1849, a simulation game based on the Gold Rush of the 19th Century, has just received a new expansion pack. The new pack, named Nevada Silver, expands the game on a different prospecting track.
About 1849: Nevada Silver
The original 1849 puts players in the well-worn boots of a true forty-niner — building, managing, and mining twenty towns clustered in California’s iconic Gold Country. Story mode challenges players to complete self-contained scenarios, while an endless Sandbox mode invites marathon open-ended play.*
The new 1849: Nevada Silver expansion pack carries the simulation into neighboring Nevada to present six challenging new scenarios set during the Comstock Silver Rush, ten years after the Gold Rush kicked off in California. With trains moving goods between distant cities, steam-powered mills boosting production, and more complex mining processes yielding deeply hidden riches, 1849: Nevada Silver expands on 1849’s addictive gameplay to provide even more challenge on a bustling new frontier.
*At launch, the mobile versions of 1849 only had Story mode. Sandbox mode has since been added in a free update, meaning both Story and Sandbox mode are now included on all platforms.
The game itself is available for $4.99; the expansion pack is an extra $1.99 via in-app purchase.
The problem with basic ringtones is that they aren’t all that identifiable â€“ if you want to know who’s calling based on the sound that’s playing but don’t want to have things like music just always coming from your phone, your options are limited. Enter VitaCode.
What VitaCode does is that it takes a phone number, and it turns it into a musical tone that plays when people call. Users can customize the instruments that play with the tone; 4 are available for free, with 101 in total available with the Pro version, which can be unlocked through an in-app purchase.
The app runs at startup, and replaces all ringtones with the musical tone. Right now, it is not possible to generate a single file with a ringtone, so it is an all-or-nothing proposition. The app is available as a free download from Google Play. If this app interests you, and you want to take the Pro features for a spin, you’re in luck! Comment below or tweet at us for a gift code for the Pro version, unlockable in the app’s settings!
Ad restrictions are tighter; now apps’ ads are considered part of the app as well, and content in ads that violates the Google Play Developer Terms will be cause to get an app rejected. As well, apps cannot install shortcuts or change system settings without explicit user permission.
The requirement for in-app purchases is tighter now, as apps “must use Google Play’s payment system as the method of payment.” This essentially locks out third-party payment processors from Google Play. Now, the policy is actually far more lenient than Apple’s, where nowadays even Amazon can’t sell books or movies directly through their apps. Google specifies that “where payment is for digital content or goods that may be consumed outside of the application itself,” then it can go outside of Google Play’s in-app purchases. Physical goods and services purchases are also exempt.
Google Play just added a new subscription option for in-app payments. While this is something of a catch-up move to the App Store, which has offered in-app subscriptions for the past year, there’s a key difference here in Google’s approach versus Apple’s. See, Google is promoting their subscription with Frontline Commando by Glu, which is obviously a game. However, word from the App Store side of things is that Apple only wants publications to use their subscription API. This is why the new space strategy MMO Empire of the Eclipse requires that their subscriptions just be bought with individual in-app purchases, there’s no recurring billing available.
So, with Frontline Commando being the game that Google is showing off with in-app subscriptions, it’s apparent that they’re going to leave this more open to developers to use how they want. For example, there’s a recurring currency addition subscription added to some Glu games. This means developers can count on some steady sources of income along with in-app purchases.
As well, subscriptions will be extendable outside of Android â€“ an HTTP-based API will allow for subscription content to be accessed through a desktop browser, for example. This does show the difference in Google’s approach versus Apple’s. Apple really wants to try and curate the store to their whims, and they’re willing to leave developers in a lurch by denying them access to a feature that would make sense. MMO games could really use the in-app subscription API. If there’s a concern about abuse or people racking up subscriptions, then Apple could address this, perhaps by prompting a user when their subscription is up if they haven’t loaded an app in some amount of time. As it is, it’s just a silly restriction, and one that Google is willing to be more open with, and even opening up an interesting new avenue for games to be monetized. It also gives Google Play a leg up on the Amazon Appstore for the time being. Support is starting to roll out to devices with Google Play 3.5 and above installed.
Mobile users love two things, apparently. One is spending money on the Amazon Appstore. The other? Casino games, which make up 5 of 3 of the top 5 grossing games on Google Play, and 5 of the top 20 grossing overall. This is hypothetically an apples-to-apples comparison, but top grossing numbers are unavailable for the Amazon Appstore, and the iOS App Store has 4 of the top 20 grossing games as casino-style games. They are popular.
