Ah, the Great App Store Pricing Debate. For years people have been arguing over the cost of mobile games. What constitutes “too much?” Where’s the line when it comes to free-to-play monetization techniques? Should developers have deep discounts and temporary giveaways? Should consumers simply expect everything to go on sale and wait accordingly?
The recent Dungeon Keeper debacle is a good example of this. Gamers and critics alike have railed against it for using various monetization techniques and associating itself with the classic PC strategy series, and many point to it as an unpleasant indication of where the video game industry (especially mobile) is headed. It’s an issue that’s almost as complicated as the initial Freemium vs. Premium debate; so let’s take a closer look at everything and try to make sense of it all.
The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and as always, there are plenty of apps that can help you watch the game or enrich the gameday experience. Appropriately enough, here are six apps; with an extra app that’s not necessarily football-related but could make a Super Bowl party more fun.
Fox Sports Go: If, for whatever reason, you can’t get to a TV but have an iPad with you, Fox Sports’ official app will be streaming the Super Bowl on iPads. iPhone and iPod users are out of luck, and the app requires login with one of six supported TV providers, so not everyone can take advantage of it. But for those in the Venn diagram of “able to watch Super Bowl on iPad” and “need to watch Super Bowl on iPad,” Fox has got you covered.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2013-10-01 :: Category: Sports
SportsCenter: Maybe you just want to follow the score of the game while it’s happening, checking stats and whatnot. ESPN’s app is one of the best for that, and its push notifications ensure that no important sports news goes missed. So if, say, you get stuck working on Super Sunday but want to know when a team scores, this app will keep you in the know.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-06-02 :: Category: Sports
NFL Mobile: Another way to get scores is with the league’s official app. This boasts the advantage of also having game highlights, streaming video, Super Bowl commercials, and even support for those actually at the game or in New York with iBeacon support. [Editor's Disclaimer: If in New York, please don't use the app while on the "toboggan run."]
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-09-09 :: Category: Sports
NFL Connect: The one thing the NFL playoffs are missing is the “game-within-a-game” of fantasy football. This app might fill some of that void during the Super Bowl: compete with friends by guessing which events will happen first to get points and filling out your 4×4 bingo card. Look, it’s either this or fantasy Puppy Bowl.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2011-11-11 :: Category: Sports
Foodie Recipes: Look, you could order pizza and wings for Sunday, or you could cook some frozen appetizers. Boring. Why not do something a bit more creative, like make the food yourself. This app provides some fancy recipes for gameday like beer cheddar waffles. I’ve never had one, but as a Chicagoan I love decadent food, and I want one.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-11-10 :: Category:
Seamless: So let’s say you try to make a beer cheddar waffle and you fail miserably and now the kitchen’s messed up as though Octodad rolled on through – like what would happen if I tried to make one. You’ll need a backup plan. Don’t just call a pizza chain: use this app to find plenty of nearby places that deliver, including perhaps off-the-beaten-path ones that might be able to bring food before the game ends! Huzzah!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-07-17 :: Category:
Spaceteam: Look, do you really want to watch a freezing Bruno Mars perform at the halftime show? Or watch eons of pregame coverage? You’ll have far more fun if you gather together some iOS and Android devices for this fun party game, which now has an experimental 8-player mode available from the upgrades menu. There’ll be more yelling and screaming than when a big play happens in the 4th quarter.
When people think of multiplayer gaming experiences nowadays most envision players sitting alone, staring at a screen, and maybe (just maybe) communicating with other players from across the world using a microphone or chat window.
Of course this isn’t how it’s always been. In the days before multitudes of multiplayer games took advantage of the internet, playing games with other people was social experience. People would gather around a TV or game board and interact with each other; both in the game world as well as reality. This layered interaction – with its ability to have player actions outside of the game create meaningful consequences on the world inside the game – adds a richness and complexity that is unmatched in most online games. Of course, this isn’t to say that the ability to hop into matches with anyone that is immediately ready, willing, and able to throw down through the power of the internet doesn’t have its own set of advantages, but rather that there is still inherent value in local multiplayer.
