Glowdot and PowFolio at San Diego Comic Con 2016!


We just returned from an amazing week at San Diego Comic Con.




IMG_4289We were on hand for the big public announcement of our PowFolio comic book reader, available now on iOS and Android.  In the 3 months since we launched PowFolio, we remain the #1 comic book app on the Apple App Store, and the only 5 star rated comic book app on the market.  We’re overwhelmed by the positive response, by both readers and content creators.  And this month, we can now boast nearly 13,000 free to read comics in nearly 1200 titles from our 68 publishers.  That’s a total of well over 500,000 pages of comic content — and we’re just getting started!


YouTube sensation Markiplier announced PowFolio at the Red Giant Entertainment and Keenspot panel.

You can download PowFolio free on the Apple App Store and Google Play

And be sure to follow us on Social Media for news and updates!


PowFolio now available on Android!

We’re proud to announce our groundbreaking comic reader PowFolio is now available on Android!

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 1.15.27 PM

Within the first month of PowFolio’s launch on iOS, we became the #1 comic book app on the app store, and the only 5 star rated comic book app on iOS!

We’re excited to bring this revolutionary platform, and our incredible library of over 10,000 free comics to Android users!

Check out PowFolio free on Google Play!

Free comic reader PowFolio now available on iOS!

We’re pleased to announce our latest venture, PowFolio, is now available on iOS.



PowFolio is a free, streaming comic book reader for iPhone and iPad (with Android coming soon).  Users can read any of over 10,000 comic books from major publishers in the industry, including Image, Arcana, Antarctic, and many more.  Pages are “streamed” in as you read, and nothing is stored on device.  So in essence, you get a virtual library of thousands of books, in thousands oftitles, from dozens of publishers, without any storage requirements whatsoever — all completely free.

PowFolio was developed in partnership with Red Giant Entertainment, and launches in time for Free Comic Book Day 2016.

Check it PowFolio free on the App Store!

And follow @powfolio on social media for news and updates!


Caremob available for iOS!

We’re proud to announce the launch of Caremob for iOS.


Caremob is the first ever real-time global movements app, allowing users to react to current events in any of six ways: protest, support, empathy, peace, celebration and mourning.  Users can leverage Caremob to spread the word about movements they care about, and lend support to existing movements via a novel one-touch time mechanic, allowing virtual mobs to grow in size and gain visibility.

Caremob was developed and designed by Glowdot Productions for Caremob.

Download Caremob for iOS free on the App Store.

How much does it cost to build an app like _____?

In technology — and apps are no exception — new ideas often are iterations on existing ideas.  In fact, I’d say (conservatively!) that around 80% of the calls we get start with a question following this basic formula: “I’d like to build an app like X but targeting Y group with Z features.”

Totally legitimate question, and quite often these ideas are good, viable iterations on the original theme.  The confusion is often with the cost to develop such an app.  During these conversations, we find it helpful to pull up the funding history for the original company and start the conversation there.

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at development cost based on an existing platform.

First, many if not most of these companies were founded by programmers.  As such, the amount of money they raised can be considerably less than would be required for a company that doesn’t have any programming talent at inception.  If I were to start a new social network, I can write off a considerable chunk of the cost by simply coding it myself at a cost of $0.  My spending would then be primarily on marketing, design, legal, etc.  But for anyone else, that code cost, which is the largest portion of your startup costs, must be raised.

Second, a well-established app or website has likely gone through several rounds of funding, and several releases, over several years.  Instagram may have started small, but after several years, several hundred million users, and several revisions, it is now something quite different from what it started at.  To reach the point its at cost many millions of dollars.  If you think you are going to compete with Instagram now with an app you paid $5000 to develop, you are quite frankly wasting your $5000.

Luckily the funding history of many tech companies is publicly available, so you should be able to research your existing competition and get an idea of how realistic your goal is.  CrunchBase is a great resource, and the one I will be using here to find numbers for reference.  Let’s look at a few of them now, but keep in mind (I can’t stress this enough!) that most if not all of these companies were started by tech entrepreneurs with the ability to write code.  Your initial funding needs very well could be considerably higher than what you see here.