As such, Mobile Deluxe is hoping to achieve a big win by launching the Kindle Fire version of Big Win Slotstoday exclusively on the Amazon Appstore for Kindle Fire. They will be using the Amazon Appstore’s new in-app purchase API to help generate revenue from users, who can buy coins and earn VIP points to unlock new machines and themes. According to Mobile Deluxe CEO Josh Hartwell, â€œAs an early developer partner, weâ€™ve been looking forward to Amazonâ€™s IAP service. Amazon knows merchandising and knows that Kindle Fire users want to buy digital products with the same great experience theyâ€™ve grown accustomed to. We are proud that Big Win Slots is one of the first games to deliver that renowned Amazon experience to Kindle Fire users.â€ The game is available today via the Amazon Appstore.
While it was announced a while ago, the Amazon Appstore API for in-app purchases is finally live. This is a major milestone for Amazon’s store, as free-to-play games have previously had to use third-party payment processors in order to generate the kind of revenue that is driving mobile games as of late.
While revenues have been coming at better rates on the Amazon Appstore than on Google Play, the latter has offered IAP systems where the former did not. The real strength that Amazon’s IAP system will provide is the ability to one-click purchase content with Amazon accounts, which many users have accounts for â€“ with credit cards on file. So if Amazon is empowering increased spending from users just by buying apps, and if now they’re enabling the revenue driver in mobile apps, then it could make the Amazon Appstore even more powerful of a market for selling Android apps than Google’s own.
Google might need to watch their back, or figure out just what Amazon is doing to improve their margins, if it is just a matter of having payment information on file. While they may want to push their own Google Wallet, there’s increasing evidence that not having as much payment information on file as their competitors at Apple and even Amazon (who are co-opting their own OS, remember) is a weakness to developers on the service. Partnering with PayPal, who may be running behind Apple nad Amazon but are still a massive payment processor, may help with this increasing divide.
Or maybe it’s not a matter of having credit cards on file. Maybe the structure of Apple and Amazon’s stores are what is making it easier to discover apps, or the Kindle Fire is going a long way toward improving Amazon’s margins. But Google needs to find something in order to make their market more friendly to developers and prospective customers.
The beauty of freemium is that it’s hypothetically immune to software piracy. After all, how can one ‘steal’ what is already free? By instead trying to make money through in-app purchases, developers can not only increase exposure, but can minimize lost revenue from people who would pirate their app instead of buying it legitimately. After all, pirating in-app purchases isn’t possible, right?
Apparently, wrong. According to a report on PG.biz, at least one developer of free to play games has noted that iOS users have been hacking their app to get in-app purchase items for free. In fact, their top in-app purchase was being pirated at an almost 14:1 ratio of hacked ‘purchases’ to regular. Note that the overall ratio was 1.16:1 hacked to legitimate purchases, though, so it’s not a huge issue at this point, but it is something on the horizon to consider as more games and apps move to this business model.
It’s interesting that this started on iOS, the more closed platform, rather than Android. While it is conceivably more difficult, it might show that iOS gamers are more dedicated than Android ones. It just doesn’t show up in positive ways, apparently! Of couorse, given the more open nature of Android, this could be a practice that starts up before too long. However, all the hackers on Android may be too busy getting their devices to run on the newest versions of android rather than trying to modify the apps on there.
Of course, the thing to remember is that software piracy may be more a sign of people who want to consume more content, rather than people who solely wish to steal from developers and get everything for free. Those people do exist, but as research in the music industry has shown, there’s evidence that the people who download music illegitimately tend to actually buy more music legally. My hypothesis is that there are people who are massive content consumers – they do not have the means to buy all the content they want to consume legally, but will occasionally spend money on the content they wish to spend money on. The same is likely true for mobile gamers as it is for music fans and TV/movie fans. The latter audience also has DRM to deal with on purchased items. In a way, this is why I discount piracy as a major drain on sales – it’s not that they want to actually steal content, it’s just that given a zero-cost option, that’s what they often take.
I wrote an article about freemium for another site recently, and the comments were largely along the line of dreading when the games started to ‘require’ money being spent. People just don’t want to spend the money if they can avoid it. That often supersedes any potential moral quandaries that may be arisen by undergoing the act. I understand why people pirate, and I can understand why people would pirate IAP. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.
