With the Apple Watch’s generic release date of, “early 2015” hovering on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before gamers begin to ask “What’s in it for us?” The obvious choice would be to place entire games directly on the face of the watch, but its limited form factor could prove to be a problem – to say the least. We’ve thought long and hard about the impending reality of wearable entertainment and decided to think outside of the box a bit. Here are just a few of the ideas of what developers might have waiting for us very soon.
Continue reading Here’s How the Apple Watch Could Transform iOS Gaming »
Posts Tagged opinion
A couple of years ago, with the holiday season rapidly approaching, my mother generously asked me if there was anything I wanted for Christmas. As it turned out my wife and I were just getting into board games as a hobby, but not wanting my mom to bother wandering into a Manhattan board game specialty store I just told her I’d give her the names of a few games we were interested in that I knew she could find on Amazon. She surprised me with her response – that she wasn’t going to be able to get me those games because she didn’t feel comfortable shopping online.
My mother is the first to admit that she’s not the most tech-savvy person around, but I was still shocked that she wouldn’t order anything from Amazon, and further shocked that she had never bought anything online. When I asked why, both she and my father explained that they simply didn’t trust the technology and that it made them uncomfortable.
I guess the reason I found it difficult to accept is because online transactions have represented the majority of my expenses for years. So the idea that people who are otherwise modern, educated, competent folks wouldn’t trust something as universal as online shopping – their instinctive distrust – seemed downright silly to me as someone who is, by upbringing and profession, constantly exposed to the world of social media, online commerce, and internet connectivity.
Which is why I had to stop and scold myself when I saw Apple Pay and immediately shook my head in disapproval.
Sure, there are security features in place. Sure, your credit info isn’t technically stored on the device. And sure, what is locally kept is locked behind a biometric defense system, can be disabled remotely, and probably has a dozen other security protocols I’m unaware of. Still, my gut reaction to the idea of using my phone to pay for things was instantaneous distrust – and that’s ridiculous.
Whether you’re an adherent to the Cult of Apple, just think their products are cool, or even if you have no intention of buying Apple’s newest miracle device, the fact is that this idea of a unified way of managing your credit, integrated into your mobile electronics, is a very likely technological progression. Of course security will always be an issue, but is there really any difference in using my computer to order something from an online retailer via my credit card or tapping my iPhone against a sensor to initiate the exact same kind of transaction in person? The bottom line is that (semantics aside) there isn’t, and I doubt very much that this feature will remain exclusive to the iPhone for long.
I also doubt I’m the only one who looked at Apple Pay and scoffed. But I think that, like my parents not trusting the idea of internet commerce, it’s just a product of technological inertia. No, I’m not one of the folks who ran out to get an iPhone 6 Plus on day 1, but I won’t be one of the naysayers who resists the direction this new tech is taking us simply because ‘it’s different and that makes me nervous.’
I still own an iPhone 4S, and the arrival of iOS 8 and the new iPhone 6 line pains me.
First off, I should explain that I’m not some half-committed neo-Luddite with a knee-jerk fear of new technology. I actually picked up my iPhone 4S on the day it launched – it was shiny, new, and top of the line. It was like basking in the glow of a new relationship, where everything is perfect and you’re so in love. Then, a few months later and through no fault of my own, the person whose family plan I was a part of flaked out and I found myself bereft of service and unable to afford the deposit required to spin my old number off to its own line. My still-relatively young significant other then began its new life as an extra beefy iPod Touch.
I was phoneless for the next couple of years, then eventually acquired a prepaid on a different carrier because it was both cheaper and I wouldn’t be locked to a contract. After enduring months of terrible service (including not being able to get a signal at home, within almost-literal spitting distance of the second-largest city in the state’s downtown area) I finally found out that not only did my old carrier offer prepaid service, but they had just recently allowed the iPhone 4S to be activated on it. I was elated. I could have my phone back again!
But our rekindled romance was short-lived. Once the thrill of having a signal anywhere I went wore off, I immediately began to feel the immense weight of my three years away.