Luckily, there seem to be a number of game developers out there who agree with that sentiment. 2013 was a surprisingly good year for me in terms of enjoying local multiplayer experiences on iOS. With a slew of great board game ports, as well as more unique experiences best enjoyed with good game-playing company, I spent most of this year either scoping out the latest Playdek releases or digging into the back catalogue of overlooked awesomeness from years’ past. Because of this, I decided to make a list of my favorite titles that scratched my local multiplayer itch the best. Although all these games may not be from 2013, here’s what I had the most local fun with throughout the year:
Kingdom Builder is a quick-and-dirty worker-placement game, at least in its iOS form. Players have to build their kingdoms based on terrain cards, and random elements like scoring cards and the modular board design can help keep it feeling fresh. Kingdom Builder is good for local play mainly because it is a port of a board game, and it is a relatively quick play. I know its a bit of an older game, but it’s has been made more playable within the past year and is worth revisiting. Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – Top 10 Local Multiplayer Games »
Over one million apps have made their way onto the App Store during its five years of existence. A million. That’s a pretty miraculous number when you think about it. However it’s not the amount of apps we have to pick from that I find so fascinating, but rather just how much things have changed since 2008. Pickings were comparatively slim at first, and many developers were just starting to dip a toe in the waters of Apple’s new smartphone.
On top of that, the technology itself has changed tremendously in a relatively small amount of time. It makes me wonder if anyone from 2008 would even recognize current iOS devices, and by extension the App Store. Would a newer Apple initiate have any idea what they were looking at if they somehow managed to take a trip to five years ago? I think it warrants a look at how the hardware, the App Store, and the apps contained within it have evolved.
2008 – The Beginning of the Beginning
The App Store’s first year was a rough but promising one. The iPhone 3G rolled out to coincide with Apple’s new software venue and the original iPhone was still viable. The iPod touch was also present and accounted for, while the second generation appeared closer to the end of the year. Even at this point many developers were eager to push these early iOS devices to their limits, to make them more than just a phone or an .mp3 player with a fancy screen.
Handy apps like Pandora Radio, Last.FM, Facebook, and Yelp were to be expected, but that didn’t make them any less impressive to have on a handheld platform. Others such as the intuitive personal organizer Evernote, the eerily accurate song-identifying app Shazam, eWallet’s convenient and secure account password management, and MLB At Bat with its extensive baseball coverage further capitalized on the particulars of the hardware and its general portability. Of course there were also some pretty unnecessary options out there, too. Flashlight kind of served a purpose but was also fairly pointless. It wasn’t as bad as stuff like More Cowbell!, though.
At the same time, the games available on the App Store were beginning to show people that “mobile” didn’t have to equal “mediocre.” Sure there were a few simple ports of the odd classic such as Ms. PAC-MAN, Vay, and Scrabble, but there were also some impressive iOS renditions of popular console games like Super Monkey Ball coming out. Potential mobile gamers also had a few really special titles such as Galcon and Fieldrunners to tide them over. When all was said and done there were over 7,500 apps on the App Store by the end of the year, with more being added every day.
2009 – Moving Right Along
The following year saw even more impressive releases as Apple’s digital marketplace began to expand. The second generation of iPod Touch was the bright and shiny new toy at the time, but it was followed shortly by the iPhone 3GS in June while the latest and greatest third generation Touch closed out the year in September. It all meant better processors, better CPUs, more advanced operating systems, and so on. All stuff that developers needed to acclimate to, but also stuff that meant they could push their boundaries even further. There was no loss of steam when it came to content, either: the App Store finished off 2009 with well over 100,000 apps available.
