off with the free version sticking around. Historically sales of Pixelated Plus have seen little change in sales when the paid version is updated, but will see a spike in sales following an update to the free version of the app.

While Pixelated is probably well known enough at this point to not as desperately need a free version, but given the fact that this game continues to sell so well almost two years after it was first released is really not a reason to knock out the parts that of the equation that made this app a success in the first place.

Xploding Boxes updated to version 1.4

BlackBerry strategy game Xploding Boxes has been updated to version 1.4 in BlackBerry AppWorld this weekend. The new version fixes some bugs and adds 10 new levels to the game.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes (also known as Exploding Boxes) is a strategy game for BlackBerry where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of clicks, and requires a different strategy to solve. The first 25 levels are free, while the full 160 levels can be accessed by making an in-application payment.

Links & Information

BlackBerry OS usage over the past year

The number of BlackBerry phones running OS 6.0 has increased to 25.2% of the market last month. While 84.0% of BlackBerrys now run OS 5.0 or higher.

Eight months after the release of OS 5.0 it had already captured over twice the market, while OS 6.0 is only doing half as well at the eight month mark. Overall adoption of the newer OS is mostly being held back by the limited number of upgrades from devices that originally were released with 5.0 operating systems. Given the lack of an upgrade path, it would be expected to see a similarly slow uptake of OS 7.0 when it is released this summer. (Although 7.0 will be helped some by being available on all the major US carriers at launch).

As usual this data is taken from downloads of the popular BlackBerry strategy game Pixelated. Data starts from the release of version 2.0 in April of 2010, and goes through the end of last month.

Version 2.2 of Twinkle Released

Version 2.2 of Twinkle has now been released in BlackBerry AppWorld. This version brings a number of new features to the app, and further expands upon Twinkle’s ‘super-app’ experience.

About Twinkle

Twinkle is a simple application that allows you to set and keep track of upcoming and past events. Twinkle will tell you how far away an event is, and allows you to send events to and from your BlackBerry’s native calendar. Twinkle gives you the ability to add and edit events, lets you keep track of how soon something is, or how long it has been since an event.

New in Version 2.2

One of the new features in the app is the ability to remove all advertising in Twinkle, by paying for a 99¢ in-application payment that can be accessed through the “Remove Advertising” option within the game’s menu.

Another new feature in version 2.2 is the ability to add existing events to the BlackBerry calendar. While it has always been possible to add events to the calendar when they are first created, you can now send pre-existing Twinkle events to the calendar through an option in the menu on the ‘Edit Event’ screen.

Additionally, Twinkle also now offers ‘Aqua’ as a background colour, can dynamically adjust the font size to allow for longer titles, and has seen a few other parts of the UI cleaned up as well.

Keyboard shortcuts

Also this version adds two more keyboard shortcuts, with ‘t’ taking you to the top of your list of Twinkle events, and ‘b’ moving the selection to the final event that is listed. This in addition to the existing shortcuts where ‘e’ and ‘enter’ both open up the currently selected event for editing, ‘c’ allows you to create a new event. ‘n’ moves the selection to the next event, while ‘p’ moves the selection to the previous event. These shortcuts are available on all full-qwerty BlackBerry phones.

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Black Out now available in BlackBerry AppWorld

Black Out is now available for the BlackBerry PlayBook through AppWorld. This strategy game was previously announced and has now been released with version 1.1 of the application.

How to Play

The goal to Black Out is to tap the tiles, so that they all get ‘blacked out’. This is complicated because whenever you tap to flip a tile, it also flips all of the tiles surrounding it. As such it requires a well laid out strategy.

In order to accommodate different difficulties, the game supports board sizes from 3×3 all the way up to a 10×10 grid. Furthermore, there is also a hint button in case you find yourself a bit too stuck.

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Pixelated updated to version 2.6

Pixelated has now been updated to version 2.6, one day after Pixelated Plus was updated. This new version fixes the bugs the previous PlayBook version had, and now automatically saves any in-progress games for both the tablet and smartphone versions of the app.