In the interim, Apple had launched and fully iterated the iPhone 5 and and was gearing up to move along to the impending iPhone 6 and the concurrent launch of iOS 8. As I worked my way back into the world of iOS devices, I began to feel increasingly like a relic from a bygone age. Most new apps were not only optimized for iPhone 5 and up, but an increasing number just flat-out wouldn’t run on my old hardware at all. And with each new iOS update, that hardware – already rapidly spiraling towards obsolescence – ran just a little bit worse. Also, my prepaid plan won’t support the 5 series phones at all.
And so, I’ve begun to eyeball the postpaid world once again.
Now mind you, even if I had the money I wouldn’t have been one of those people who obsessively acquires each new phone the second it comes out. I’ve always believed in getting my money’s worth out of a device before moving on. In fact, if I had upgraded a year or so back to, say, a 5s, I could likely be singing a completely different tune at this point. Maybe I wouldn’t yet feel that an upgrade was in order. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Now, after an arduous process that took several hours the other night, my iPhone 4s groans under the strain of running iOS 8. Some features are nice (the integrated Siri song ID via Shazam, the pull-down text message reply from the lock screen) and work more or less as intended. But beyond that, things chug and sputter along slowly and hiccups, glitches, and freezes are far-too frequent. I know some of this is inevitably the bugs that accompany any initial roll-out of new operating systems, but I would be extremely surprised if a fair chunk of it wasn’t due to the fact that I’m running it on a three year old phone that just doesn’t have the muscle to properly support it. And if I thought I was being left behind before with the iPhone 5 app optimization, well it’s about to get even worse.
And that’s to say nothing of the new hardware itself. I got to put my hands on it a few days ago and I was pretty impressed. I feel like the size issue has been overstated by a lot of people. Despite being a pretty big guy I have surprisingly small hands, but even the iPhone 6 Plus didn’t feel too gargantuan for me to hold reasonably. And despite the fact that it’s an ounce heavier than my 4s, it actually felt lighter. And then there’s the fact that the regular iPhone 6 actually is lighter, despite being considerably bigger. The recently reported bending controversy doesn’t especially concern me either as I don’t wear super-tight pants. And even if I did, I’d most likely normally stash the phone somewhere else, like a jacket pocket or my messenger bag, rather than forcing it uncomfortably into somewhere it would have problems fitting in the first place.
While I loved (and still do love) my 4S, I just feel that our relationship has run its course. We had some laughs together and created some great memories that I will always cherish, but I think it’s time that we move on and see other people.
Whenever a shiny new gadget comes out, the same question runs through my mind: “Will this become an indispensable part of my tech arsenal, or will it be a glorious waste of money?” Things rarely seem to fall in between – either they change everything, or they change nothing.
Sure the idea of the Apple Watch is intriguing, but as I started my research into the device, the first hurdle I ran into was held in the first image I saw of it; the thing is huge and ugly, with a huge and ugly price tag to match.
I have a lot of mobile devices: my iPad, my phone, and my Shine fitness tracker. Investing in something that boils all of those things down into a single fashion accessory might sound appealing at first but the reality is that, as a part of my daily wardrobe, it just doesn’t fit. In order to be able to have a functional touchscreen, the smallest possible face for the Apple Watch is 38mm. That’s kind of large for someone like me who has small wrists. Sure, it would let me reenact scenes from Dick Tracy (and that’s cool enough to merit serious consideration), but with its metallic 90s style Casio band and massive face it just looks plain silly. If Apple wants to not only become a part of my lifestyle but a part of my appearance, they are just going to have to try harder. Yes, I know they offer other bands, but the current iconic design is neither formal nor cool, and that just won’t do.
In truth, though, I haven’t worn a watch for several years now. With so many devices that keep time already taking up valuable room in my pockets, I haven’t felt the need to wear one. Once again the point would be to minimize the amount of stuff I carry, and in that regard the Apple Watch is intriguing – especially as more apps become available for it.
But appearance aside, the biggest hurdle for getting excited about the new Apple Watch is that price. At $349, it’s unreasonable as a substitute for a bunch of tech gear I already own. Also, considering it needs to paired with an iPhone, which I do not presently own, the Apple Watch would be useless to me unless I bought one of those, too.
At the moment, the Apple Watch really doesn’t offer anything truly new to justify itself. Perhaps after the watch is released and a few generations pass I’ll find it a more worthwhile investment. By then the price may drop and my old gear will be out of date and in need of an upgrade anyway. Until then, I think my Dick Tracy impressions will just have to continue to rely on my good old (free) imagination.
