Apple has unveiled its 'Best of 2018' selections, highlighting the year's greatest games and apps across 155 countries as determined by its editorial staff, and Australian-developed software makes up a disproportionate three of the eight picks.
Mac game of the year went to The Gardens Between, made in Melbourne by the Voxel Agents, a game which Apple called out for being "the rare puzzle game that finds a way to be deeply moving". Meanwhile SWEAT — a subscription fitness service for women, based in Adelaide — took out the Apple TV app of the year.
But it was Tasmania's Savage Interactive which received the top gong of iPhone app of the year, for Procreate Pocket. A scaled down version of its celebrated Procreate illustration software for iPad, Pocket is a $7.99 app that puts professional-grade art tools and all the complexity of the full app on a phone.
"The say the best camera is the one that's always on you, and we kind of felt the same about the sketchbook," says Savage founder and CEO James Cuda, adding that it took a lot of time and a lot of work to get from that idea to launching a version of Procreate that can fit everything on a much smaller screen.
"We really wanted to have no compromises. You get the same high resolution canvases, the same multi-layer documents, on both devices."
Cuda says that, since launch, a lot of professional artists have been in touch with the team to tell them how much they love the "little mini version" of Procreate. Users of both devices can start an illustration on iPad and continue later on the phone — zooming in to add or edit details — or they can start with a sketch on iPhone whenever an idea occurs to them and flesh it out on the tablet later.
Cuda says he's been most surprised by the artworks that have been created wholly using Pocket.
"I have to kind of pinch myself when I see some of the work" Cuda says. "This was made on a telephone! It just shows you how far we've come."
Australians have always punched above their weight in science and technology, Cuda says, and so it isn't surprising to see so many on the list. BlackMagic Design, a cinema technology company based in Melbourne, also often has products featured at Apple events.
"We have sort of an island culture here, where we do tend to look inward rather than outward," he says. "It helps breed different ways of thinking."
As could be expected, Apple's choice of apps all make prominent use of the special features on the company's devices, including the implementation of 3D Touch on Procreate Pocket to determine brush pressure. On iPad Apple selected the educational Froggipedia — which uses augmented reality visuals and the Apple Pencil for virtual dissection — and on Mac it chose the Apple-exclusive Photoshop rival Pixelmator Pro.
The games selected follow a clear formula as well. Apple chose a pair of high-concept, visually striking puzzle games for iPhone and iPad — Donut County and Gorogoa respectively — both published by Annapurna, which also brought the Melbourne-made and Apple Design Award winning Florence to iPhone earlier this year. On Apple TV the nod went to Alto's Odyssey, a meditative single-button sandboarding fantasy game.
For a more objective look at the most popular apps, Apple also published Australia-specific data on the most bought and downloaded software in 2018.
Facebook dominated the top of the free iPhone apps chart with Instagram, Messenger and the Facebook app itself in the top three positions, followed by Spotify and YouTube. In paid iPhone apps, public transport app TripView came out on top, followed by baby guide The Wonder Weeks, camping guide WikiCamps and photo editing apps kirakira+ and Facetune.
The most downloaded free iPhone game of the year, to the surprise of nobody, was Fortnite, while epidemic simulator Plague Inc. was the most popular paid iPhone game in Australia.
You can see the full lists at Apple's website.