I personally choose not to pirate apps because I know that if I did pirate apps instead of buying them, then I am threatening the business prospects of small developers by my actions. For many pirates, they potentially affect people barely making a living by offering these apps and games. While I understand that piracy is inevitable and impossible to stop entirely, I can only hope that mobile pirates taeke into consideration just who they may be affecting, and that this trend of pirating in-app purchases does not spread. While thankfully, it appears that it may be easier to ban users who pirate IAP than it is to stop people who pirate paid apps, and maybe the pirates never planned on spending a dime anyway, but still, I hope users consider the morality of what they’re doing before they do it.
Amazon’s long-anticipated Kindle Fire finally starts shipping this week. Credit cards are starting to be charged, and media sites are starting to have reviews, that include mentioning some issues with the browser and reading text on the 7-inch screen size. Some other news has hit the wire about an important feature addition to the Amazon Appstore and a drawback about Android permissions.
First, the good news. Amazon has launched an in-app purchases mechanism for Amazon Appstore apps. This will be a key feature for not just apps purchased for the Kindle Fire, but also for anyone who purchases apps from the Amazon Appstore. With free-to-play games rising in revenue and popularity, Amazon geatting a cut, and providing a secure and easy way to pay for them with their built-in payment mechanisms was a necessity. Will their payment APIs also work outside of apps purchased on the Amazon Appstore, say through the Amazon Market? If so, then Amazon may have suddenly become a juggernaut of in-app purchases services. Look at why the App Store worked so well: they had many users’ payment info already stored, so it became very easy for users to start purchasing right away. Amazon has that same advantage.
However, the Kindle Fire will have a significant drawback that will affect the number of apps available at launch. Many apps will not run on the Kindle Fire due to certain permissions not being available on the Kindle Fire. This could be due to the customized Kindle Fire interface on top of Android, but this could limit the apps on the Kindle Fire before developers make their technical adjustments to make them work on the device, if the permissions can be removed or modified. This could be a big issue for developers looking to put their apps on the Kindle Fire in the future, along with any concerns over Amazon Appstore policies; this will be a story worth keeping track of in the near future.
Smurfs’ Village, the mammoth free-to-play hit on iOS, is making its way to Android at last. The game, currently only available in Australia, France, and Canada (likely as a stress test for the servers; this kind of tactic is used regularly on iOS in order to stress test games), will be making its way to the global Android Market this September 28th. The game will be available from this link. This is a so-called social game, where players try to build up a Smurfs’ village of their very own, with buildings that take varying amounts of time to build. The building process can be sped up through the purchase of the game’s in-app credits, appropriately enough entitled Smurfberries.
What will be interesting to see is if any kind of controversy over in-app purchases flares up with this game as it did on iOS. In-app purchases could be restricted on iOS, but due to the game’s kid-friendly nature, many kids were spending large amounts of real-world money on the Smurfberries. On Android, passwords aren’t required for app downloads or in-app purchases at all; an optional PIN for purchases can be set from within the Android Market’s options, but the likelihood that unintended purchases from children not aware that they are spending real-world money will occur seems high. It’s a concern Capcom has hopefully addressed beyond just a notice on the Market page that Smurfberries cost real-world money.
Still, for a game that has been a perennial member of the “Top Grossing” chart on iOS, this is a major title for the platform, and a potentially new huge source of revenue for Capcom and developer Beeline Interactive. Whether or not it can duplicate its chart success over on Android will be interesting to track; and to see if any kind of in-app purchase controversy will bubble up will be interesting to see as well, with more and more apps using in-app purchases.
By the end of this review, I will recommend downloading Coin Drop. I suggest not doing so unless you have unlimited amounts of free time to spend on playing this game. Coin Drop is in some ways reminiscent of Peggle; after all, objects fall from the sky and there are pegs and other objects on a board to try and hit. Players drop a coin from the top of the screen on to the board. The goal is to try and knock out the 4 bad blue coins from the board, while scoring as many points as possible by hitting all the pegs, taking out destructible objects, and lighting up all the slots on the bottom to activate a coin frenzy that drops 5 free coins simultaneously. Players can also tap the bottom of the screen to bump up coins on the board. It’s very simple to play.
Oh man, is this game addictive. The gameplay has that feeling of satisfaction when things go well that makes a game like Peggle so much fun. Coin Drop hits many of the same notes, and the game’s very adorable style helps make it endearing. That the game is just so fun to play that I found myself burning through an entire world in one sitting several times helps too. The Android version is actually freemium unlike its iOS counterpart. The first two worlds, consisting of 15 levels each, are both free to play, and the game has no other ads otherwise. There are three other worlds available for $0.99 each as in-app purchases. They introduce new elements into the game like lasers and magnets in one world, to expand the game beyond what it originally was.
