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Microsoft Unviels Windows Phone 8: Great Support For Games, But Not for Current Owners

Posted by Jeff Scott on June 20th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: TEMPTINGLY FUN :: Read Review »

Earlier this week, Microsoft unveiled their new tablet platform, Surface. Today they revealed not only the next version of their mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8, but also how their whole Windows 8 ecosystem will play together.

Windows Phone 8 adds a lot of features that developers have been hoping for. These features should, in the end, mean better apps. Better multitasking, in-app purchase, and finally, native code apps. This last one is a big deal because it will allow game developers to quickly port games between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. It will also give the ability for developers to port iOS games to Windows Phone 8 much quicker.

For example, Fairway Solitaire from Big Fish Games was demoed on screen and according to Patrick Wylie from Big Fish, it took just two weeks to get the title from iOS to Windows Phone 8 for the demo.

In addition to native programming support, some third party game engines like Havoc will be coming to Windows Phone 8. Notably missing was an announcement of Unity support for Windows Phone 8. Unity has quickly become the number one game development engine and it's lack of support for Windows Phone 8 will be an issue.

Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will share the same core for easier app migration. While it falls short of the hope of a single app that works across all screens, this does mean that developers can quickly port their apps between the different Windows 8 devices. All that will be needed is to take into account the differing input methods and screen sizes.

In the biggest disappointment of the day as revealed by The Verge was that current Windows Phone devices will not be supported in Windows Phone 8. Some current devices will get version 7.8 that will contain many of the user facing features. While on the surface this seems like a big deal, especially since iOS users are used to getting upgrades for 3 years or more, it's not really the same on Android for example. On Android less than 10% of users are given the option to upgrade to the latest OS. What on the surface seems like a PR headache for Microsoft, but it might not matter to end users -- unless they hear there is a new version of their phone that they can't have.

Nokia have been using the tagline 'Smartphone Beta Test is Over' -- well it seems that Windows Phone 7.5 users have been the real beta testers. Expect a backlash from current Nokia Windows Phone users who were sold by that Nokia rhetoric.

In the end, Windows Phone 8 is a huge new release and advances the platform by leaps and bounds. By far the biggest new features are the expanded support for games. Native code and Havoc support are huge as is support for in-app purchasing. These features should lead to greatly expanded game support. It's bad that Microsoft have done yet another 'do-over' by making Windows Phone 8 unavailable to all current users. But something that many users won't even notice. This might not be the release that makes Windows Phone 8 a real force in the mobile world, but it is a step in the right direction.

You may be wondering why we are reporting this on an what is purportedly an iOS site. As the mobile world adapts and matures, we think it's important to keep abreast of the major changes. We will continue to report on those changes from an informed iOS perspective.

Editorial: EA, Please Stop Cheating Your Loyal Customers [Updated]

Posted by Jeff Scott on April 12th, 2012

Update: We received a response from EA that will at least make it possible to get Tetris for iPad back if you paid for the original version. Check the bottom of the post for more details.

EA Mobile has just released a new version of Tetris for the iPad. It uses the updated control method that the new iPhone/iPod touch version uses. That's well and good. The new control method is actually one of the better improvements on Tetris I've seen. But the problem is, you have to re-buy it. Even if you bought the old Tetris, you have to re-buy this one and you don't have access to the old app anymore.

Let's say someone who has purchased Tetris for the iPad moves to a new iPad, or even gets a replacement under warranty. If that user, like many, doesn't back up to iTunes on the desktop, they will no longer have access to the Tetris app they previously paid for.

Developers that want to put out new versions of apps and charge for them are more than welcome to. We'll let consumers vote with their downloads on wether that is a good idea. But to make unavailable to download a previously purchased item? That's a pure anti-customer, and obvious revenue-based decision.

The lack of an ability to download previously paid for digital goods, in the case an app, is the real problem. In the world of digital distribution, one where we are moving to a cloud-based backend and a Post-PC world, the apps and other digital media you buy in the App Store, you expect to be available forever. But the sad truth is, they are not available if the developer chooses to pull them. There are hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of Tetris for iPad users that will find that out next time they upgrade devices and try to download the app.

And that is not the idea that Apple had when it introduced iTunes in the Cloud and subscribed to the Post-PC idea of the future.

This isn't the first time EA has done this either. The original Bejeweled 2 has been pulled in favor of an IAP loaded version of the same just called Bejeweled. And of course, the same trick was played with Tetris for the iPhone/iPod touch.

And to make things even worse, the previous Tetris for the iPad was publicized and put on sale as recently as last week, in EA's Easter app sale.

EA, please stop cheating your loyal and paying customers. There's no reason they should be required to re-pay for new apps because the decision is made to update them. If they are happy with the old version, they should still have access to it.

Note that we have asked EA for comment on this, but due to multiple timing issues including deadlines, time zone differences, and our contact being out of the office, we have yet to hear back. We will update this post when we do get an official response.

Update: 4/13 We heard back from Alexis McDowel, PR Director for EA. The following is their response to our query on where Tetris for iPad the original version went.

As you know, the “old” version of Tetris was recently removed from the App Store in order to accommodate the new version of the game (which is also titled “Tetris” but has several new/different gameplay modes and features ), but consumers who have previously purchased Tetris should still have access to it via their “Purchased” account in the cloud—even if they’ve bought a new device and are trying to access the game from that newer device, it should be in there.

We just tried it on our end (i.e., trying to pull up the “old” purchased Tetris on a new device), and we were able to do it with by following these steps on our new device:

1) Click on App Store
2) Purchased
3) Not on this iPad
4) Scroll through to find your title and download.

We also checked with one of our on-site support members and were told that your previous Tetris purchase should not go away as long as your firmware is updated—no sync to a desktop necessary.

So there you have it. I have verified this on my iPad and see that Tetris for iPad is available to download even though it's no longer available in the App Store. In light of that, calling this cheating customers is way out of bounds. But confusing and annoying it most certainly is. Since the app can not be searched for in previous purchases for unknown reasons, this will still lead to many users thinking they need to pay for the new version. Confusing and annoying, yes.