With unexpected medical bills piling up and his employer suspending its bonus program, Ethan Nicholas and his family faced a financial crisis.

So he struck a deal with his wife, Nicole: If she took on more responsibility in caring for their two young boys, he would devote the hours before and after his regular job to building a video game for the Apple iPhone.

The 30-year-old computer programmer hoped to sell enough copies of the game that the couple wouldn’t have to put their home on the market.

That was more than $700,000 ago.

The game Nicholas built, “iShoot,” sat atop the most downloaded list in the iPhone application online store for weeks. Phone users couldn’t get enough of the game, which features tiny battling tanks and sells for $2.99 More…

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