A Commodore 64 on Your iPhone: An Exclusive Interview with Manomio

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jun 22, 2009 in Tech, Videogames |

A C64 on Your iPhone: Apple you've got to do this!

If you’re a retro computing fanboy like me on Saturday you were devastated to learn that Apple denied permission to the developer who created a Commodore 64 emulator for the iPhone. Now normally this news wouldn’t surprise me, but what broke my fanboy heart is that the developer jumped through all the right hoops: Not only did they get a license from the owners of Commodore but they even got positive signals early on from Apple.

So after having my hopes crushed for reliving my 80s glory days on my iPhone I decided that I had to do something — so in the hopes of getting a second chance from Apple, here is our exclusive interview with Stuart Carnie the CTO of Manomio:

Who is the team behind Manomio and why did you start your company? We are a team of two, Stuart Carnie (CTO) and Brian Lyscarz (CEO). Brian contacted me after hearing about me porting a C64 to the iPhone back in May of 2008. Like myself, he shares a passion for retro gaming and also saw the opportunity the iPhone and App Store presented. To clarify, Retro gaming is largely an unfilled category on the App Store today (I’ve actually submitted a request to Apple to create a Retro category on the App Store). To back this up, according to a survey released by Solutions Research Group, 71% of buyers were male with an average age of 31 years. This could be considered a sweet spot for many retro games.

What first inspired you to create a C64 emulator for the iPhone? I grew up with the C64 (I’m 35 now), so partly for nostalgic reasons. I also wanted to learn the iPhone SDK and see just how capable the iPhone was as a portable computer.

The C64: Don't we all deserve to have one of these in our pocket?

How much effort went into the creating the C64 emulator? I actually had an initial version running within a few days, but it was a long way off looking like it does today. This is where Brian, and his aesthetic eye turned it into a ‘thing of beauty’. We’ve already had many compliments, including John Gruber regarding the ‘gorgeous UI’.

How did you go about getting permission from the current owners of the C64 and what was their initial reaction? We had removed the rough edges before we went to Commodore Gaming. They were very impressed with what we had achieved and naturally excited to join the iPhone ride. In the end, they directed us to Kiloo Aps, who holds the rights to mobile versions of the C64 brand.

Dear Steve Jobs: The hacker inside of you should let this happen!

Creating any application is a huge investment, did you take any precautions like talking to Apple in the early stages of development? Yes, we spoke to the Sr. Partnership Manager, iPod & iPhone, Apple Europe in the UK, who concluded that we were okay with our approach and that Apple was actually interested in our concept – the ability to purchase add-on content via the App Store to extend an existing application. Apple would still receive their 30% cut and users could buy officially licensed C64 titles. 3.0 was announced some time later, and ‘In-App’ purchases revealed, essentially approving our general approach.

Is there still any chance that you can still get the application approved by Apple? Yes, we do expect that some form of our application can be approved, given there are already many examples of emulators on the app store, such as Frotz, and according to toucharcade.com, Sonic the Hedgehog and Golden Axe.

And is there any way retro gaming iPhone fanboys can help you? They already are, by blogging, tweeting, commenting and posting news articles – someone at Apple is bound to see one of these and hopefully notify the right people. We’ve seen in the past that enough noise can make a difference, so we hope our story ends the same.

Below: If you’re any sort of retro gaming fanboy I dare you to watch this demo and not want a copy:

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