I want to build an app like Instagram

Funding history

  • Seed round: 500k
  • Series A: $7 million
  • Series B: $50 million

Total investment: $57.5 million

The first version of Instagram allowed you to take photos, apply filters, and upload them to a server, and share them to your Facebook and Twitter feeds.  Basic features like Likes and Follows.

The later investments were likely used to improve the performance and scalability of the backend, increase the quality and speed of the photo filters, and do some marketing.

I want to build an app like Yelp

Funding history

  • Series A: $1 million
  • Series B: $5 million
  • Series C: $10 million
  • Series D: $15 million
  • Series E: $25 million

Total investment: $56 million

Yelp in and of itself isn’t an entirely complex site.  The majority of this funding likely went to marketing, sales and legal, with a decent chunk of the money going to improve scalability of the service, as well as develop mobile apps.

I want to build an app like Facebook

Funding history

  • Angel: $500k million
  • Series A: $12.7 million
  • Series B: $27.5 million
  • Series C: $240 million
  • Series C:$60 million
  • Series C:$15 million
  • Series C:$60 million
  • Debt financing: $100 million
  • Series D: $200 million
  • Private equity: $210 million
  • Private equity: $1.5 billion

Total investment: almost $2.5 billion

Yes, people really do ask us this.  I’m not even going to speculate about all the ways you can spend $2.5 billion, but obviously sales, marketing, legal, mobile apps, new platforms, and acquisitions are all included here.

Those are a few of the big ones, and I could go on and on.  I strongly urge everyone to peruse CrunchBase to get a sense of how much money goes into developing platforms like these as part of your research phase.

One of the biggest things I hope readers take away from this is that if a developer or agency tells you they can build you a service like Yelp for less than 1% of what Yelp itself needed to get off the ground, they are lying to you.  Run like the wind.  If you could build a complex social network for $2000, why did all these companies spend a half million or more at start?  This is the single most important question you have to ask.  Not how cheaply can I get this done, but am I spending an amount that makes sense?

Thoughts on Swift

The buzz about Swift has only slightly started to die down, so I thought I’d put a few of my thoughts about it down on Glowdot.  My thoughts are less about the language itself, but the adoption of new technologies in general, and what I feel it all means in my industry.

When I first sat down to write my first native iOS app, back in 2008, the first hurdle was getting a grip on Objective-C.  I wrote my first C program back in 1993 (a Unix text-based chess game, naturally) and since that time, leading up to the mobile revolution, I had been coding primarily for Windows platforms (desktop and mobile) in C++, and in various other C-style languages, particularly C# and PHP.  Objective-C is really, at its core, just a different way of extending the C language, but it still presented a roadblock as it was my first encounter with the language.  I won’t say the language itself wasn’t mature, because I’m sure it was even if it was considerably new to me, but the real problem was that I wasn’t mature as an Objective-C developer.  Not only was I learning a new platform, and a new SDK, and a completely new way of building application UI — the Apple was quite a bit different from the win32 or .NET way of doing things — but I was learning a new language at the same time.  It really did feel, in those early days, like I was asked to write software for some piece of alien technology that fell out of the sky.

And I wasn’t alone.  Suddenly a lot of developers were eager to code for this new device, and a lot of them had not coded for Apple products in the past.  We were all in the same boat.  Consequently, if anyone remembers, many, many, many iOS apps in the early days were weird, buggy, crashy messes.  I lamented loudly, in blog posts since deleted, that Apple made a really odd choice forcing us all into using this language that the majority of us were unfamiliar with.

Since that time, several other options based on languages in wider use (and by that I mean, used for development on non-Apple devices) have emerged.  mono.NET for example, or Unity, or even several of the HTML/JavaScript based cross-platform development tools.  Xamarin is a recent option that we like so much we’re offering it here at Glowdot.  Still, nothing really beats native development with the tools and languages the controller of the platform offers and supports.  Not only is Apple behind Objective-C, the community is overwhelmingly pro- Objective-C now, which means working through the inevitable issues (via Google and Stack Overflow) is much easier.  Not to mention the countless libraries and UI components that emerged over the last few years build in Objective-C.

