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Anatomy of an app

A screenshot of the Animals Ahoy app.

A screenshot of the Animals Ahoy app.

George Argy always wanted to play games. As a child, he played Doom, graduating to Grand Theft Auto as an adult. Now, this former management consultant has thrown in corporate life to create his own dream job ... as a creator of games.

Argy, 39, landed his ideal role by founding his own business, which creates games for Apple and Android devices. His first game, Animals Ahoy, was released in September.

While it may seem that Argy is living out a childhood fantasy, he's doing so within a burgeoning app market that's only set to grow. According to research specialists Gartner, worldwide mobile app store downloads will surpass 45.6 billion in 2012, a number it estimates will reach 309.6 billion in 2016.

Pursuing a passion

Nevertheless, it's a bold move for Argy, who has agreed with his family that he will give himself a year to make a go of his business. In the meantime, he's living off savings accumulated during his corporate career. With a wife and two kids – a five-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son – Argy is aware that it's a risk. But he also loves the fact he's finally following his passion.

"Everyone wants to pursue the things they've always dreamt of doing in life," he says. 

"Everyone wants to pursue the things they've always dreamt of doing in life," he says. "It's something I've wanted to do ever since I was a little kid. I enjoy playing games and have always wanted to see what it's like to make one. It's like getting behind the scenes of a movie."

Despite his love for games, Argy pursued studies in English literature and philosophy, starting his career with a brief stint in journalism – he wrote about entertainment and reviewed games – before moving into the corporate world and climbing the career ladder. "There are dreams – and then there's reality," he says. "I had bills to pay. Once I got into the corporate world, all the creative stuff I was doing disappeared overnight. I put my hopes and dreams behind me."

Argy was so seduced by the career ladder that he even completed an MBA in 2004 and became a management consultant. "It was good pay and great stability but I got to a point where I knew that creativity was missing from my life. I wanted to do what I enjoyed when I was younger."

A bright idea

Chasing his dream ... George Argy.

Chasing his dream ... George Argy. Photo: Supplied

Then inspiration hit. "I was in my living room with my two kids watching some cartoons," he says. "I walked into my home office, picked up a pencil and blank sheet of paper and sketched out the idea for a game."

That was in June this year. Now that Argy had the idea for a game – albeit scribbled on various bits of paper – he knew this was the impetus he needed to launch his business. Those scribbles turned into Animals Ahoy, an app where you travel around the world, buy animals when they are cheap and sell them when they're expensive. 

Argy is already designing his second offering, a medieval combat game. "My plan is to bring out a new game every three months, but also to keep updating existing games with new functions on a monthly basis. People like seeing updates happening on games."

In its first month, it was downloaded by about 1000 people. "Considering there's been no proper marketing effort behind it yet, that's not a bad number," says Argy, who also explains that he wanted to gauge feedback from users before throwing money into marketing. Since the feedback has been positive, he's now more confident to spread the word about his game.

How to create your own game/app

So how does an English literature graduate and former management consultant, who does not know how to draw, code, or create sounds effects, make an app? "Google," he says simply. "Do your research to find out what you need to do to bring your app to market. It's not difficult to find out information."

As part of his web research, Argy discovered and subsequently enrolled in an online course on how to design apps.

Argy realised he had to find an artist (to create the images used in the app); musician (to create music and sound effects); app developer (to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and make it work); and website developer (to create a website for the app). He found all these on – a global online marketplace for services. Similar providers include, and

"The whole process of creating the app actually went much more smoothly that I thought it would," says Argy. "Using was easy in terms of finding the right people, briefing them on the job and paying them. The challenges actually came after the game was released, not in getting the game to market."

For those interested in creating an app, Argy breaks down his expenses here:

  • Artwork by two artists, one from Indonesia and one from Bulgaria: $1500
  • Music and sound effects from a musician in Turkey: $500
  • App developers in India: $1500
  • Website from developers in India: $500

Once he got the artwork and music/sound effects in place, Argy briefed the app developers on how to put these elements together. "You need these elements so that you can visualise the final product," he says. "Then it's briefing the programmers in the plainest English possible, using lots of diagrams to show what you want to achieve. For example, I'd have arrows with messages like: 'When you click on this, the ball gets kicked across the screen'."

The app was created by early August; then released after a month of testing, tweaking and polishing. While the dollar amounts above don't factor in the time that Argy has devoted to the project, it's a relatively low set-up cost for what might become the next Angry Birds. But Argy is aware that for every Angry Birds success story, there are thousands of apps that do not succeed.

With a team from all over the world, Argy says he had to put in long hours, particularly because of the time differences in the various countries. "One of the downsides of having people all over the world is that you have to overlap with them at some point, so that you can communicate and discuss any issues. Some days, I'd work from the minute I got up to when I'd get to bed."

Making money

So how does Argy earn money when most apps are free or very low cost? Animals Ahoy earns money because readers see advertisements while playing the game. Argy says any amount earned so far is used to pay for advertising the game on other apps. For his second combat-style game, he is likely to feature "in-app purchasing" where users can pay to acquire bigger swords or other advantages that may enhance the experience of the game.

According to Gartner, it expects "the number of downloads featuring in-app purchase will increase from five percent of total downloads in 2011 to 30 percent in 2016".

Clearly, Argy is only at the start of building his mini-app empire. He's got a year to turn it into a profitable business. But Argy appears committed. He's already overcome the first hurdle, turning his idea into reality. He says: "A lot of my providers tell me that many people who engage their services don't see it through. They get bored after a few weeks - or they become distracted from the process."

If you want to build an app, his tips are:

1. Do your research
"Understand what you need to do to bring your app to market. Your first stop is Google. I used to type in search terms like: 'hourly rate for web developer' and go from there."