After a solid week of use since its debut, here are my personal impressions of how iOS 8 has refined and streamlined the way in which I use my iPad on a daily basis.
Today is Looking Good
The improved Notification Center is by far my favorite feature of iOS 8 on iPad. The now fully-featured Today screen is finally at a place where it should have been years ago: as an integral part of the iOS experience and adding a whole new spectrum of usability to iOS devices.
On an iPad, a device typically chock-full of apps and games, this feature is even more appreciated. From the lock screen I can get an overview of the most pressing news stories (via News Republic), pop culture or meme-inspired articles that are perfect for passing a few minutes (BuzzFeed), a much more attractive weather report (Yahoo! weather), buttons for launching different functions in Evernote, customizable app shortcuts with Launcher, and a shortcut to where I’m up to in the book I’m reading with the Kindle app. It acts as a real hub of activity, allowing me to view my apps at a glance rather than closing and opening each one systematically.
AirDrop between my iPad and my MacBook (running the Yosemite beta) is also a long-awaited feature I’m happy to see added to iOS 8, and is a much more direct way of transferring files between the two. Answering calls on my iPad if my phone is on charge is also a massive plus, meaning I rarely miss those urgent calls from work when my phone is in the other room.
A combination of the new-and-improved Notification Center, the updated Spotlight search, and a rejuvenated Siri will definitely silence some of the critics that previously questioned iOS’ productivity or speed of use, as the home screens have become more of a directory than the be-all-and-end-all of the iOS experience (to me at least).
Better Luck Next Year
I’m still waiting for the Control Center to allow for some customization in the same way that the Notification Center lets you edit widgets (for example, a button to turn off data easily) and take proper steps towards becoming a mini settings menu. Hands-free Siri is a great touch, but until Apple comes up with a way to make it work without the constant use of a charger it’s not particularly helpful unless you’re sitting next to the plug socket.
iOS 8 has taken great steps in moving towards achieving true multi-device connectivity, as well as making the whole interaction process a lot more multi-faceted. As more apps add support for notification widgets, it’ll become even more capable.
So, the new iPhones have been announced and we’re all excited, right? Well, maybe not entirely. It’s a funny thing being a self-confessed fan of a company and its products. While I don’t see myself as a blind fan to Apple, over the years I’ve happily owned 2 iPads, 1 MacBook Pro, and 3 iPhones. I’ll no doubt end up with another iPhone at some point soon too, but that hasn’t stopped me from feeling a little disappointed by the news of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Much of it, I suspect, is down to wanting something life-changing again. The original iPhone, for me at least, was life-changing. Besides eventually leading me to a position where I’m writing this very article, it felt amazing to own one. The sheer potential of what I could do with it was amazing. I think every new iteration, I want that feeling again. Maybe I just expect too much.
As someone who prefers their phones smaller, I’m at a tricky crossroads. The iPhone 5 is big enough that it’s caused a permanent dent in my jeans’ pocket. Its camera is good enough that I’ve taken photos just as the sun is setting and it’s still somehow made it look like much earlier in the day. I do want the speed boost, though. I’m impatient. I like things to react as quickly as possible.
The other features? Not so much.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are set to be thinner and offer a better HD display, which is great. It’s not a deal-breaker, though. I’ve got an iPad Mini Retina which covers that, if not quite as well.
Camera wise, things are looking better. At least when it comes to the iPhone 6 Plus’ optical image stabilization, which looks fantastic. The iPhone 6’s improvements, however, are good but not awe inspiring. I want something I can show off to others and they can immediately see the difference and think ‘wow, I want one of those’. It looks like I’ll have to go for a bigger phone in the form of the 6 Plus if I want that.
Touch ID and fingerprint technology is great, but much like the contactless payments via Apple Pay, it’s not something I can see myself using every day. It’s just a nice quirk. A little bit like Passbook.
The biggest delight to come from this for me is the battery life. My iPhone 5 needs charging every night now and was never great two years ago. It’ll be good to not be so reliant upon my charger again. Still though, where’s the wireless charging? Now that’d feel futuristic and it’d be so practical, too.