Still, I hoped, in 2008, as I did in 2014, Apple would get behind a more “common” language for iOS eventually.  While I understand that C# might not be a logical option for Apple (even though it would be my ideal language of choice for developing on iOS), there are other options that don’t require learning a new platform and a new language for newcomers to iOS.

Apple recently unveiled Swift, and while I haven’t looked at the language much yet, my first reaction was a big “why?”  From what I understand so far, Swift was developed to work around many of the issues with Objective-C — primarily speed (which I didn’t know was an issue), and “safeness” (which I definitely knew was an issue).  Better (as in: automatic) memory management, overflow-safe and auto-initialized variables — all great things.  But things that exist in other languages people already know, and don’t have to learn from scratch.

I’ve been in the game long enough to turn a cautious eye to new and exciting technologies and languages.  Google unveiled a new language a few years ago, although I don’t know anyone who uses it.  No judgement about the language, I simply don’t know any serious users of it yet although they might be out there.  I can say the same about several other new and exciting and much-blogged-about languages — Haskell, D, honestly the list is huge.  In the real world, whatever that means, I most often see the same languages I’ve seen for 10+ years: C/C++, PHP, C#, Java.  Python is the only language I can think of which I originally scratched my head over which now seems to be in fairly common use.  Ruby, actually, is another.  But those languages had to find their audience and mature a bit before they came into common use.

And apparently Swift is no exception.  The language is still in active development, from what I understand, and programmers are already having fun breaking it.  I’m looking forward to digging into Swift in the upcoming months, but for now I’ll be watching from the sidelines to see where it goes.

Side note: I certainly don’t want to appear as if I frown on new tools and technologies.  Indeed, I got into this business because I love playing with and learning new things.  This industry is full of people like me, though, and often that leads to a feedback loop of excitement about new technologies.  After 20 years developing software in multiple languages on multiple platforms, I reserve the right to be a little hesitant to jump on bandwagons.

Who’s bidding on your app project?

Like any responsible business, we spend a fair amount of time keeping up with the competition.  This is especially important in a business like ours, where the same project can receive wildly different bids.  It’s important for us to know who’s bidding on your project, so we can help you tell them apart.

As I’ve previously discussed, there are a few types of app developers who will be responding to your RFP:

  • Established studios with an impressive portfolio and client list
  • Experienced freelancers
  • Onshore agencies that outsource offshore
  • Offshore agencies
  • Freelancers who have no idea what they’re doing whatsoever

Not coincidentally, I’ve listed these from best to worst, highest priced to lowest priced, and lowest risk to highest risk.  To be quite frank, you really don’t want to waste time and money with the last three options — even if the difference in cost is in the tens of thousands (which is typically is), your risk positively skyrockets when you opt for one of these options.  I’ve posted in detail about this in the past, so I won’t rehash the reasons why.  Suffice to say, if you’re going to make the investment in app development, go with a trusted option.

A few years ago, we were offered a simple web application that was a little too small for us, but we wanted to help the client out and offered to find and vet a freelance web developer for them.  After putting out a call for developers, my inbox nearly collapsed under the weight of the responses — nearly 400 responses.  Not surprising, however, as web development is on the simpler side of application development, and has been around for ages in technology terms.  Still, out of those hundreds of responses, I found two — yes, two — who were worth pursuing.

Mobile development is quite a bit different from web.  The difficulty is much higher and thus requires a much more skilled developer to properly complete a project.  I was curious what the market looks like today, and so as an experiment, I put out a call for iOS and/or Android developers to see what sort of responses I would get.  I thought it might be interesting for someone on this side of the table to break apart the responses and interpret them in hopes it helps those on the other side of the table make sense of it all.

