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Part 3

In my previous post I wrote about the run-up to reMovem‘s week at the top of the App Store chart. On August 2, 2008, reMovem (then called JawBreaker) reached the number 1 free app on the US iTunes Store. It stayed there for a solid week, during which time it was downloaded several hundred thousand times. It was a busy week!

We promised to keep our app free forever. At the time, there was quite a bit of a fuss about all the top free apps “flipping” to paid to make a quick profit. All of the negative comments at the time reflected a widespread feeling that this practice was deceptive. The sudden appearance of a paid app in the number 1 spot might in fact lead people to download it, simply because it appeared to be popular. The rankings manipulation arguments continue to this day, but the price-flipping brouhaha seems to have largely faded away. These days, flipping can even be seen in a positive light, as in the recent case of the Fling app. We decided to make separate free and paid versions, with added modes and features to differentiate the paid version. We kept our promise.

Hundreds of user reviews started flowing in, both good and bad. Back then users could post reviews and star ratings without having to download an application. This led to a host of silly comments (since removed by Apple) like:

First!

Looks good, but I’m probably not gonna download it

Try Aurora Feint instead

Bet they’re going to flip it to paid now, just like all the others

Also a few good comments:

One of the coolest games ever!

Don’t be fooled…. this game is far deeper than what meets the eye

Wow! THANK YOU for a great and simple game to help me pass the time

Great! Close to perfect!

I haven’t enjoyed a game like this since Bejewled

You need to, or rather ought to get a bonus for clearing all of the bubbles

We completed the paid version of reMovem during this week. To avoid potential trademark issues we changed the name from JawBreaker to reMovem. Actually the name ‘reMovem’ was not a first choice. Many names were considered: Accrue, Addictive, AquaDots, Bottlecaps, Buster, Clusters, Convergence, Dispatch!, Monty, and Planets were also on the list. An unfortunate association with the recalled Bindeez toy doomed the name AquaDots from the start. All the other names were either unavailable or just didn’t seem right. Thus the autological reMovem, which sounds like what you do to the balls in the game (you remove ‘em).

Another noteworthy occurrence that week was the inauguration of our translation effort. It started with an email inquiry from Luc Janssen in the Netherlands, offering to do a Dutch translation of the game. Apparently reMovem already had a great deal of fans outside of the US. We decided to try a Dutch translation, with Luc’s help, and see if it warranted expansion to other languages. Fortunately we here at Mundue had localization experience so this was not a particularly daunting task. Actually, translating an iPhone app is no different than translating a Mac application. Apple’s done a good job of leveraging existing tools and workflows. [This experiment panned out: fast forward a few weeks and reMovem sales in the Netherlands and Belgium (combined) were outpacing all other larger European countries.]

By the end of that week at the top, on August 9, 2008, we had renamed the app to reMovem, begun translating to Dutch, and submitted a separate paid version. We also started work on more features that would end up in reMovem free shortly, like a board clearing bonus, colorblind modes, and high scores. Within the next few days the paid version was approved, and another chapter of exciting challenges began.