It’s a tough one to call. Besides better battery life and multi-user support (seriously, where is that? I want to be able to switch to a guest account, hand my phone to my young cousin, and not be worried that they’ll dig around in the wrong places), I’ll admit I can’t list a plethora of things I want to see in my phone – but then I never can. That’s why I don’t work in research and development. Those exciting changes are what I’ve enjoyed about new iPhones. Being told a new idea that’s made me think “I never thought of that. Awesome, I can’t wait.”
I’ll eagerly buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus at some point in the future because I want the speed boost, but I’ll be honest: what I really want is something that I can point out to folks and yell “See? See how awesome that is!” and I don’t feel like I’ve got that this time around. Instead, I’ve got steady but a little bit safe. Is it a matter of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Maybe, but I’ve still got that itch for revolution rather than evolution.
Are you angry about the new Comixology app, which removes the ability to buy comics from inside the app itself? If so, you should be just as angry at Apple for their policies making such an absurd situation, where an app can offer the ability to consume the content it sells without actually selling it, as much as you are at Comixology/Amazon for inconveniencing you.
The economics for the change are clear: they were giving 30% of every sale to Apple, as per App Store policies. That’s the way it’s been since the App Store opened – every time money changes hands, Apple takes its 30% cut. When in-app purchases were introduced, Apple kept the rate per transaction the same: 30% on everything. Thus, when Comixology sold a comic for $3.99, they only got ~$2.80 from it, for a book they had to sell for the same price on their site, by Apple policies.
It’s likely that this 30% cut hurt Comixology’s bottom line – they are beholden to a number of outside forces and right holders for the comics they sell – and the move to Amazon apparently provided them the opportunity to change their selling model.
So, that 30% fee on transactions that Apple takes is problematically high. Certainly, it can be justified for paid apps: Apple provides approval, storage, bandwidth, tax collection, and a variety of services beyond just taking the money, in order to justify taking such a cut of a developer’s revenue.
But for in-app purchases, Apple is serving as little more than a payment processor, though they do track whether non-consumable IAP is owned by the user. And 30% is exorbitantly high for payment processing. PayPal merchant fees are 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. Amazon charges the same for transactions $10 or above, with a 5% + $0.05 per order for smaller transactions. These aren’t counting the bulk volume discounts that these processors provide.
You could go to your local comics shop or to a vendor at a convention, and using a Square credit card reader, they can sell you that comic at a 2.75% per swipe fee. So what right does Apple have to be taking 30% on a similar transaction? I think they should be allowed to take a reasonable premium on top of payment processing for the App Store services they provide, but it’s clear that 30% is unreasonable, especially for low-margin fields like the sale of music, movies, and comic books.
And because Apple specifically restricts outside payment systems, there’s no recourse for anyone who wants to offer media or subscription services through an app but to not sell said services in the app itself. It’s why you can’t buy a Netflix, Spotify, or Dropbox subscription from inside their apps at all – because Apple can’t take their steep tax.
Why would Apple, a seemingly pro-consumer company in the way that they design their products to be easy to use, do this? Well, they’re not actually a pro-consumer company. They’re a pro-Apple-consumer company. Everything they do is designed explicitly to get you to stay with Apple products. Ever thought about getting an Android or Windows Phone but decided not to because you didn’t want to lose iMessage? Exactly.
Remember that Apple sells music, video, and books of their own (though not comics to the scale that Comixology does); they have a weighted incentive to make it hard for outside sources to provide them on the App Store unless they pay the exorbitant 30% fee. And when people are inconvenienced by app makers because of Apple’s policies they get mad at the app maker, not Apple, which has to cause a chill to run up the spine of anyone struggling with a similar decision as Comixology.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Google has a similar setup with in-app purchases where they take 30% of every transaction, but they provide alternatives. Specifically, they have a policy that enables Comixology to still sell comics through their app through their own payment system: “Developers offering additional content, services or functionality within another category of app downloaded from Google Play must use Google Play’s in-app billing service as the method of payment, except: where payment is for digital content or goods that may be consumed outside of the app itself (e.g., buying songs that can be played on other music players).”