My informal RFP was fairly simple and based off a lot of the first emails or calls we get here at Glowdot every day: a little vague, but with enough information to make a pretty rough time and cost estimate.  I was looking for:

  • A social app leveraging the Facebook and/or Twitter API
  • Something “sort of like Uber but for a different service”
  • iOS and/or Android
  • Backend development including a database and a simple API for future client apps
  • UI/UX design and asset creation

Funny aside: that really does describe about 80% of the RFPs we get these days.  Uber is the new Yelp (which was the new Facebook).

Two things to note up front before I start to describe the responses.  One of the motivations for this was a client we had in our office a while ago who expressed surprise that many, if not most, of the developers he had talked to in the past either didn’t respond to him at all, cut off communication suddenly and seemingly without reason, or for some other reason just dropped off the grid.  I theorized it might be because of the “I have no idea how much this costs” problem — waves of clients that really have no frame of reference as to what an app costs to develop, which results in developers spending those first few conversations trying to figure out if they are talking to a legitimate client or someone with a $1000 budget.  Since there are so many clients out there, it makes some sense for some developers to just move on to the next one when they get a whiff of “no budget”.

Second, and I guess I might as well get this out of the way up front, out of 23 responses to my call for developers, I found zero that were worth pursuing.  The fact that I only received 23 responses was surprising enough, even though I know there are few options these days (more on this later), but to find not one decent developer in the bunch really did surprise me.  A few years ago, there was always a couple talented freelancers out there looking for work.  In 2014, it seems, they’ve all been picked up by the big technology companies or are booked into the next decade.  This is really important for clients to understand, and I can’t stress this enough: the talent is taken.  The demand is incredibly high for talented developers right now — I have literally never seen anything like it in my 20 years developing software.  Finding a qualified partner to work on your software is harder now than ever.

So that out of the way, what kind of responses did I receive?  Note that many of the responses fell into multiple categories.  Here I’m looking at the most interesting characteristics of the responses I received and listing the number of responses that fit.

Offshore developers: 9

Far less than I expected, especially considering that I get at least 5 unsolicited emails and/or calls from offshore developers every single day.  I really thought my inbox would explode, but it seems that these development shops are targeting companies like Glowdot, rather than try to go to the source.  I suppose this makes sense.  We are very aware that about 80% of our competition is basically just an office here in the US managing a team in India.  80% might even be a ridiculously low estimate.  On the occasions I’ve looked into these companies, their portfolios are… well, strange, to say the least.  Usually they send me a couple really horrible apps that don’t even make sense — not only are they broken and buggy in various ways, I often can’t even tell what they are supposed to do.  One agency that tried to sell me on their game development department reluctantly sent me a link to some sort of a boat game.  After 5 minutes, I still couldn’t figure out what you were supposed to do.  Tapping the screen made a little guy row the boat, but the boat never went anywhere.  I’m not even sure what the point of the game was, or why the sales guy thought it would be a good idea to show it to me.  When I asked, he just kept insisting that his developers were extremely low cost, which, I guess, is the point.

Suspicious developers: 6

Three of the responses I received basically flat out said “you need to prove to me you are a legitimate client”.  One asked me to lay out my minimum and maximum budget before he would have any more communication with me, and the other two mentioned exhaustion from dealing with clients with bizarre budget expectations, and that they would not even have a phone call with me unless I could prove I was not out of my element.  Strangely, one of these responses sent me the same response four times over three days.  He just kept poking me asking for proof of funding.

Three responses consisted of little more than the following message: “Your app will cost at least $100,000 to build.  Email me if you understand this and want to proceed”.  One quoted me somewhere around $250k for iOS, Android and backend development.  Honestly, these quotes weren’t too far off for a client asking for Uber.

Onshore but really offshore: 5

Of the few responses that seemed worth pursuing, a couple quick emails and in one case a phone call revealed that I was dealing with a local project manager outsourcing work to India or China.  It is relatively easy for someone like me to figure this out — I am a programmer, after all, and it takes a few seconds for me to realize I’m talking to someone who doesn’t code.  It concerns me that a client who doesn’t code (and after all, isn’t that the reason they are hiring a coder in the first place?) has almost no way of determining the ability or legitimacy of the person on the other end of the phone.

