Hartwick freshman creates mobile phone game

Julie Lewis | The Daily StarSami Mughal displays screen shots from his game, “Skyfaller,” on his laptop Monday.

Millions of applications are downloaded every day on iPhones, iPads and Androids, but it’s not every day that you meet a 17-year-old developer of one of these apps.

Sami Mughal, a freshman at Hartwick College, is one such developer. His creation, a game called Skyfaller, has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, he said Monday.

Mughal, who is originally from Westchester County, and his friend Eric Szabo, 16, created the app last year after “really getting into computer programming,” he said. Mughal, who was still in high school at the time, designed the game and Szabo illustrated and programmed it. 

In the game, called Skyfaller, an avatar falls from a plane and the user must tilt his or her phone to avoid clouds for as long as possible to achieve the highest score, Mughal said.

After the game was created using coding programs, Mughal went through a lengthy process to get it published, licensed and copyrighted, he said. The app had to pass several tests before Apple would add it to its App Store, and Mughal had to attain the correct licensing, he said.

After about three months, the free app was launched for Apple products on June 21. Within the first 20 minutes, Skyfaller was downloaded more than 200 times, Mughal said. And within the first two hours, it had received a 5-star rating from users.

After fixing some “bugs” in the initial version of the game, an updated version went live at the end of July, Mughal said. A version for Android phones was launched in September, he said.

Since then, the app has become quite popular, Mughal explained. As an economics major at Hartwick, Mughal said, he has been learning a great deal about the importance of promotion and publicity in his classes. One of the most successful ways Skyfaller was promoted was through social media, he said. But the most important way was through word of mouth.

“Everyone’s been buzzing about it at Hartwick,” Mughal said. “All my friends play it.” The game is also popular at Mughal’s high school in Westchester County, he said. 

Mughal and Szabo were interviewed in July by the White Plains-based newspaper The Journal News, which named the two young men its “students of the week.” 

“With any luck, the teen entrepreneurs are setting themselves up for a manageable rise to success — both financially and creatively,” the paper wrote.

Mughal was also featured in the Sept. 30 edition of Hartwick’s student newspaper, Hilltops.

These days, Skyfaller has about 3,300 active users, including its creator, Mughal said.

“I play it to pass the time here and there,” Mughal said. “My high score is 8,710. However, the highest is 20,000. The score can go on for forever.”

Mughal said he and Szabo have made a significant profit from the game through the sale of ads, but declined to say how much has been made.

After he graduates from Hartwick in 2018, Mughal said, he hopes to work in investment banking or create his own company.

And he’s already in the brainstorming stages of creating another app with his friends at Hartwick, he said. The app, which will not be a game, will likely be released under the company Mughal launched for Skyfaller, Skyfall Technologies. 

No matter what, Mughal said, he hopes to create products that “contribute to the progression of society.”

“I am creating products in a modern era where innovations are becoming increasingly difficult to come upon, especially among a younger generation,” Mughal said. “I believe that anyone that does this is a creative genius.”

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