random house

Interactive ePublications and Game Guides

Bringing game strategy and publishing today’s tablet

The Challenge

Prima Games (based near Sacramento, California), a division of Random House, that authors, publishes and distributes highly acclaimed game guides, approached ISBX with an ambitious request - convert over 40 of its most popular print game guides over to three digital platforms: iOS, ePUB, and Nintendo 3DS. The latter required a lengthy approval process with Nintendo, the world's largest video game company by revenue, leveraging Prima Games' blessing and strong relationship with the video game powerhouse. To date, ISBX remains the only mobile app developer that is certified as a software developer under license through Nintendo of America.

Being the largest author and publisher of game guides in the United States, the company sought to enter a more powerful and immersive game guide into the market to better serve its loyal audience of gamers, while seeking a new monetization channel.

The Solution

ISBX proposed an interactive solution centered on an iPad tablet. The larger screen real estate of the tablet was a necessity for map-based titles such as Darksiders II, Assassin's Creed, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but also helped to convey a multitude of strategy-based information for titles like Madden 2013 and The Sims 3. ISBX also proposed for the use of Apple's In App Purchase model to provide an effective monetization strategy for both the publisher and game developer.

The most popular of these were built upon an iPad platform that ISBX designed and developed, which consisted of a plethora of features including interactive maps, the ability to save pins, In-app purchases, a scalable backend CMS, off-line accessibility, video content and unique creative and layout for each of these titles. The rest of the two-dozen or so titles (Halo, Battlefield 3, Disney Universe, Lego Indy) were to be converted to Apple's iBook and ePub formats.

One of the highlights of the engagement was the development of the robust backend framework and Content Management System (CMS). This Drupal based CMS enabled Prima Games' editors the ability to manually load and deploy assets, data files, and updates to each game guide, without the need to update the core application itself, and thus bypassing Apple's time consuming submission and approval process. The CMS was designed to be scalable, adaptable and highly configurable, serving a wide range of titles from UFC Undisputed to Mass Effect 3.

ISBX's design team worked closely with both Prima Games and each game developer (Electronic Arts, id Software, Ubisoft, Bethesda Game Studios, THQ, Bioware) to provide stunning creative for each game guide, accurately capturing the look-and-feel of each franchise and assuring that each game guide was as visually-stunning as the games themselves.

ISBX consulted with Prima Games' editors to learn the specifics of each title, including understanding the uniqueness of each strategy guide in the context of the various titles themselves. Some games relied heavily on sweeping map views with the capability for users to place "pins" throughout the map. These pins would contain individualized notes and information to help the player as they progressed through the levels. Other games were data centric, providing a plethora of information around characters, levels, hidden sections, cheats and leveling opportunities. Perhaps the most unique was the Madden 2012 and 2013 game guides, which made use of extensive team-specific plays instead of maps, and a range of player profiles and video content in lieu of pins and levels.

Prima Games also engaged ISBX to develop a map-based 3D strategy guide for titles like Zelda 3DS and Mario Kart 3DS for Nintendo's portable game console. Unique to the 3DS platforms are dual screens, the top screen having the capability of rendering content in autostereoscopic 3D and the bottom screen featuring full resistive touch capability. This presented a unique challenge for ISBX, both in acquiring Nintendo specific debugging and recording hardware (aptly named the NintendoWare Debugger/Capture CTR), as well as designing and developing an application intended to present content on two screens simultaneously. Perhaps the largest challenge was the lack of published knowledgebase and resources for ground up, low level development of a new app for the Nintendo 3DS. This required that ISBX utilize its existing knowledge in object oriented programming languages to decipher the oftentimes cryptic codebases present in the SDK. Despite the challenge, ISBX was able to design and complete the applications for both titles and present the completed apps to both Prima Games as well as Nintendo of America (NOA).


The ISBX-Prima Games relationship produced game guides for over 40 titles for distribution in the app store and touched hundreds of thousands of gamers. Prima Games was effectively able to monetize these titles and generate a profit over the design and development costs. In addition to this, the publisher was able to solidify its presence in the digital arena and currently remains the only publisher that has produced and marketed its game guides in the Apple App Store.

  • iTunes App Store - iPad and iPhone Apps
  • Custom Game Map Management System
  • Templated App Design
  • In-App Purchase
  • Custom Promotion Code System
  • Custom Analytics and Reporting
  • Maps and Data accessible in the cloud
  • HTML5 based map for Web Browsers
  • Online Promotion Code Management
over 50

iBook, ePub, and apps developed