Thus, Android Comixology users can still buy comics through the app. Those who relied on Google Play credit to buy books will find themselves out of luck. Of course, Google doesn’t have a monopoly over content distribution or an interest on keeping people as tied to Google Play and their own services, but it’s still a better way to operate than the monopolistic way that Apple does. The 30% payment processor fee for in-app purchases is still on the exorbitant side, but the nature of it is a lot more fair.
So, what Apple ultimately has is a situation that’s meant to give off the illusion of consumer-friendliness by making it only possible to spend money through iTunes accounts, when it really restricts the freedom that people have to get the content they want, where they want it from.
If a solution that’s actually friendly to users (and not just to those who buy in to the Apple system) is to happen, it’s going to require public pressure. They could enact the exact same policy that Google Play has, for one. This same policy is the one that allows Starbucks to allow for store credit refills through direct credit card or PayPal payments. It just needs to be expanded to cross-platform media so that users don’t get left out in the cold, or compelled to buy from Apple’s stores. Give them actual choice.
Or Apple needs to make their tax on in-app purchases – these purely digital transactions – a smaller fee, in order for it to be viable for sellers in high-margin transactions involving media. Somewhere from 5 to 10% may be more reasonable than the current 30%. Whatever the solution I believe change needs to happen, because right now, the ultimate loser from Apple policies are ordinary people who have had convenience taken away from them because of corporate politics.
Released: 2014-04-27 :: Category: Books
iOS 7 is a great update to Apple’s venerable OS. Not only does the visual overhaul bring a fresh take to the experience, but there’s lots of great little tweaks that just make the experience better. Heck, the ability to add Newsstand to its own folder is worth the download and installation on its own. But iOS 7 is not perfect: here are some things that could be added to the OS to make it better.
Better game save management
If Apple wants to make sure that iOS is a great gaming platform, they need to ensure that gamers can ensure that their progress in games can be preserved and transferred across devices. iCloud is so fraught with reliability problems that developers still dread using it. Finding a way to separate out a game’s save data from it being deleted would be a killer feature for iOS 8, especially since games with large file sizes and the longest experiences are the first to go when space needs to be freed up.
The return of quick tweet and Facebook posting buttons
Conspicuously missing from iOS 7 is the ability to tweet and post to Facebook from Notification Center. They weren’t a primary way to share things, but to share while in another app or to just quickly fire off a tweet, the feature was great. Unfortunately it’s been cut down in the first release of iOS 7, when improvements like image posting would have been great.
Say what you will about Android, but the ability to immediately reply to a text message or a tweet, or archive an unwanted email without switching apps is great. iOS could really use such a feature – it’s the kind of multitasking that’s non-intrusive and incredibly useful.
The ability to set third-party apps as default
If I want to open links in a third-party browser, use the built-in email sending feature to send from my email app of choice, or even just use a third-party photo management app, why can’t I? Apple’s own apps are generally very good, but third-parties who focus on certain features can often do better. Apple should allow users to set third-party apps to achieve certain actions, instead of still having to use awkward workarounds.
Custom notification sound options for all apps
Some apps still think that it’s okay to use the default notification sound. Some apps use custom sounds, and choose poorly. Yes, that car engine revving sounds cool but it also freaks me out. iOS manages notifications centrally, so why not have the ability to set custom sounds like I can with ringtones?
These are just a few of the features that could make the iOS experience better. Considering how iOS 7 was all about doing just that, I think there’s still a bit of a ways to go before it’s fully there.
Not all games can be winners, and not all the games we review on 148Apps will receive high marks. But the amazing thing about the App Store and mobile game development in general is that there’s always a second (or even a third) chance. Content updates allow developers to address complaints or perceived issues fairly quickly and have the potential to completely turn a game around.
Which is why we’ve decided to take a look at some previously reviewed titles that didn’t go over so well the first time. Each one has been tweaked at least once since we wrote about it and we wanted to see how they might hold up now. Have they been significantly improved or are they only marginally better? Were major issues resolved or are they still dragging the entire experience down?
Lets take a look and see, then.
Original Review Score – 2.5
Reviewer – Bonnie Eisenman
Known Issues – Severe performance problems including lag and crashing, control issues due to said lag.
Updates – Performance greatly improved with no discernable lag and no crashing, also resulting in improved control.