Many of the basic smartphone necessities were covered, but there was room for so much more. Especially while the technology was improving. Plenty of people used their iPhones as phones, sure, but with the addition of Skype they were able to enjoy the added functionality of instant messaging and voice chat without cutting into their data plans (so long as a wifi connection was present). Big companies were really starting to take notice as well. That same year Starbucks and many other big businesses threw their virtual hats into the ring with their own apps designed to make life a little bit easier for their iOS-using customers. Practicality was also becoming an even bigger focus. The Kindle app gave iOS users a practical e-reading option, and Dropbox was there being Dropbox. By which I mean “an awesome and super-convenient way to transfer files between multiple platforms.” And this same level of refinement could be seen creeping into the games as well.
So many of the App Store’s most notable games and franchises came out around this time. It was almost a mobile rennaisence of a sort. This was the year Real Racing first blew mobile gamers’ minds, even causing some of them to question the legitimacy of in-game video footage until they were able to see the finished product for themselves. Zenonia was just a fledgling action RPG at the time, and while a lot of people liked it I doubt they knew just how many sequels it would spawn. The same goes for Pocket God, although with updates rather than multiple releases. Flight Control began to eat away at peoples’ free time, Angry Birds and Doodle Jump hit it big (like, super big), and Myst and The Sims 3 further displayed the potential for major releases on mobile platforms. Oh, and Canabalt almost single-handedly invented and popularized a genre.
While games may not be the largest percentage of apps in the App Store (non-games lead the way overwhelmingly), they are the most popular single category, with over 151,000 active games in the App Store as of this month, according to 148Apps.biz.
One could argue, and indeed I will, that games are the most transformative type of app in the App Store, bringing a quality of play to iOS devices previously impossible to achieve. As 148Apps staffers have been heard to proclaim, there are over 1.2 billion thumbs waiting to play games on these crafty little devices.
Of course, there have been landmark games since the App Store went live in 2008, titles that create, extend, and improve on the current state of the art. Here then, are the top 20 of those games, as chosen by your App Experts at 148Apps.
Doodle Jump – This one started the jumping game craze, inspiring a host of clones and imitators along the way. Angry Birds – Need we say more? The grumpy avians have taken over the public consciousness. Tiny Wings – Not just another bird game, Tiny Wings showed us how one mechanic, brilliantly executed, could take an unknown designer to untold heights.
Candy Crush Saga – Good heavens we still get a lot of invites for this casual, money-printing game. Clash of Clans – Say what you will about free to play, but this game has gotten it right. Tiny Tower – Nimblebit hit the jackpot here with a smart combination of tower building and free to play retro gaming.
Temple Run – If anyone deserved to have a huge hit, it’s the folks at Imangi Studios, who have been pushing the boundaries of quality gaming from the beginning. This one created the 3D endless runner genre at a breakneck speed! Puzzles & Dragons – Another free to play darling, this one gets all the elements right to keep players entertained and paying. Where’s My Water? – Disney’s breakout hit, with a new IP (intellectual property) and a fiendishly addictive mechanic.
Pocket God – 47 updates later, still going strong and keeping kids of all ages entertained and laughing. Minecraft Pocket Edition – The surprise PC hit the iPhone like a ton of cube-shaped bricks, letting crafters and miners of all stripe build and explore on the go. Words with Friends – Scrabble with people you know. What’s not to like? This one started the “with friends” genre with a bang. Draw Something – Super successful, super quick, leading Zynga to buy the developer for a landmark price.
Infinity Blade – This game set the bar high for utter gorgeousness and a fighting mechanic that still sees itself in current games on the App Store, some two and a half years later. Canabalt – Heard of the endless runner genre? Canabalt started it all with a one-touch game that exploded onto the scene in 2009 and has remained in the collective imagination ever since. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – This one proves again and again that the indie spirit can be captured and distributed via mobile, with a game that may never have gotten noticed on the bigger consoles. Galaxy on Fire 2 – This space exploration and dogfighting game set the standard for utter gorgeousness, as well as finding a way to build a space sim on a tiny mobile device.