The game tends to be a bit on the easy side unfortunately, because there are 4 items to collect in order to advance. Levels won’t require more than a few tries at the most to complete. The controls make it easy to accidentally drop a new coin on the playing field when just trying to bump the board. The game is not at all optimized for tablets, unlike the iOS version. Honeycomb tablet owners are recommended to run the game in “zoom to fill screen” mode instead of running it at full resolution because the framerate chugs when not in zoom mode. The game could use more high-resolution artwork to improve its look on devices like tablets.
Coin Drop is almost too much fun. I play many games for review, and there are few games that I lost myself in quite like I did in Coin Drop. This is an absolute must-download for Android users.
Muffin Knight from Guerilla Mob developer Angry Mob Games is not exactly the most original game ever made. It puts players in an arena, with the goal being to collect as many muffins as possible, while trying not to be killed by the enemies that roam each level. Each time a muffin is collected, players change into another random character with a different weapon, from archers that can shoot in both directions, bears that attack from up close, and a unicorn that, shall we say, “drops” land mines. Each enemy and muffin collected gets experience for the player, and each level up gets a point that goes toward character upgrades, new perks, and even extra lives.
This multiplayer mode, which is currently only officially supported over local wifi, pits two players in one arena, trying to collect more muffins than the other player. It is possible for players to die in this mode, and if the person who is trailing in muffin count dies, then the leader automatically wins. If the leader dies, then the other player can try to stay alive until they collect more muffins, lest they die trying. What’s most remarkable about this multiplayer, beyond that it allows players to collect experience toward their characters with a 20% bonus, is that it works between iOS and Android devices. There’s no special hassle or setup, just one device with a copy of the game creating a server, and another joining the discovered server, no matter which version is playing which version, even if it’s an iPod touch versus an Android tablet.
While the gameplay is great for pick up and play sessions, and the multiplayer is similarly addictive for its competitive elements, the game does have some issues. The multiplayer is currently only local wifi, for example, and doesn’t appear to support Bluetooth. The controls, while able to be rearranged, are very loose, and make it easy for buttons to accidentally be pressed, which is bad when walking toward an enemy instead of away from them, since one hit means death.
While those who fell squarely on the side of Vlambeer in the Ninja Fishing/Radical Fishing debacle will likely be disgusted by Muffin Knight, there’s still an original art theme, engrossing RPG elements, and the fun multiplayer as well. While Super Crate Box will be hitting iOS soon, this is a worthwhile entry in this genre, and very addictive.
The release of Diversion 1.2 this past week brought new in-app purchases for buying gems, the game’s in-app currency. However, a thorny issue has popped up with this feature that has led to developer Ezone.com removing the feature entirely upon their realization that there is no authentication or password prompt necessary to make an in-app purchase on Android. One user has already stated on their Facebook fan page that they barely stopped their child from purchasing the biggest gem pack available. As such, the feature has been removed from the game until further notice.
This is one of the first times that in-app purchases have been an issue on the Android Market. This controversy has burned hot on the iOS App Store, especially with games that have kid-friendly elements, like Smurfs Village on iOS. That game in particular has been a firebrand of controversy for its in-app purchases, as many anecdotes of children purchasing massive amounts of that game’s in-app credits, appropriately titled Smurfberries, spread across the internet. The problem was in part that if a user had put their password in on the App Store in the last 15 minutes, then apps requesting permission for purchases wouldn’t require them. Thus, it would be easy for someone to accidentally purchase big-money items without knowing. Thus, children that might not have any idea of the value of money could unknowingly spend hundreds of dollars buying their smurfberries and other credits. While the ability to restrict in-app purchases does exist in iOS, parents were likely unaware of this feature, or just had their children playing on their own phones. This controversy got to a point where Apple actually made in-app purchases have a separate password request for authorizing purchases.
It’s a surprise, then, that the Android Market hasn’t had a similar controversy in regards to in-app purchases. After all, purchases on Android require no password input at all, either through the Market or through apps. With the rapid growth of free to play and freemium titles on iOS, and the way that Android is often home to ports from iOS, the likelihood of even more free to play and freemium games appearing is high. With this possibility and with the Android’s far less restrictive authentication, this could soon be a hot-button issue unless Google addresses it in much the same way Apple did.