I know next to nothing about cars.  I hire a mechanic to fix my car for me.  But I’m aware I’m at his mercy if he tells me I need a new Flumberg Generator.

One interesting thing about this category of responses: I actually know one of the guys who responded.  He’s right down the street from me here, and he’s been doing this for years — lowball bidding on client projects and outsourcing to India.  As far as I know he’s never finished a project to the client’s satisfaction, but because his bids are so low, he always seems to have work.

Freelancers with no idea what they are doing: 9

This was the category of response that really surprised me.  I know these guys are out there, but I didn’t know that they would make up the vast majority of responses.  Of these 9 responders, 5 of them didn’t even do mobile development.  Four were web developers who either misinterpreted my request, or thought they could figure it out as they went, as long as they had a contract and a paying client.  Risk level: 5000%.

One was a graphic designer who said he could design the app and then subcontract with one of his buddies to build the app.  I don’t even know where to begin with this one.

Of the remaining 4, it took a very brief exchange to determine that their skill level was woefully low — so low I don’t know what possessed them to put themselves out there to clients.  One of these responders showed me a demo app that I recognized as a learning project from a book I recommended to a friend on app development a couple years ago.  The other demo projects from the other responders were not much better. Buggy, broken, confusing — just bad.  Anyone who looks over these portfolios and still hires the developer because the price is right deserves what they get.  Honestly, these guys aren’t even hiding the fact that they don’t know what they are doing.

Conclusion: man, oh man

This turned out to be a depressing experiment.  I had really hoped to find at least one competent developer out there, and I just couldn’t.

We hear something often here when we talk with smaller clients (and sometimes even the bigger ones): “I’ve been burned in the past, and I want some sort of guarantee that won’t happen again”.  We understand, of course, for all the reasons I blog about here all the time.  There are really only a few ways to minimize your risk on a development contract:

  1. Be prepared to spend a realistic amount of time and money on development.  If you want the cheapest and fastest option, you’re probably going to also end up with the worst experience imaginable.
  2. Look at the developer’s recent apps and use them.  Do they make sense?  Are they well built and well designed?  Are they intuitive?  If not, why would you want them making your app?
  3. Most importantly: look at the developers client list.  Big, well funded companies don’t hire cheap, inexperienced people to work for them.  Successful companies hire the best.  If a developer’s client list consists of mom and pop shops and strange little niche startups and things like this, they’ve probably never been trusted by a client with the resources to hire the best.

One thing to realize here is that all of the responses I received were of very low quality because the most competent and reliable developers in mobile right now are in extremely high demand.  If you want to secure the best team for your project, the burden is really on you to seek them out and entice them to work with you.  My absolute best suggestion is to find a company that has made an app you found to be well made, or who has worked with a company you trust to only hire the best, and approach them to see if they are available for new clients.

I hope this was helpful, and I’d be glad to help prospective clients make sense of any responses or proposals they received.  This is a huge and growing problem in our industry, and Glowdot feels it is our duty as responsible developers to help clear the muddy water in any way we can.

As always, be careful out there!

Glowdot to offer Xamarin development

We’re pleased to announce we have scheduled two apps to be developed on the Xamarin platform, and plan to offer Xamarin development to our clients moving forward.

Xamarin allows us to more efficiently develop cross platform apps for iOS, Android and even Windows Phone by developing in a common language: C#.  This allows us to reuse core code common to all platforms, and limits the platform specific code required to just what’s necessary to handle platform specific UI and device specific functionality.

Right now we are looking into any limitations that might restrict our use of Xamarin on certain projects, but from what we can see so far, this is a terrific way forward to serve our clients requiring cross-platform app development on a leaner budget and timeline.

Our game clients already know the power of cross platform development atop .NET and C# — we’ve been developing this way in Unity for years.  Our game clients also know that developing this way allows us to build up a game for iOS, the web, or Android, and quickly port to other platforms — usually in a matter of days per each new platform.  While Xamarin isn’t quite as easy on the porting side as Unity — platform specific UI and look-and-feel have to be taken into account which results in a little more development time than Unity — the benefits are largely the same.

