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Most-downloaded iPhone game sets the bar very low

May 7, 2010 | 12:55 pm

Ow-my-balls Nobody tell Roger Ebert about the most-downloaded free application for the iPhone.

The Chicago Sun-Times film critic wrote a polarizing article last month elaborating on his long-held belief that video games can never be art. Don't look at your iPhone now, Ebert, because the No. 1 free program in the App Store won't change your mind.

A cartoon game called Ow My Balls has skyrocketed in demand since the developer listed it as free last weekend. The app stars an average-looking guy in jeans and a sweater, who the player guides toward, you guessed it, repeatedly getting hit in the crotch.

"I find the whole game genuinely entertaining," developer Josh Michaels said in an e-mail. "Our goal for the game was to make people laugh, and I think we accomplished it."

There are no stats on how many people chuckled, but the audience was certainly huge. On Monday alone, it was downloaded 233,000 times and has remained in the top spot practically ever since, Michaels wrote. In its first four days as a free download, the game added half a million new players, he said.

The sale celebrates the game's one-year anniversary. Over the course of that year, Michaels made $10,000 in revenue from 14,000 downloads -- covering the start-up costs of $5,000, he said.

Ow My Balls isn't the first indication of questionable tastes of a large sect of iPhone owners.

Once upon a time, simulated fart machines were all the rage in the App Store, netting the maker of iFart Mobile $10,000 on some days -- $30,000 on others, the developer told VentureBeat. The program spawned dozens of copycats.

The idea for Ow My Balls was inspired in part, Michaels said, by the Mike Judge film "Idiocracy." In the futuristic comedy, the intelligence of next-gen Americans has degraded: Forming complete sentences is a difficult feat, and the most popular TV show bears the same name as this game.

With Michaels' genital-related entertainment app now free, he said, revenue from his other title has him covered for some time. His Magic Window iPad app simulates high-quality motion scenes, including a mountainside and a fireplace, on Apple's tablet computer. And, Michaels said, Ow My Balls won't be free forever.

"We just wanted to get it in the hands of more people," he said.

-- Mark Milian

Image courtesy of Josh Michaels