iPhone, iPad Games, Apps, Reviews, News Sat, 01 Aug 2015 15:00:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 N.O.V.A. 3 Review – FPS That Sets the Standard in Mobile Multiplayer Online Gaming Sun, 27 May 2012 14:56:42 +0000 Read More]]> Gameloft have been churning out mobile games for a while now and for the most part they’ve been pushing the mobile gaming envelope especially when it comes to the graphics and N.O.V.A. 3 is no different. Does the gameplay match the beautiful and rich environments though?

N.O.V.A. 3 as the name suggests is the third in the the first person shooter series which follows the explosive exploits of Kal Wardin as he fights for no lesser prize than humankind itself. If you haven’t played either of the previous N.O.V.A. that’s not a problem, (although you may go back to them after playing this), as the game stands on its own and the short intro will soon get you up to speed.

As previously mentioned the whole look of N.O.V.A. 3 is completely immersive as the rich, massive, interactive environments are a pleasure to behold. Starting in and around the derelict buildings of San Francisco, through alien spacecraft and an explosive fire and ice wasteland the worlds look incredible.

As we’ve all come to learn though, games require more than just graphics to be a success and N.O.V.A. 3 is more than just eye-candy, in fact it’s one of the closest experiences to having a console in your pocket that I’ve ever played on a mobile device.

The audio helps this with the overall experience too, from powerful gun-shots and explosions to great voice acting and background music the aural experiences is excellent, especially if you listen with headphones.

The action comes fast and furious, right from the start and you will need fast fingers to keep yourself alive. These fast fingers have to be balanced with the amount of ammunition you have as supplies are limited especially if you don’t want to if you don’t want to increase the cost of the game by stumping up more of your hard earned money to upgrade your weapons and abilities.

The downside of the scarce ammunition though is exacerbated by some less than perfect controls. There’s nothing substantially different in N.O.V.A. 3 from other first person shooters but they feel unpolished and the limited customization ensures that we will have to spend quite a while with them before you feel at ease.

Spending time with N.O.V.A. 3 though is something you will want to do though as the rewards are worth it. A compelling, if short, campaign mode is great to play but the addition of not only a local wi-fi multiplayer but also an online version, via Gameloft LIVE, is going to have you hooked for months.

Six different multiplayer game modes as well as weekly tournaments keeps things interesting and as long as you put in the time to learn your skills so that you aren’t re-spawning every 30 seconds the online modes ultimately make N.O.V.A. 3 {$6.99} a very rewarding experience.

All this comes at a price, not the $7 that it’ll cost you in the App Store, that’s a bargain, but the 1.5 GB of storage space that it will take up on your iOS device. You may need to manage some space before installing this monster!

There are games that push the limit of mobile gaming and make other companies step up, N.O.V.A. 3 is one of those games and you don’t want to miss the bandwagon.

What we like:

What to know:

[rating: 4.5/5] ]]> 1 “Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for iPad” Now Available on App Store Fri, 03 Jun 2011 01:34:46 +0000 Read More]]> Battlefield Bad Company 2 HD for iPad-3

EA Mobile has finally released “Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for iPad” and it’s available for $9.99 on Apple’s App Store. The game was first made available on the iPhone and now we have one of the best first person shooters available in HD for the iPad.

The kind of variety the game offers is the most enjoyable part of the game. You are not limited to just firing at your enemies, there are various missions you must accomplish in each chapter and the entire game unfolds like a real story.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 HD for iPad-4

While playing the first two chapters on the iPad we could certainly notice rich 3D graphics and actually it’s the iPad’s screen size that does the trick and makes the game much more immersive than its iPhone counterpart.

We will be publishing a detailed review in the coming days. If you enjoyed the iPhone version and want to replay the entire game in HD then go get this game now. For those, who haven’t played this game earlier but enjoy FPS (first person shooter) then Battlefield Bad Company 2 for iPad would certainly prove to be a great start.

Today’s release also brings an update to iPhone version with a revamped multiplayer mode which makes getting into matches easier and quicker. And now you can enjoy by playing with up to 10 players.


Battlefield Bad Company 2 HD for iPad-1 Battlefield Bad Company 2 HD for iPad-2 Battlefield Bad Company 2 HD for iPad-3 Battlefield Bad Company 2 HD for iPad-4 ]]> 1 Gameloft’s N.O.V.A 3 (Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance) to run on Unreal Engine Wed, 30 Mar 2011 18:55:51 +0000 Read More]]> N.O.V.A. 2 - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance“N.O.V.A” or “Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance”, certainly the most prominent, and probably the most playable multi-player FPS series for iOS has allied itself with Epic Game’s Unreal Engine 3. Unreal Engine 3 is available to any and all iOS developers as a completely free development package, with very reasonable licensing terms – which only kick into play once you are making some serious dough.

