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Thumb Arcade on Mobile Gaming and why Apple and iTunes are like the Gold Rush

Thumb Arcade claim they are the mobile gaming and app equivalent of gravity. With this in mind Creative Slave decided to catch-up with the creative gaming geniuses of Thumb Arcade.

“Game building is not linear, so don’t expect it to be. It’s creative” Thumb Arcade

Thumb Arcade Interview


What’s with the thumb?

Player 01: The Thumb, or as we refer to him internally “Dinko”, is our interpretation of what thumbs might look/behave like if they were people too. It is a thumb to represent all thumbs worldwide which tap, click or press on apps, games or tech hardware of any sort.

Thumb Arcade logo and Interview

Since mobile is taking over (has taken over?) as the most frequented gaming platform, we felt that merging the modern, mobile thumb with the early era upright gaming consoles was the right thing to do.

How did thumb 1 and thumb 2 get together?

Player 01: One night, or day – it’s hard to tell in dimly lit arcades, Player 02 and I simultaneously put quarters up on Galaga for next turn. We ended up playing against each other, and the rest, as they say, is history. Checkout the “history of thumbs” graphic.

Retro history of Thumb Arcade

Retro history of Thumb Arcade

Tell us about your rare guitar strings and odd mountain bike parts.

Player 01: I firmly believe that a happy and healthy life stems from doing things you love. I love being creative and being challenged. Being a father and husband, building and playing guitars, riding mountain bikes, cooking and producing games and apps are all things I love. I find that they all influence one another over time, and that sometimes doing one takes the rough edges off of another.

Do you really treat your apps like children?

Player 01: Hahah, no. I would never spoil my apps. They need to work for a living!

Player 01

Player 01


Is it true you like playing with underwear?

Player 01: Uh, well, who doesn’t? Our game, My Underwear, was designed and built for young children. But I see and hear adults laughing and giggling at it too (I won’t mention any names). Plus the play on words just never stop being funny. I mean, have you seen my underwear? What do you think of my underwear? My underwear was picked for an award. And so on…infinitum.

Any game cheats or secrets you care share?

Player 01: We do, but we’d have to challenge you to a thumb war. And in all modesty, for you, that would be like a #2 Ticonderoga against a .50 caliber.

What cool new games can we expect from you guys in the near future?

Player 01: We’re in talks with prior licensors to do follow-on games, but we’re also working on a really cool internal project. This one is so out there, that there is literally no class for it. We’re hoping to create a sort of new media-gaming genre. It’s twisted and delightful!

What are your thoughts on Mobile gaming vs pc/console gaming?

Player 01: Mobile gaming is about the right now, this minute. Whether you’re killing time on the subway, during a meeting or on the can, mobile games are best when they’re casual, distracting and intuitive. Console and PC games still rule at intense, 3D graphics and worlds, major story lines and gratuitous anything. Casual games on these platforms feel old and stale really quickly. There are futures for both platforms. We believe the shakeup will come in the form of how and where games are initially released, and also in refining the discovery process. Nobody wants to hunt through a half million titles to find the needle in the haystack. And any top ‘list’ tells you nothing about what you’ll like – just what the crowd likes.

Player 02

Player 02


How do you come up with ideas, for instance do you have a specific creative process?

Player 01: In a nutshell: 15% – playing games | 25% – stay up on current media | 35% – write down the ideas you get right before falling asleep (or in the shower) | 5% – crushed red pepper | 5% – research (make sure you never copy or just repeat others) | 15% – teamwork, spitballing, having thick skin

How do you get from concepts to full blown games?

Player 01: Iterate. Iterate. Review. Iterate. Criticize. Iterate. Review. Iterate. Criticize. Etc. It’s a long, winding process. Game building is not linear, so don’t expect it to be. It’s creative.

What do you do to get yourselves out of a creative rut?

Player 01: Walk away. Go do something entirely else – best if it’s polar opposite of creative, like workout, eat, vacuum, or whatever. Sometimes the mundane let’s your mind rest so it can get back to being creative again. That’s for short-term creative ruts. Long-term ones usually mean we’re trying to play it safe, so doing something completely unexpected can jar things loose.

Andy Rosic (Player 01)

Andy Rosic (Player 01)


How’s business?

Player 01: Busy.

What’s it like being a thumb in the gaming business?

Player 01: Let’s just say that the other phalanges were less than hospitable for the longest time. In the beginning things were great. The other digits and I were always together. We were like brothers. Then came evolution. That’s when things got a bit contentious. The name calling. The talking behind my knuckle. When mittens arrived on the scene, things got ugly. Then a famous literary character followed. Then a famous rock song. My success created a lot of animosity. It tore us apart. I didn’t invent hitchhiking. I’m allergic to plums. I’ve never even tried Christmas pie. Now that the popularity of touch screens and mobile gaming has exploded, things between the foursome and myself are much more cordial. We see each other at work every day and we hang out once in a while at the arcade. But I can always sense them staring, whispering, scheming. Thumbs know we’re so important, and yet always taken for granted.

How do you market your games?

Player 01: Hot air balloon, bumper stickers, restaurant place mats, the world wide web and word of mouth.

What advice have you for app developers?

Player 01: Apple and iTunes are like the Gold Rush. Everyone sees one shiny flake in the river and thinks they’re going to make it rich. But most get swallowed alive by the process. Being ABLE to publish a game or app, does not equate to having a PLAN for how you’re going to succeed.

P02 and I are staunch believers in the mantra that you need to create great art (content, substance, etc.) and build a following. Launching to a following, even a niche following, is more powerful than throwing products into a black hole to see what happens. Know why you’re making the app and for whom you’re making it. And make sure they want it first. There are publishers available, but it’s no guarantee and they take a lot (like 70%). We recommend connecting with peers through groups like or similar app/dev/publishing groups.

Which aspect of their business are they most optimistic about?

Player 01: The future of mobility is being constructed today and we’ve got our finger, er thumbs, on the pulse.

What does the future hold for the gaming industry?

Player 01: Shakeup is coming. The crazy land-grab fever on mobile and on social networks will get reined in. It’s only natural. The question mark is whether or not the individual, small and medium developer shops will take charge of their own destiny or simply fall in line with the biggest companies by default. We hope the former occurs.

Other than making games what else does Thumb Arcade do?

Player 01: We also keep busy building apps, games, websites and social tech for other companies. It stretches us, expands our skills and keeps the candles burning during the fluctuations of app sales. We’ve been lucky to work with some really great brands, big companies and even start-ups. Oh, did we mention BBQ and fish tacos?

How will Thumb Arcade take over the world?

Player 01: Two happy thumbs at a time 🙂

The Creative Slave.

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