Rolando signifies a different time in the App Store. Back when the first 2 Rolando games came out, the App Store was still a tremendously young and unproven gaming platform, and the first Rolando game was a testament to how the platform could truly stand out for gaming, combining tilt controls and touch screen controls for a unique experience. The sequel, released 7 months later, brought more Rolandos, new gameplay elements, a new level progression mechanic, and just more of the same great elements that made the first Rolando so wonderful. But ever since then, things have changed. Publisher ngmoco:) has moved away from the traditional app distribution model and into freemium apps. The apps haven’t been updated since the fall of 2009, so you would be forgiven for thinking that they were lost to history, interesting games that would be mentioned by longtime hardcore iOS gamers only.
Then, all of a sudden, developer Handcircus Games shocked the iOS world by releasing updates for both Rolando and Rolando 2. The key feature of these updates is support for the Retina Display of the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4G. These games looked gorgeous back in the day on the old 480×320 screens of the old iPhones and iPod touches, but now the game really gets to shine on the higher-resolution Retina Display devices. The apps now require iOS 4 to play, but they do not appear to support multitasking or fast-app switching. 2 other minor fixes have been introduced in the updates as well: Plus+ registration is now optional and a save corruption bug has been fixed in both Rolando games.
These games were great back in the days when Retina Displays were just wild ideas, when AT&T was the only carrier we could ever hope to get an iPhone on, and well before technology like the Unreal Engine could even be fathomed running on an iOS device – heck, this was even back when the OS was still called the iPhone OS. These games still shine to this day, especially as they’re still like little else on the App Store, and they’re now on sale for $0.99. Especially as they now have been modernized for the latest iPhones and iPod touches, there’s little reason to not check these games out now, not just as history lessons for iOS gaming, but as great games that look and play as great as ever.
Ngmoco will take advantage of Apple’s reversal in decision on allowing DLC in free apps, and they will probably be among the first to do so.
First, In conjunction with Apple’s announcement, Ngmoco announced that they will be making their upcoming FPS Eliminate free. The main draw of Eliminate is the thorough online component, with 4-player death match over Wifi or 3G. In the game, you have a certain amount of “energy.” While you are energized, playing online earns you credits, which improve your online ranking and can be used to buy upgrades and armor. However, your energy runs out after a few online matches, and while you can still play online while de-energized, you won’t earn credits. You can simply wait a certain amount of time (this has not been announced yet, but think somewhere from 1-2 hours), after which your energy will be refilled, or if you’re really cutthroat, you can purchase more energy using DLC. This is the only as yet confirmed use of DLC in the game; upgrades and armor will still be bought exclusively using game credits, though extra maps may be available for purchase.
Overall, this looks to be a brilliant move on ngmoco:)’s part. I would be shocked if the game does not quickly climb the App Store charts and reach #1 on the top free games list. This popularity will ensure a huge online community, and there will likely rarely be a waiting time for a match. The downside, of course, is the stress on ngmoco:)’s servers, but with their infrastructure, I imagine they’ll be able to handle it. Within the online community, there will almost certainly be an ultra-competitive subsection who will frequently purchase more energy, and this is how ngmoco:) plans to make money.
For more information on Eliminate, see our preview. The game was submitted to Apple about a week ago, and this new development will not affect its release.
In addition, ngmoco has just released a free version of the incredible Rolando 2. This free version includes chapter 1 of the saga, and essentially serves as a lite version of the game with the full version built in. After finishing chapter 1, you can purchase additional chapters for $.99, with the exception of the last two chapters, which come bundled together for $1.99. Strangely, the total price of all the DLC is $4.98, making it cheaper than the standalone version of Rolando 2 which retails at $5.99. With Apple’s former restrictions lifted, these “hybrid” lite versions could become commonplace.
Apple announced recently that over 2 billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store. Notable is the timing; this announcement comes only six months after the download of the billionth app, which occurred 9 months after the App Store was launched. This indicated exponential growth of the store. Obviously these numbers are a bit inflated from a developer’s perspective because they seem to include free downloads, but the numbers also indicate that among the user base of 50 million, the average number of apps downloaded is 40, a surprisingly high number. In contrast, the average number of times one of 85,000 apps has been downloaded is only about 2350, hardly a safe bet for business prospects when you consider that most apps are $.99 and that Apple takes 30% of sales. In addition, these numbers are disproportionately eschewed by the top 100 apps; my guess is the median would be much lower. Despite all of your various incompetencies in managing the App Store, Apple, I have to congratulate you on a truly unprecedented event.
No matter how experienced we are here at 148apps, no two reviewers agree about every game. That’s why I thought it would be nice to offer some separate best app lists, just so you’ll know what we think is worth buying right now.
Will’s Top 3 Current Apps (games):
1. iBlast Moki
2. Meteor Blitz
Will’s Top 3 Apps of All Time:
1. Rolando 2
2. Real Racing
3. Space Invaders Infinity Gene
Chris’s Top 3 Current Apps (games):
1. geoDefense Swarm
Chris’s Top 3 Apps of All Time:
3. Need For Speed: Undercover
A special mention has to go out to geoDefense Swarm, as it may enter the top 3 after a bit more time spent on my iPhone.