New in version 2.6

In addition to the bug fixes, much of the user interface was also reworked on the PlayBook, making fonts easier to read, and adding direct links to take you to the website, and to email support for the app. The main change for the smartphone version of the app is that persistence of games from one session to another. You can now exit the application (or even restart your phone) and not lose any progress in your current game.

Links & Information

New Version of Pixelated Plus

Pixelated Plus, currently the 6th most popular app for the BlackBerry PlayBook has now been updated to version 2.6. This update fixes the bugs found in the first PlayBook version, and now automatically saves any in-progress games for both the tablet and smartphone versions of the app.

New in version 2.6

In addition to the bug fixes on the PlayBook version, much of the user interface was also reworked making fonts easier to read, and adding direct links to take you to the website, and to email support for the app. The main change for the smartphone version of the app is that persistence of games from one session to another. You can now exit the application (or even restart your phone) and not lose any progress in your current game.

About Pixelated Plus

Pixelated Plus is an addicting puzzle based strategy game that requires a mixture of skill and luck in order to accomplish. The object of the game is to change the colour of the squares until the entire screen is a single solid colour. Starting with the square in the upper left corner you can change the colour of the blocks in order to match that of the surrounding squares. This is done repeatedly until the entire screen is a single colour. The object of the game is to clear the screen in as few moves as possible. Under the default settings you must do so in under 22 moves in order to win.

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More PlayBook Applications need to make use of the swipe down menu

The bezel on the top of the PlayBook is reserved for developers to integrate a menu that can be swiped down from the top. However, an unfortunately large number of applications do not currently make use of this option. This breaks the consistency of the platform, and makes it more difficult for users to quickly get used to the tablet’s interface.

If not enough apps make use of the swipe down menu, users will not expect it to exist, and for those applications that do use it, users are liable to be unaware of the menu’s existence, and any additional items that are located there. Furthermore the alternative is to place a menu button on the screen that takes up space, and prevents the app from feeling like a native application.

Currently of the top 10 free apps, only 3 (including Pixelated) support a swipe down menu. Furthermore RIM is not even including one in all of its own applications such as the Scrapbook App, or even BlackBerry AppWorld. Given all of the support that RIM has offered to EA for Need For Speed, you would think that it would implement this basic UI function, but instead this app ignores the top bezel, and uses a convoluted two finger swipe instead.

RIM does not appear particularly interested in promoting this swipe down menu, but should they change their mind, they could do so by requiring that an app make use of such a menu in order to be featured in AppWorld. If RIM were to do this, the number of apps implementing a menu would rather quickly hit critical mass, and in turn give users a more consistent, and predictable interface to navigate.

How to invoke AppWorld in ActionScript

The ActionScript SDK for BlackBerry AppWorld does not include any published api’s to directly invoke native applications such as BlackBerry AppWorld. There is however a round about way to do so. The navigateToURL() method can be used to launch the web browser. Furthermore the browser intercepts specific app URLs to launching BlackBerry AppWorld instead. So if you wanted to launch AppWorld directly from inside an ActionScript app, all you need to do is to use the navigateToURL() method by pointing it at an AppWorld URL.

The following is an event that is fired following a click to a “Launch AppWorld” button.

public function lauchAppWorld(event:MouseEvent):void
{
navigateToURL(new URLRequest(“http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/1839″))
}

You can test this approach by simply entering the URL into the browser on your PlayBook. The one downside this course of action has however, is that along the way you will end up launching the browser with a blank window. But until more API’s are available this is at least an approach that works.

Update:

A better approach has been found. In order to go straight to AppWorld you can use navigateToURL() with a link in the format “appworld://content/1839″ instead. The below approach is much cleaner and preferred to the work around listed above.

public function lauchAppWorld(event:MouseEvent):void
{
navigateToURL(new URLRequest(“appworld://content/1839″))
}