We’ve avoided every other cross platform toolkit we’ve come across in the past (save for Unity, of course), because they all more or less take a “lowest common denominator” approach to cross platform development.  That is definitely not the case with Xamarin, which insists that platform specific code be developed separately, and more importantly, in a platform-specific way, which results in apps that are essentially indistinguishable from native apps.  In fact, as far as we can tell, they are native apps.

We’ll have more information on Xamarin as this develops, and as we wrap up these first few developments.  Stay tuned!

How much does it cost to develop an app?

“What do you mean my app will cost $80,000 to develop?  I have a stack of quotes in front of me that are all around $2000! One guy here says he’ll do it for $500!”


That amusing image has been popping up in my LinkedIn feed more and more lately, which tells me that clients are starting to feel the effects of the “me too” rush into app development.  A recent flood of low-bidding, questionable developers and studios have appeared lately, causing chaos and confusion, and leading to a lot of frustration and wasted money and resources.

It’s a problem I’ve discussed here many times before. Mobile development is a terrific business. It’s expensive to hire qualified developers to work on projects, and 6+ years into the mobile boom, a successful app is more complex and polished than ever – a rushed, low-budget app hacked together by an incompetent team just isn’t going to cut it these days. As a result, budgets have increased, and a flood of unqualified developers and studios have rushed in to bid on every project up in the air. One big problem remains: clients often have no idea how to distinguish one developer from another, aside from the price quote. And that being the case, they usually go with the lowest quote. It makes sense in a way. If you didn’t know the difference between a Ferrari and a Kia — all you knew was one was $250k and one was $24k, wouldn’t you go with the cheaper option?

But would you?  Wouldn’t you want to know why the Kia is so much cheaper?  Its a question far too many aren’t asking.

At the end of every year, we here at Glowdot sit down and review the previous year.  We review our projects, how well we served out clients, and we also look back at contracts we didn’t get.  This usually involves looking to see if the app came out and how it looks, and if we don’t find it out there, we reach out to those clients and see how the experience went for them with whoever they ended up contracting with.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that when we check in on those clients who went with the cheaper option, we have discovered that either no app ever materialized, or a disastrous, poorly built app was released in every case.   And we’re not talking about small companies or individuals.  Some massive companies have made the mistake of going cheap, only to end up with nothing in the end.

The lowest bid is almost never the best bet, and here’s why: the app developers you receive your bid from fall into one of these categories:

  • Qualified app development studios comprised of a team of developers, project managers, artists, UI/UX experts, etc.
  • Qualified individual freelance developers
  • App development studios presenting themselves as on-shore development houses, but outsourcing the work overseas and managing projects in-house
  • Outsourcing agencies located in India, China, or elsewhere
  • Completely unqualified freelancers, located in the US or elsewhere, who have no idea what they are doing but are willing to get in way over their head because they heard app development is a great gig.

I’ve listed those categories in order of most likely to succeed to least likely.  Not coincidentally, I’ve also listed them from most to least expensive.

The last two categories of developer are the ones I want to talk about here, and I’m going to take off the gloves and just say this straight: avoid these developers at all costs.  You will end up disappointed, and you will lose your money (although, to be fair, you’re likely to lose only a small amount of money since these shops underbid so severly!)

These companies are doing much more than just taking money and delivering garbage, however.  They are confusing the market by upsetting pricing which is based on developer cost, and throwing everything out of whack.  When a qualified developer bids, say, $100,000 on a project, and the client receives 20 other bids ranging from $500 to $2000, naturally the client has no idea what to think.  The low bids should be a red flag, but in our experience, for far too many clients, it isn’t.  And that’s bad for us if we lose a potentially good client, but its worse for the client, who is about to lose their money and suffer months of frustration.

Why is a lowball bid a red flag?  Because in 2014, qualified developers are extremely expensive and extremely rare.  We live in a time when companies like Google and Apple and Facebook have billions in cash-on-hand, and hire the best and the brightest minds — even if they don’t have anything for them to work on.  These companies have the resources and the clout to bring amazing talent under an even more amazing banner, and they have entire teams devoted to seeking out and finding that talent.  When they find them, they move them to California, and they reward them handsomely.