I like weird stuff like Puzzle Planets, but even I found it to be tough to play, originally. Thankfully, the game-breaking problems that kept Bonnie from enjoying it at launch have been addressed. And it’s all the better for it.
In my time spent building several alien worlds, I’ve never once had it crash on me, and being able to enjoy an iOS game uninterrupted is pretty important. More than that, however, the lag also seems to have disappeared, which makes it much easier to simply enjoy the game itself. All the planet rotating, pinching to form mountains, reverse-pinching to create fissures, and tapping to create volcanoes, as well as spinning the planet around in order to soak up water and distribute it to the barren land masses to create life all perform smoothly and create a kind of zen-like trance after a few rounds. I’ll certainly admit that it would be nice to have more than 15 planets to mess around with, possibly with some distinct characteristics rather than everything looking like “Earth 2.0,” but that doesn’t keep the somewhat simple time-based puzzles from being fun (and looking great) while they last.
Released: 2011-03-18 :: Category: Games
Minecraft – Pocket Edition
Original Review Score – 2.5
Reviewer – Rob Thomas
Known Issues – Virtually none of the features that made the PC version so notable, a complete lack of survival mode, barely any blocks to play with, super-tiny worlds.
Updates – Survival Mode, crafting, armor, mobs, a lot more blocks.
Now this is a game I did check out as soon as it was released onto the App Store. And, just like Rob T. (yes, we have a lot of Robs here), I thought it was a colossal disappointment. Nothing but a simplified Creative Mode with an extremely limited block selection. To call it a mere shadow of its older brother on PC would be a massive understatement. However, Mojang made good on its promise of constant updates, and the game has seen a slew of improvements ever since.
To be fair, this still isn’t a 1:1, pocket-sized version of the PC game. Heck, it’s still technically alpha status at the moment. Even so, this month’s update has brought it much closer. New blocks have made it in, sand and gravel are finally affected by gravity, armor can be crafted now, baby animals will appear, and so on. As I’ve said, it’s not PC Minecraft on iOS, but it’s certainly close enough to make me happy. Heck, in some ways I actually prefer it to the original because I can play it anywhere at any time, and it utilizes a much friendlier crafting system that does away with tile placement and simply shows what can be made outright. If it weren’t for the absence of a few features I’d even call it the best version to own. Even so, it’s a fantastic companion to the indie juggernaut Notch started to build all those years ago.
Released: 2011-11-17 :: Category: Games
The Simpsons: Tapped Out
Original Review Score – 2.0
Reviewer – Brad Hilderbrand
Known Issues – Absurdly long real time requirements for performing tasks, an almost unnecessary reliance on premium currency.
Updates – Improved server stability, special holiday events.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out is another game that I myself didn’t play around with until recently. It’s also a bit more complicated of a comparison than the other three games on this list in that virtually none of the issues mentioned in Brad’s review have been addressed. Instead, the real difference is having another perspective.
First I’d like to say that I 100% respect Brad’s opinion on the matter and can totally see where he’s coming from. This game takes time to play. Lots and lots of time. More so than the average freemium title, it seems. However, I don’t necessarily view that as a “bad” thing. The very nature of many free-to-play games makes them ideal for playing in small increments, and that’s no different here. Sure we have to wait 24 hours while Lisa does all of her homework for the week but when factoring in all the other characters that can be acquired and given tasks to complete it doesn’t seem so bad. I’d consider it ideal, actually, since it means I can fiddle with my own personal Springfield, go off and do whatever my day demands, then check back in on occasion. I can’t claim that the game has been “improved” at all in the past year, but I don’t personally think it really needed to be. It’s Springfield in my pocket, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.
Released: 2012-03-01 :: Category: Games
Static Quest: The Delivery
Original Review Score – 2.5
Reviewer – Ray Willmott
Known Issues – Lackluster freemium mechanics that practically force players to pay in order to progress, overly simple gameplay, no staying power.
Updates – Bug fixes for late-game content.
Based on what I’ve read in Ray’s review, I’m willing to chalk this one up to a fairly drastic difference of opinion. Again, I wholly respect Ray’s views and opinions but mine are almost a complete 180 from his.