This week’s sign of the apocalypse of the world being fair and just. By Chris Hall
This space is usually reserved for calamity, but this week we have one instance of people being quite rational. Family Guy: Uncensored appeared in the app store this week for an insanely high app price of $4.99. I’m not against spending $5 on an app, as I do quite often, but this one is just bad. How can you have a Family Guy game with absolutely no voices, only text bubbles? Even a simple “giggidy” would’ve been appreciated given the premium app price, but I suppose that Glu Mobile just figured that the Family Guy license alone would bring customers. Apparently the people aren’t biting though, as Family Guy: Uncensored is nowhere to be found in the top 100 apps.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-09-23 :: Category: Games
Apps of the Week
Robocalypse: Mobile Mayhem
The strongest App Store Real Time Strategy game yet comes loaded with an extensive single player campaign, online multiplayer, and a humorous and engaging story. The game covers all of the proverbial RTS bases while forging a unique identity. My main complaint about the game is the lack of the ability to minutely control your troops, you must place “action flags” that attract your troops but don’t allow for the same degree of precision. Besides this quirk, however, the game is highly recommended.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-09-18 :: Category: Games
geoDefense Swarm, by guest writer Chris Hall
I usually don’t work myself into MMAHQ, but I have found a new love. geoDefense Swarm (gDS) may be the best tower defense app in the app store, and with a crowded field of apps that include Fieldrunners, The Creeps!, and Sentinel, that is saying something. Unlike so many apps in the tower defense genre, including some of the iPhone greats, gDS is genuinely challenging from the start. The graphics are great in a Tron sort of way, and the sound effects are surprisingly effective. This game is not only my new favorite tower defense game, but it may be my favorite iPhone game… period.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Posted July 4th, 2009 by Will Our Rating: :: THE BEST
Rolando 2 manages to surpass even its legendary predecessor with more exciting graphics and an added element of pizzaz that was lacking in the first. $9.99 is a small price to pay for a game of this caliber.
When the release date of Rolando 2 was announced, ngmoco:) also indicated that Rolando, the original, was going to be pulled from the app store when the sequel goes live. It’s an odd move, very smart, and yet wrong at the same time.
I recently asked Neil Young, CEO of ngmoco:), why the original Topple was no longer in the App Store, his comment was “We pulled it, trying something.” Short response and at the time I didn’t think much of it. I assumed they were planning on trying some new marketing technique with it. Turns out they were testing a fundamental business idea in preparation for the Rolando 2 release. Something new, something that really may change the way we think of games in the app store. Apps aren’t forever anymore.
According to our App Store database, Rolando was released originally on December 8, 2008. That effectively puts the lifespan of the original Rolando at 7 months. Is that really all the life Rolando has left in it? I doubt it. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be pulled from the app store when Rolando 2 is released.
While Rolando is their product and they have the absolute right to do with it what they choose, pulling it just doesn’t feel right. Something about the spirit seems wrong. They aren’t doing anything odd with the price to rise up the charts and increase the price to ride the higher exposure as many high profile developers have been doing lately. But they are sacrificing a product and it’s customers for increased expose for the next episode. Maybe I’m just being too sentimental, but I want to see the game stick around.
Back to the original test that ngmoco:) did, removing Topple from the app store. I’m not sure that it relates directly, removing Topple, a free app, to see what it does to sales of Topple 2 at $0.99. But there is something obvious to it. By removing Topple, they see if that increases sales of Topple 2, the more recent game.
By removing Rolando when the sequel comes out, they don’t lose any sales to the original, cheaper version. When users search for Rolando, they will get just 1 result, and 1 price. That makes sense as a certain percentage people would probably choose the cheaper one, and it removes any confusion of their marketing message for the new game.
What doesn’t make sense is why remove one of the best games on the App Store? Rolando may not have been a runaway commercial success, but it is a great game, very well reviewed, and still has some life in it. You know, what about the long tail? What about all those articles that point to Rolando on the app store. They won’t point to Rolando 2 automatically — you’ll just get the error on the app store that the app is not available.
This decision is also bad for people who have purchased the original Rolando. The app store is a digital delivery system. The only way to get Rolando is to download it from iTunes either on the desktop or on the device. If you don’t have a backup, and you lose it, you’ll never get it back if it’s no longer in the store. In addition, there have been weekly updates for a while from Rolando, building up to the release of Rolando 2. If you haven’t updated in a while, and you wait until July 1, you’ll never see those updates.
And what about the people that try Rolando 2 and want more? They know it’s a sequel, why can’t they get the original. Perhaps the original Rolando levels will be available as in-app purchases in Rolando 2.
It seems as though ngmoco:) is willing to live with a little bit of bad customer experience to try to increase the sales of a new game. Not a great thing, but considering the constraints of the App Store and the very limited ways that developers can operate, it might be the best decision. If nothing else, you have to hand it to them for trying something different and thinking about how to best build a business in the maddening chaos known as the iTunes App Store. It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow suit and do the same. Let’s hope not.
I hope we’ll see Rolando and Topple back in the store, re-released as classic versions maybe, at some point in the future. For now, I think I’ll make sure I have the latest version, do a back-up, and play a little Classic Rolando while I wait for Rolando 2.
The Rolando 2 website continues to reveal more information about the game as we get closer and closer to the launch of the title (Considering the game hasn’t been released yet or given an official release date, it’s safe to assume that each day that passes is at least one day closer to the launch of the game.) Since we last had a chance to take a look at ngmoco’s Rolando 2 website, five of the locked Rolando’s down bottom have been revealed and as of today a teaser trailer for the game has gone live (You can watch the trailer below!) Continue reading Rolando 2 Teaser Trailer »