After updating its software in order to comply with Apple's revamped app purchasing guidelines, Dark Horse will launch the Dark Horse Digital application for iOS devices and the Dark Horse Web store on April 27. The application will feature more than 250 comics priced from from free to 99 cents to $1.99, reflecting price structures of its out-of-app digital comics.
In late January, Dark Horse delayed the launch of the app, citing technical factors. As Online Marketing Manager Matt Parkinson told PWCW in a phone interview Monday, Apple reinterpreted their guidelines so that “everything that you make available in-app needs to be available digitally out of app, and you cannot circumvent the iTunes Store.”
Parkinson gave PW Comics Week a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the Digital app for iPhone and iPad and the Dark Horse digital comics store. Dark Horse digital comics can also be read in a modern web browser.
PW Comics Week: What milestones did you have to meet in order to make this happen?
MP: All the technology was developed in-house. We created our own standalone app with proprietary software with the idea being that we could have the best reading experience possible, as well as have as much control over the technology in order to more quickly expedite updates and additional features.
We had to adapt to Apple's reinterpretation of its guidelines, and that impacted our initial launch; we wanted to abide by Apple's guidelines because we really want our app to be in front of everybody.
PWCW: How did the delay impact your marketing efforts?
MP: We issued a formal statement and answered any pressing queries and fan inquiries and focused all of our resources to updating our technology to be in accordance with Apple's guidelines. I think we tapered down our marketing ever so slightly, but we were always there.
In terms of PR and advertising, you'll be seeing us a lot more as we're ramping up to the launch. If you follow technology, video games or movies, it's not uncommon to see things pushed back multiple quarters. I feel like that we responded rather quickly. Having created all of this in-house, it gave us the flexibility to allocate resources specifically to addressing changes we needed to make.
PWCW: Can you tell us about the team behind the application?
MP: It's more than 1 and less than 100. It's a core team of a number of developers. We're a relatively smaller company; we don't have robust departments with 30-plus team members or anything like that.
PWCW: Did you have beta testers?
MP: We were hosting a very small group of folks for beta testing. We were showing [the app] off as well at C2E2 (in Chicago) and WonderCon (in New York).
PWCW: Do you have an anticipated launch date for an Android application?
MP: I can say with absolute confidence that we have already begun development. We've been doing it in parallel (with other developments) when time allows. The iOS app is a big one. But again, having to do this in-house, having to create this technology from the ground up, has been a crucial part in presenting the best possible product.
PWCW: I was reading your announcement a week before the launch, and it talked about sign-ups for digital comics news. How many sign-ups have you recorded?
MP: I can say many thousands. We've seen a tremendous response through our PR efforts and through email blasts and social media support. We're really excited about the response that we've seen.
We've now unlocked all of the comics (advertised) on digital.darkhorse.com. (More sign-ups have unlocked more free comics.)
PWCW: Will Dark Horse be offering original graphic novels digitally?
MP: That's certainly something that we've looked at and it's a really strong possibility that you will be seeing something along those lines in the future. This (app) is really blowing the doors open in terms of what we can do. Now that we've hit this milestone, it frees up our time to begin concentrating on these secondary and tertiary rollouts.
PWCW: Your fellow comics publishers have already launched digital apps. As a company, What have you learned from the industry?
MP: We launched initially with a lot of standalone apps though the iTunes store, and respectively those things did really well for us. Of course, with the advent of [digital vendors like] iVerse, ComiXology and Graphic.ly, we saw a tremendous response on our own apps and digital comics as well.
We've decided that we're absolutely committed to this. We saw what other people were doing and we decided that, yes, we could roll our sleeves up and take this technology on in-house.
PWCW: Do you think digital comics will eventually replace print completely? It's a notion many are considering.
MP: Absolutely not. I think there is always going to be a demand for print. I think what we're seeing is a new channel of readers, and the ability to reach new audiences. There will always be comic book readers. I'm one of them.