It is clear that the technology behind Epic’s pervasive console and mobile game engine is going to be right up to date with Apple’s newer mobile silicon, the Apple A5, and offer publishers an easy upgrade path with which to get to grips with increasingly powerful mobile hardware in the coming months and years. All of this will be based on a mature and constantly evolving development base, engine, SDK, scripting language and community. Offering exciting games close to that which we are used to expecting on consoles like the PS3 and XBox 360.

To date Epic’s Unreal Engine and id’s id Tech 5 Engine have produced some of the most stunning iOS visuals to date (“Infinity Blade” and “Smash TV” – respectively), and arguably some of the most playable, if not novel, games. So that can only be good news for fans of the N.O.V.A series as it evolves.

Are you excited about the future of FPS gaming on iOS? Let us know about your hopes and dreams in the comments…

{via 9to5 Mac}

]]> 0 Rage on the iPhone 4: Serious Eye Candy Sat, 14 Aug 2010 20:01:06 +0000 Read More]]> Gaming circles were buzzing yesterday after a sneak peek at id Software’s “id Tech 5″ engine running “Rage” on an iPhone 4. At 60 fps no less! What was so impressive about the demo was that it really does resemble some of the high quality Playstation 2 titles that we were seeing at the very end of that consoles mainstream life.

What is also immediately noticeable about Rage, and id’s new “dungeon crawling” engine is just how mature and contemporary its graphical output looks generally. The lighting effects, seamless textures, and frame rate of the game puts most other so called iPhone “AAA” offerings to shame.

Am I surprised at what id have achieved. Not particularly. Impressed, yes. Surprised, no.

They’ve simply brought a wealth of experience writing AAA game engines, of a specific genre, to bear on the iPhone ecosystem. With efficient asset management, and a focussed approach to the flavor of game you want to produce there is absolutely no reason why more iPhone developers can’t be pushing out games (or at least tech demos) of this quality.

One feature of id’s engine that we should keep an eye on is the “mega-texture” component. In simple terms a mega-texture is a super large texture that covers entire areas in a game environment. It actually allows artists to produce more seamless environments, and once the heavy lifting is done in logic, enables easy asset management for engineers.

What it does do also is use a lot of space, and rely on compression great deal. Compressed textures are something the iPhone GPU is good at dealing with. But there is a slight loss of quality ( which if employed skilfully is barely noticeable), when they are endeared. Predefined textures for environments also enable designers to do amazing lighting effects with low overheads for the game’s engine.

They are in effect “baked” into the environment, so are less dynamic, and consequently less taxing on GPU and CPU resources at run time. The tradeoff is that by and large these lighting effects are atmospheric, and don’t move around. Clever lighting, and texture expanse are prominent features in the iPhone Rage demo we have seen. What remains to be seen is how much actual content we end up with in the final product.

In reality all we are doing on the iPhone and Android devices today is applying desktop techniques in macro. It’s all about batching our graphics so that our GPU and CPU do as much heavy lifting as they can, efficiently as they can manage without tripping over each other. After that it is all about managing our assets to get the maximum from limited resources.

id do not plan to actually release Rage as a 60fps game, as it will drain battery power too quickly on the iPhone at that speed. But they do envisage “Rage” running on the iPad and earlier iPods as well as the iPhone 3GS. On all those platforms they plan to run the actual game at 30fps. Saving some battery life, and probably allowing them to squeeze some time for the game logic into the CPUs workload!

John Carmack of id, also said it will run just fine on an original iPhone 2G. And it probably will. No doubt with a few less bells and whistles visually. My own procedural planet engine, demoed at SIGGRAPH last year, runs on every iOS device too, including the humble iPhone 2G. It took a lot of work to get my engine to run on both OpenGL ES1 & ES2, as id have obviously had to do for their engine to run on all generations of iOS devices. So I take my hat off to them for their effort and dedication in doing that.

Its an excellent sign of a developers technical capabilities, and confidence in their product to continue to support older hardware. It also shows a great deal of respect for ones customers in my opinion.

It only remains to be seen what the actual gameplay ends up like on Rage. id’s John Carmack said they plan to launch “Rage” initially as a mini-game, and teaser to a more full length iPhone ‘Rage’ title, to coincide with the 360 and PS3 launch next year. So expect an eye-candy advertiser in the App Store in the future, with more meat to follow…

Have you seen the demo? Are you looking forward to some serious gaming action on your iPhone or iPad? Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments.

[Kotaku] ]]> 0 CF Defense HD for iPad. Ferocious FPS Let Down by only a Single Location Fri, 09 Jul 2010 18:20:02 +0000 Read More]]> CF Defense HD

CF Defense HD [rating: 3.5/5]

First person shooters have had mixed reviews on iDevices with the use of virtual d-pads and the touch screen not always conducive to good control systems, CF Defense HD is the latest to attempt to succeed in the App Store.