Spaceteam – Don’t forget to flush the four-stroke plucker! Wait, what? Play this game with a few of your (drinking) friends, and you’ll see what multiplayer party games *should* be like. Real Racing – Still the gold standard for racing games on a mobile platform, the original game hit the starting line in 2011, with sequels upping the ante on visuals, controls, and profitability. Super Hexagon – If you hate yourself, play this brutally difficult yet strangely compelling arcade game and thank indie developer Terry Cavanaugh in the morning.
Moms and video games. I know there are always exceptions, but, at least for my generation, more often than not the two just don’t mix. I’ve spent over 25 of my 31 years playing them, and my mom has spent almost as much time expressing her distaste for them, specifically, she said, “all that bloody, gory, gooey violence.” I decided to take the time to really talk to her about it; to figure out exactly why she had a tendency to turn up her nose at my hobby-turned-career, why she eventually stopped scrutinizing my pastime, and what iOS games (if any) she could even end up liking. It was interesting, to say the least.
A Bit Of The Old Ultraviolence
As it turns out, my mom’s disinterest/distaste for video games stems from a fairly common issue: violence. Not just the concept behind the acts, but the increasingly realistic depictions. When I was little and playing something on my Nintendo it never really bothered her since she and my dad could simply nix anything they thought was too much for me. Not that it happened often since very little from that era was all that graphic. However, as I got older, I tended to play more violent games. I personally attribute it to the industry increasing its mainstream focus on violence as it grew into itself, along with coincidence. I mean, sure, I played Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but I also played Intelligent Qube and Jet Moto which probably wouldn’t have bothered her at all if she’d ever seen me playing them. This is when it really started to bother her. She was legitimately worried that my constant exposure to video games would alter my personality. As time went on, she realized I was doing just fine, but she still wasn’t too crazy about all the gore.
Even after I graduated college and moved out of the house, video games continued to bother her. As a teacher, she had begun to notice a shift in her students as more and more of them began to make video games a larger part of their lives. “It’s much harder to keep kids’ attention,” she said. Many of them required more and more visual stimuli in order to keep their focus. She also noticed that many of the younger or more impressionable kids started to act out things they saw on TV and in video games. “It seemed like they thought they were invincible,” she told me. One group of boys she’d taught years before went so far as to murder a 25 year old cook as he walked home from work simply out of boredom; an act that some claimed was inspired by a video game. I now realize why my success at getting her to accept the medium has been so difficult.
However, she hasn’t written games off entirely. She’s come to appreciate the technology behind it all, and can definitely appreciate the imaginative visuals found in many of the more offbeat titles. With my increased interest in all things iOS, I’ve managed to have even more success in convincing her that the industry isn’t all headshots and zombies. In fact, I’ve managed to find a few iOS games she’s even curious to try on her own.
Easing Into It
First I asked her to take a look at Triple Town. I figured a turn-based game with no timer and some cute, if oversized, cartoon bears might be okay. I mean it’s a fairly adorable game with some really addictive puzzles, so why not? And I was right for the most part. She didn’t have a problem with it since the only vaguely troubling imagery is “just angry looking bears.” She also thought, “(It) sounds exciting. Build a city. ‘Plot’ against the bears. Looks like something ‘I’ may even be able to handle.”
Next up: Spaceteam. Both because it’s family-friendly fun and because I freaking love it so, so much. Although it can get pretty frantic; I wasn’t sure how well she’d respond to it. “I remember watching you and dad play this one,” she said. “It looks and sounds like a great time.” And really, who wouldn’t like to try and desperately keep a lone starship functioning by shouting commands at their friends while simultaneously trying to follow their own sets of instructions?
After that, I decided to show her Paper Titans. Since my mom has an art background and actually teaches art, I figured there was a good chance that she’d appreciate the visuals. I mean it’s flippin’ gorgeous to begin with but it also does a fantastic job of capturing the look of a paper world with paper inhabitants. I was right again. “LOVE the bold graphic style,” she said. “Looks like my kind of game; fun, colorful, sounds easy (low stress). So far (this is) my fav.”