2. Have a committed vision
"So many people had a great idea. They get started on it but they don't see it through."

3. Educate yourself
"You don't have to be a programmer. But you do need to understand the problems that programmers might face and how they might go about solving those problems. Ask questions. It's about understanding how people work."

While Argy can always fall back on his work as a management consultant if his venture doesn't work out, he thinks it's unlikely this will happen. "I'm not a greedy person, but if I have a business where I can be creative in a way that allows me to pay my bills … that's enough for me."

twitter Follow Valerie Khoo on Twitter @valeriekhoo

22 comments so far

  • An interesting look at the development path. How do you get the advertisements on their that people see - where do you find the advertisers or do they find you? How do the ads get inserted? Since that's the way he's making money from it initially, that would be interesting to know too.

    Date and time
    November 01, 2012, 2:51PM
    • There are numerous ad agencies around the world that specialise in ads for apps. You choose your agency, insert their code into your app and they take care of the rest. They will pay for ads viewed or ads clicked and they will also take a cut for themselves.

      Date and time
      November 01, 2012, 4:05PM
    • @D - There are any number of companies that specialise in online advertising. They manage relationships with both the advertisers and those who control whatever media the advertising is placed on. Depending on the platform and provider there are various implementations but it usually involves merging some code provided by the online advertising company that displays the ads from their various advertisers.When you get views and clicks on the ads you are displaying, you get some revenue.

      Date and time
      November 01, 2012, 4:48PM
  • First of all, best of luck to Argy, but I think it's fair to mention that the brief overview about Animals Ahoy makes the games premise sound very similar to Dope Wars - which is several years old.

    I agree with D, some stats and figures about the advertising revenue would really shine a light on this topic.

    As he admits, Argy doesn't have any background in game development, he's simply had a basic, and arguably derivative idea, invested in it via and crossed his fingers that he makes money. I have to question how profitable it can be when so many of us could do the same. If the advertising revenue is a lot I'd have half a mind to create a game myself. Animals Set Sail has a nice ring to it.

    Also, adults playing games is not a new thing.

    Date and time
    November 01, 2012, 3:56PM
    • Hi D,

      Good question. I use a company called AdMob, but there are numerous similar providers out there. They are effectively an advertising aggregator - they've signed up advertisers who wish to pay to insert their ads into apps, as well as publishers or developers (like me) who wish to be paid for showing ads in their apps. Like any good middlemen, they take a cut for match-making :)

      The really good thing about services like AdMob is that you can tailor impressions or campaigns to suit your needs. For example, it's really easy for me to specify that I only want G-rated ads in my game. I can also limit ads to Australian companies, run ads only at certain times of the day etc. It's actually quite powerful but fairly simple to use.

      The other huge advantage is that you can be an advertiser and publisher at the same time. So for example, I allow advertisers to insert ads into my game, but I'm also preparing to advertise my game in other people's apps. The best thing about using one provider for both is that the money you make from impressions in your apps can be offset against the marketing expenditure for your own campaigns, so it minimises cashflow implications.

      Finally, most of these APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are very straightforward. It took my development team 0.5 - 1 day per platform (Apple, Google, Microsoft) to integrate my game with various advertising providers' APIs.

      Hope this helps,

      George Argy
      Date and time
      November 01, 2012, 4:19PM
      • Great work George. Im similarly aspiring to develop apps for a living.
        The last app I made is a finance app that encourages you to save money.
        You can see it here:

        Date and time
        November 01, 2012, 6:36PM
        • I have been beta testing a game for a family doing this in Canada. They have taken the same plunge and the same risks. I've been told that the road is tough and sometimes the return can bleak especially if toughing it out and doing a lot of the coding yourself. This Argy fellow just sounds like he applied his MBA and projected-manages his design ideas by outsourcing. It seems that it is not a huge investment - $1500 for the coding of a game of moderate complexity
          is not a lot. I myself am disillusioned with my own career and teching myself iOS game programming. It is reassuring that there are excellent Frameworks out there to do this, both commercial and Open Source. I think the main issue I would have is the artwork, as I do not
          have the neccessary skils. $1500 is a trivial amount to pay to get some quality designs,
          depending on how detailed they are. ...need to investigate further!

          Penrith, NSW
          Date and time
          November 01, 2012, 10:03PM
          • Who dares wins. Who dares maybe loses too. Apple has 400,000 apps that have never been downloaded ( ). In other words, this market is looking very like the book publishing industry where a few standouts make a mint, a layer gets by on "labourer's wages", and a great swathe of time and talent winds up in the remainder store. Go for glory if you have the passion, but think twice before quitting your day job. As in publishing, a second stream of apps are also emerging which are more utilitarian, supporting regular businesses as reference and promotional material.

            Thor May
            Date and time
            November 02, 2012, 9:27AM
            • A game where you travel around the world and buy things where they're cheap, and then sell them somewhere else for a profit? Yes,it was called Shanghai and I played that on my Apple ][ with simple graphics back in the early 80s. And that wasn't even the original, it derived from an even older game of the same name written in BASIC.
              What goes around comes around.

              Date and time
              November 02, 2012, 11:32AM
              • I think it does not matter the originality of the idea.

                As long as you can promote it widely and get people interested in download it. it could generate some revenue.

                Maybe at that time, the App you had played was not good enough to generate money. However, today the digital infrastructure is so advanced that could bring a better revenue compared to some endeavor of similar idea in the past.

                I maybe wrong, but am really excited in the path of software entrepreneurship.

                FHerry -
                Date and time
                November 03, 2012, 8:42AM

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