The first thing that you’ll notice when playing this game is that they have got rid of one of the issues that can sometimes cause issue in your position is fixed to a single location so there is no need to to worry about movement controls, the only controls you have to be concerned with are aiming and shooting.

The fixed position of your location is due to the fact that you are stationed over looking a beach which is under attack and it’s your task to stem the multiple waves of enemies as they attempt to storm your position.

From this over seeing position you get a full view of the beach and a full range with your machine gun and cannon. The machine gun is your standard weapon and will be used to slaughter the majority of enemy soldiers as the run up the beech. The machine gun is activated by button in the bottom left corner of the screen and while re-loading is a manual process it is easily done by sliding the bolt to re-load.

Your machine gun has a limitless supply of ammo, however it is no use against the boats that are used to deploy cars, trucks and motorbikes onto the beach, for the boat you will need to use your cannon. Unlike the machine gun though ammo for the cannon is limited and while it’s effective in blowing the boats out of the water the ammo is also expensive so usage is limited.

Not only can you purchase ammo for your cannon you can also upgrade both the cannon and the machine gun to make it more powerful, accurate and fast. The balance of earning enough money to purchase these upgrades is nicely balanced and you will need to prioritize your expenditure.

The other items you can spend your money on includes air strikes which as you progress though the levels become more and more vital. Using an air strike will kill eliminate anything that is on the beach and is great for when you start to be over run by enemies.

The air strike won’t kill any enemies that are currently floating down to the beach under their parachutes so you will need to kill them separately. You can let them land on the beach but if you shoot them while they are in the air you may pick up a bonus crate that could contain extra cannon ammo, health or increase your machine gun capacity.

The graphics look pretty good on the iPad with the small soldiers looking well animated as they run out of the sea and up onto the beach. However there is only one location so things can get a little tedious after a while.

The variety of each wave is pretty limited too. As you progress through the levels and increase your ranking from Staff Sergent through to Brigadier small things change as additional enemy types are added to the level but ultimately you still have the same task to complete and that is to kill all the enemies what ever their form.

It is a fairly addictive game though and I have often found myself returning for more to see if I can get a little further than my previous attempt. The intensity of the battles is also reflected by the sound effects which fill your eardrums with the sound of war as your machine gun constantly mows down the multiple waves of soldiers.

A leaderboard is included via integration with OpenFeint however no achievements have been included as part of the integration.

Overall CF Defense HD is an enjoyable game, however to increase the replay value of the game additional locations need to be added to make the game more interesting. In addition the game won’t rotate with the iPad.



Price: $2.99 (App Store)
Category: Games
Released: Jul 05, 2010
Reviewed Version: 1.0
Size: 43.0 MB
Language: English
Seller: Original Force
© 2009-2010 UwinGame Inc.
Requirements: Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later.

]]> 0 Puppet War:FPS for iPhone. Live Out Your Puppet Slaying Fantasies in this First Person Shooter Mon, 14 Jun 2010 20:46:26 +0000 Read More]]> Puppet War FPS iPhone

Puppet War:FPS [rating: 4/5]

There are certain words that I never thought I would find myself writing, especially in a review of an iPhone/iPod Touch game but there is a first time for everything and with that in mind let me introduce you to the word Pupaphobia. So what is Pupaphobia I hear you ask, well it’s quite simply the fear of puppets and if you have Pupaphobia then this game could be the cure. Puppet War:FPS throws you into a world where you are under attack from mutant puppets and it’s a fight to the death!

There are a few decent FPS games for the iPhone/iPod Touch now but none that I have seen compare to this. You play the part of an old janitor who finds himself stuck in a colourful children’s TV show under attack from the puppets.

It’s certainly an original storyline and it’s been well implemented too. The graphics look like a cross between Sesame Street and the Banana Splits and the various puppets that launch themselves at you have a menacing glint in their eye that could really make you believe that they are out to get you.

Controls on FPS games have always be pretty tricky to implement on a touch screen device as there never seems to be enough buttons to enable all the movement that you need. However that is not the case with Puppet War: FPS which utilizes a virtual joystick for movement, an action button to shoot your weapon of choice and aiming controls via dragging your finger across the touch screen. This may seem like a lot to remember especially when you consider that you are under attack by multiple puppets all at the same time but in actual fact the controls are very intuitive.

There are a good choice of weapons to choose from too, presuming that is you are skilled enough to unlock them all. From the simplicity of a broom or baseball bat to the explosiveness of grenades and chainsaws there are weapons for everyone here and using them on puppets adds an extra degree of satisfaction to the killing spree.

The one major downside to the game is the fact that there is currently only one map and that is the TV Studio itself which despite it looking great can get a little boring after a while. Hopefully a future update will include more maps and add to the fun. A multi-player option would be nice as would some leader boards and who knows maybe that will all be made available in a later update.