Let’s put aside Google for a moment, where apparently developers can earn $3 million a year.  A developer in the US will usually earn anywhere from $80,000 a year to $140,000 a year depending on experience.  As any business owner knows, there are other costs involved with hiring anyone — benefits packages, stock, perks, and the search itself — which brings the cost of hiring and retaining a developer up to around $120,000 on average.  That’s $10,000 a month.

That very same developer will have studied at least 4 years, but often 6 or 8 years, of computer science and mathematics at an accredited university, at a cost of anywhere from $20,000 to $120,000 and years of dedication.  And when he’s done, he will have the largest technology companies in the world inviting him to work for them.  Not to mention that the top talent in the country can easily find work in some of the most desirable parts of the country: Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Francisco and the surrounding area. It’s not cheap to live close to the pacific ocean, and its not cheap to get educated in the US.  No developer who’s put the time in to get to the competence level you need him or her to be at is going to work for $20/hour.  The reality is: really competent, proven, experienced contract developers charge anywhere from $150-250 per hour on a contract basis.  If they quote you significantly less than that, you can be sure they don’t know what they are doing, or they don’t live and work in the US.

Now to get to the point.  Let’s say you have a one month project (which is a short development cycle in 2014, incidentally).  You put out an RFP, and you get the following quotes:

  • $60,000 from a qualified studio, including one developer working full time, a project manager working full time, a UI/UX designer working 10% time and an artist generating assets at 20% time.
  • $30,000 from an on-shore, experienced, US educated freelancer.  But he tells you that you will need to source the UI/UX and art assets yourself, and you will be managing the project yourself.
  • $10,000 from a studio claiming to be a qualified studio offering developers, a project manager, and UI/UX.
  • $700 from a studio located overseas.

Given what a qualified, US based developer earns at a comfortable, stable company that isn’t going out of business anytime soon, I think we can agree that the $700 bid is a joke.  The freelancer might be a good option, if you want to manage the project yourself and you have resources available for design and UI/UX.  That just leaves the high and low studio bid.

How do you tell the difference between two studios, one bidding $60k, and one bidding $10k?

Remember how much that developer is to hire.  The cost of any software project starts with the developer and works outward — not only because he’s typically the most expensive member of the team, but also because he’s the only one working full-time on the project.  If the studio bidding on your project is paying market value for their developer, the entire budget they quoted you is going to him or her.  That leaves nothing for project management, UI/UX, or art.  It also leaves nothing for rent, utilities, and the sales team.  It also leaves nothing for profit.  And it leaves nothing for the span between projects, where the studio has to keep their doors open while looking for their next gig.

In short: it makes no sense.

Scratch that.  It makes sense if they are outsourcing your project to an unqualified studio who will fail to deliver quality software, if they deliver anything at all.

This is why we have seen a 100% failure rate with clients that have opted for the cheaper or even cheapest bid.  I cannot stress that enough, it really is a 100% failure rate.  Please, be careful out there.  And as always feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about project budgets, the process, or anything else.  We love speaking to potential clients and helping to clear up the confusion!  Our team is 100% in-house, located here in Santa Monica, a few blocks from the beach.  We never, ever outsource. Our lead developer has almost 20 years experience as a developer — 30 if you count the code he wrote in grade school, years before most households even had a computer in the home!  If your project matters to you, and if your money is important to you, make sure to only hire a qualified, local developer or studio to guarantee the highest chance of success.

And if you’ve already been burned in the past, don’t feel too bad.  Remember that the government spent $70 million on a website that didn’t work.  See?  It can happen to anyone.

Playground Wars is FREE!

Our strategic castle defense game Playground Wars is free on iOS as of today.

Playground Wars is also available (for free!) on Android in the Google Play store, and Mac OSX in the Mac App Store.

Download Playground Wars for iOS

Download Playground Wars for Mac OSX

Download Playground Wars for Android

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