It’s true that Static Quest: The Delivery is incredibly basic in its “tap either side of the screen” mechanics. However those same mechanics are what make it ideal for quick mobile play sessions. It’s super easy to start up a game for a minute then put it down just as quickly, and with all the various weapons to unlock and upgrade there’s always something to strive for. I’m also rather fond of the retro pixel visuals (as per usual) but I found the special costumes associated with each weapon to be the real treat. I can totally get behind a game that makes the main character look like Ezio from Assassin’s Creed 2 (and up) when he uses a dagger, or like Robin Hood when he equips a bow and arrow. The fact that it’s actually quite fun to play doesn’t hurt, either.
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Seesaw is a new type of social network app. It lets you pose a question to your friends and get their opinion back. For instance, should I order an IPA or a Double IPA? Or should I go to Hawaii or Cancun? You can use it for serious questions, or just for fun. Asking “does this dress make my butt look big?” is not suggested though. You might get the truth.
Grinding our way through the latest iOS genre darling, Freemium games, is becoming somewhat of a turn off. There may or may not be a backlash to the developers or their games, but I’m feeling a definite slacking off in my interest in these types of games.
First off, let’s be clear on what freemium even means. Wikipedia defines the term as ” a business model that works by offering a basic product or service free of charge (such as software, web services or other) while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services.”
In the iOS app world, and more specifically, the gaming app world, Freemium has been hailed as the next big thing for companies wishing to make money. Some developers I spoke with at GDC seemed to think that the entirety of the iOS gaming market was going to a Fremium model, though I tend to agree with Tracy Erickson over at Pocket Gamer, who posits that Freemium games will continue to be a successful niche of the gaming market, and not be the whole of iOS gaming’s future.
Rather than repeat what better minds have already covered, I’d like to focus on the consumer end of the equation. As an avid gamer across all platforms, I’ve seen my share of games. And, to be honest, Freemium as a business model doesn’t inspire me to play a game. The ephemeral “fun” factor is, however, something that motivates me. I’m assuming it will motivate other players as well.
Many of these games seem to be about the mechanics alone. This is the Freemium Grind. Farmville is the grandame of Freemium gaming, of course, and the Freemium Grind mechanic is fairly transparent: build a farm, grow stuff on the farm, sell said items, gather in-game currency, and start the cycle again. Added into this mix are some social reciprocity (I’ll give you a gift so you will give me a gift), and some pride in place (this is my farm, there are many like it but this one is my own). Other games that fall in this category include Smurf’s Village, any of the Story games, Mafia Wars, We Rule, etc. There are some other games that hide the basic mechanics behind some other mechanics, like Gun Bros, Pocket Frogs and Pocket Legends, to name a few.
What is it, though, about this mechanic that turns me off? The artificiality of it, for one thing, bugs me. When I invade in ZombieFarm, I have to wait another couple of hours before I can invade again. Or, of course, I can go ahead and purchase an upgrade for a invasion recharge. This isn’t fun. Another thing that bothers me is the continual reminders. I stopped playing We Rule and GodFinger mainly due to the constant notifications. I don’t need more things telling me that I have to take care of them. I have children and pets for that, thank you very much. I don’t want to feel obligated to launch a game – don’t we all have enough obligations in our lives?
When are we going to see a Freemium game that isn’t like this? Where’s the incredible gaming experience that is free or low cost to enter, but then offers thrilling and fun gaming experiences? Where’s the World Of Goo Freemium? The Rolando Freemium (oh, yeah, they couldn’t figure it out)? The Flight Control Freemium?
I’m sure there are smart developers out there. Making iOS apps is not for the intellectually challenged. I think, however, that we need a new star to step forward and not just take the Freemium model to the next logical step (hardcore freemium, music game freemium, shooter freemium, etc.) but to turn it on its head. To make a game that is TRULY a fantastic game, that is free to play, yet encourages folks to purchase in-game items. How do we do that? Is it possible? Some think it is, but I’m not holding my breath.
Like most difficult questions, I don’t believe this one has a definitive answer. We need the premium, buy once, play forever games as well as the free to play, mechanical freemium games as well. But we also need something new, if the freemium model isn’t to crush itself under its own weight and continued copy-cat-ism that reigns in the space. Who’s gonna step up? Will it be you? Let us know in the comments.