Getting A Little Retro
I didn’t want to focus entirely on new releases, though. I also thought there might be some worthwhile considerations from the App Store’s past. Hence my next choice: Zen Bound 2. “Very, very appealing,” she said. “[The] graphics look excellent.” It’s the kind of reaction I was hoping for. The entire game is meant to be serene and calming with no timers or real possibility of failure. It’s almost more of a relaxation exercise than a game. “This is my top choice,” she enthused. “I want to wind the rope!”
Moving right along, and in keeping with the visually inoffensive, I brought up Tiny Tower. Nimblebit’s first major iOS success still has quite the following today, and it’s managed to last this long without resorting to any sort of violence. My mom liked it right off, saying, “Everyone looks HAPPY!” This is true: I’ve yet to spot a bitizen who doesn’t look like they’re having the best day of their life at all times. “My kind of game,” said mom. “I would try this one.”
After some thought, I figured I’d also show her Heads Up!. Not because she’s my mom or there’s much of a chance she watches The Ellen Degeneres Show, but because the game itself seems right up her alley. It’s a party game that requires interacting with other people, it’s goofy, and there’s a good chance that several laughs will be had. “Yes! Looks like fun,” she said. “My kind of game.”
Last, but not least, I tested the waters with a slightly more complex game that keeps things cute: Cut the Rope. I wasn’t entirely sure if the more involved gameplay mechanics would be off-putting but I was willing to bet that the adorable mascot would win her over. “Probably wouldn’t keep my interest at all,” she said. Ouch; I was totally wrong on this one.
The Heart Of The Matter
So why go through all this effort? Why try so hard to show my mom examples of iOS games that don’t fall under the rather broad viewpoint she used to view the medium with? For two reasons:
First, video games have been a significant part of my life for close to its entirety. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed immensely, but was never able to truly talk about with her due to her previous experiences. Since I began writing about them professionally they’ve become even more significant in my life, and I wanted to be able to find some way of sharing that with her. I think introducing her to the casual market is a great way to accomplish that and I’ve already found a few titles she’s interested in checking out. Say what you will about casual games, they’re still a great way to introduce non-gamers to the medium.
Second, I don’t want her to keep worrying. I know she understands that I’m an adult and that none of the virtual violence I’ve taken part in over the years has had any sort of negative effect on me, but I also know there’s still a part of her that worries. Both about me and about what the industry may or may not be doing to children. I wanted to help her to understand that, despite all the media attention and tendency of AAA releases to rely on violence, it’s a very diverse field that’s grown immensely ever since I first tried to get Mario past that first walking mushroom.
I suppose in the back of my mind I’ve always been concerned that she had the wrong idea about what I do and what I write about. This was my chance to finally address that concern and I feel like we really made some progress. Granted, I doubt I’ll be excitedly discussing Star Command or Robot Unicorn Attack 2 with her any time soon. Still, I can finally, really, talk to her about one of the major facets of my life for the first time. It’s a great feeling.
You’re the best around, no one’s ever gonna keep you down!
On This Episode:
It’s a yearly tradition! Various members of the iOS media come together and discuss the best releases of 2012, covering some of their honorable mentions before they discuss each of their top 3 games of 2012.
Posted by Jeff Scott on December 4th, 2012 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
The story of Spaceteam is that you and the other players, who all have to be in the same vicinity of each other, are controlling a disintegrating spaceship. Each person has a part of the control panel that only they can control. Instruction are shown on your screen by the ships computer and you have to execute them to save the ship. The only problem is some of the instructions aren’t on your control panel — you have to should them at each other to get them done. Amazingly fun. Might even make a good drinking game.
Take a look at the video below to see what the game looks like while playing.
Ubisoft has updated its iOS high seas adventure game, Assassin’s Creed Pirates, with some major additions. This refresh brings new maps, as well as one new campaign mission and three new secondary missions among other features. There are also new ships that are available for the all-new Survival Missions. According to the Ubisoft release, each […]