Ex-Apple Developer’s Much-Anticipated Next Act: A Word Game

Image courtesy Atebits

Loren Brichter, a former Apple and Twitter employee, is now working on mobile games. His first release is a word game.

Among app fanatics, the anticipation has been high for Loren Brichter’s next project, and for good reason: The 27-year-old developer has a history of creating mobile software that ends up being used by millions of people.

At Apple, he worked on software for the first iPhone, including the feature for browsing album covers with a flick of the finger. (“Isn’t that great?” said Steve Jobs at the product introduction in 2007. “I could play with this for a long time.”) After departing Apple, Brichter invented a software technique called “pull to refresh,” which the company uses in some of its apps. He also created a popular application for reading tweets that Twitter bought in 2010 and made into its official mobile app.

After quietly leaving Twitter about a year ago, Brichter is ready for his next act: mobile games. Today he released “Letterpress,” a free app for the iPhone and iPad that is similar to “Jumble,” where players make words from a platter of random letters, except with a sort of “Risk”-like territorial aspect.

“I was just desperate for a really good word game I could play with my wife,” Brichter said by phone from his home in Philadelphia. “It kind of helped me break out of whatever box I was in before. This is wildly different from what anyone would expect I would make, which is refreshing. That’s not to say I’m not going to circle back to the big, important things.”

For now, though, Brichter’s one-man development studio called Atebits is focused on gaming. He has another title in the works that could be finished in a few months, he said. While not a gamer himself, Brichter recognized the huge business potential for games on Apple’s App Store.

He’s not alone. Several other former Apple employees have gone on to create mobile games, including Graeme Devine, whose GRL Games is based near his home in Santa Cruz, California. Devine, who developed blockbuster titles such as “Quake III,” helped Apple build a powerful mobile gaming platform and a social network to tie it all together called Game Center. Apple, which doesn’t make its own games, continues to make game developers a big priority, he said.

“It’s a fabulous place to be as a small game developer,” Devine said. “They know that an awful lot of kids are giving up their Nintendo Game Boys and picking up iPod Touches. The main thing they do is play games. They are the most successful game hardware platform around right now.”

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