• Return of the Pixel - Mobile Success 700px

Return of the 1980’s Game Style: Mobile Success Stories

posted in: Market, Software | 2

If you were alive to remember the 1980’s or even born a decade after that you will remember the impact that the game Super Mario Bros. and the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) had on kids of all ages. It was an addictive game, the way it looked was marvellous to kids like me at the time. The “pixelated” look of games at the time was just the way things were, the NES had a standard display resolution of 256 pixels wide by 240 pixels tall.

Graphic of Super Mario Bros and NES 700px


All digital images are divided into small sections called picture cells, or better known as the abbreviation pixels. Similarly, three-dimensional images can be divided into volume cells, or better known as the abbreviation voxels. In the last few years the retro game style has made a fresh come back on mobile phones and tablets ! A few wildly successful indie developers using pixel and voxel art have made big download wins on the major App Stores both this year (2015) and last year (2014).


Return of the Pixel to Mobile Games

The first major indie mobile success story of 2014 stayed true to a retro 2D look from the 1980’s, even going so far as to mimic the look of the classic “pipes” in Super Mario Bros. The game was Flappy Bird, created by Vietnam-based developer Dong Nguyen. It went viral in early 2014 and was reported as generating large sums of ad revenue during its time at the top of the charts. However, Flappy Bird did not remain at the top of the charts for very long after its creator removed the game from the app stores at the peak of its success. There were reports in the media that Nintendo may not have approved which helped force the “voluntary” removal of the game from the App store.


flappy-bird - Copy


The second indie mobile success story of last year was Timberman created by the indie team at Digital Melody in Poland. It went viral in July of last year and remained near the top of the app store charts for several weeks, reportedly generating large sums of ad revenue.


Screen Shot of Timberman Game 700px


If you want to listen to a great interview from one of Timberman’s creators Pawel Kitajewski, check out the AppMasters podcast – Timberman: The Process of Developing a Hit Game with Pawel Kitajewski from Digital Melody.


Adding the Extra Dimension – Voxels and CrossyRoad

The third indie mobile success story adds an extra spatial dimension to the mix with their use of voxels, along with 3D game play (or more like 2.5D). The super successful game is called Crossy Road and was created by the indie team Hipster Whale. The creators are Matt Hall, Andy Sum and Ben Weatherall, of which Andy and Matt met at one of the popular game developer conferences in Australia called GCAP (Game Connect Asia Pacific).


Screen shot of CrossyRoad Game 700px



Looking at App Annie the game went viral in November of last year and continues to maintain a top seat in the Game genre on the iOS Store (United States region shown in rank history chart below) –


Crossy Road iOS Store Ranking on App Annie


For a really great interview with Matt Hall from Hipster Whale, check out the AppMasters podcast episode – How Crossy Road Hit Over 25 Million Downloads with Matt Hall. It was recently reported that within 90 days it had made $10 million (assumed USD) [1]. So what tools did they use to create this awesome game? Just download the game to your device and have a look at the credits screen under the heading “Tools”.


So go ahead, get started ! Make your own pixel or voxel based game and publish it to the app stores.




[1] ABC article – Victorian app developer comes to a Crossy Road in lucrative gaming world

[2] App Annie

[3] Wikipedia – Super Mario Bros

[4] AppMasters.co



2 Responses

  1. Chris

    Very informative article. I love pixel art but I love voxels even more. Thanks to putting me on to qubicle via the crossy road tools connection. I had no idea this tool existed and look forward to learning something new.

    • Randal

      Thanks for the comment Chris! Yeah Qubicle is an awesome tool, I used it to “voxel-ize” the Start Apps logo in the banner of this post. Cheers mate

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