As you kill the evil puppet army you will be able to pick up stars which you can then spend on the bigger and better weapons as they become unlocked. You will also find health and ammo packs located around the childrens TV studio and these will certainly come in handy as you progress through the later levels where the action becomes more and more frantic.

There are a range of puppets that will come after you and each have a variety of attacks and movements. The most frustrating of them is the little leaping puppet that is difficult to kill. I did notice some slow-down on some levels where there were a lot of puppets on screen even a re-start of my 2G iPod touch didn’t fix it.

If you are quick you should be able to pick up Puppet Wars:FPS for just $1.99 and at that price, even with only a single map, it’s great fun to play and puts all those ‘realistic’ first person shooters in the shade.



Puppet War : FPS – iPhone Game Teaser

Price: $1.99 (iTunes Store)
Category: Games
Released: Jun 10, 2010
Reviewed Version: 1.0
Size: 34.0 MB
Language: English
© 2010 Twindigo
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iPhone OS 3.1.3 or later.

]]> 1 The “Freemium” Game sales model? Lipstick on the same old pig? Sun, 14 Mar 2010 14:22:02 +0000 Read More]]> When I first sat down to write this article I was a little lost initially as to how to attack it. You see I am not convinced that the “Freemium” model is actually the “next big thing” that the blog-o-sphere is hyping it up to be. Certainly a large number of apps are being shifted under that banner. But then a lot of apps always were being promoted with free demos in all spheres of gaming long before the AppStore came along. It’s seems that it’s more a rebranding of what we’ve seen already for quite some time. Just to be clear, this is my own personal take on this subject, and this article has already been through a couple of revisions where my kindly editor has smoothed some of the sharp edges and pointed out some aspects of the subject I could have looked at from other angles.

Ngmoco certaily seems to think “Freemium” is the future. And it’s hard to argue with their popularity in the AppStore charts. In November of 2009 their FPS shooter “Eliminate Pro” had already been downloaded 500,000 times, at the staggering rate of 25,000 copies an hour. These figures placed it solidly at the top of the free app chart in iTunes.

More recently they purchased longtime Mac / iPhone indie publisher “Freeverse” with venture capital money they raised with Institutional Venture Partners, and existing shareholders Kleiner Perkins, Norwest Venture Parters, and Maples Investments. Currently Freeverse’s catalog is all paid apps, but the plan apparently is to move them over to the free-to-play model also.

To date Ngmoco’s installed base of it’s most popular apps (TouchPets and Eliminate) tops 9 million copies “downloaded”, with hundreds of thousands of “plays” each day. Ngmoco are also taking a pop at the likes of Scoreloop, OpenFeint and Agon with their own entry into the social gaming network race, Plus+.

Young (Ngmoco’s CEO) is pushing to roll out more and more new games in a virtual avalanche, and plans to open up an SDK to their Plus+ social gaming system so that other developers can easily tap into it. The Plus+ system can manage virtual goods payments, player-to-player messaging, and other social aspects of iPhone games. Effectively taking on Urban AirShip as well as Scoreloop, OpenFeint and all the rest, all at the same time, in one all encompasing package. On top of that they are planning on bundling an internet based multiplayer network in with all these other features at some point in the future. At the moment that aspect of their network seems to be limited to their own creations though. I have not been able to get a timeline from them for general availability when I have made enquiries.

These figures, acquisitions and developments are hard to discount when asking yourself about Ngmoco’s future, and the success of the “Freemium” app model. But how much is to do with these games being free at the start? And is this Apple’s success or Ngmoco’s marketing we’re seeing succeed, rather than the “Freemium” model?

How is giving people the opportunity to try before they buy any different from the current system we have in premium console games? On XBox live or PlayStation Network people download a demo, and then decide whether to buy the retail item all of the time. The whole process is simply not integrated seamlessly yet as it is in iTunes, but they are getting there. Virtually every serious game purchase decision I have made personally in the last several years has been made after trying a free demo of a game. The real change that seems to be creeping into games these days is that we get less at purchase / download time and augment that with a cash stream trickle feeding the publisher for more content. All things that the big game publishers have been pushing harder and harder recently, and seems to have accelerated in iTunes since the advent of OS 3.0 on the iPhone and Apple introducing “In App Purchase”. Steve Jobs waxed lyrical about all this in his latest Keynote address stating that iTunes has around a bazillion people’s credit cards on file for buying content right now.

Scrolling through the reviews on the AppStore for some of the higher profile “Freemium” titles it seems that a fairly considerable percentage of people are not impressed by the basic “free” app they get, and the rest simply upgrade / buy app content because they like the game anyway, or get hooked. A great example is Eliminate Pro which severely limits replays in the free version, necessitating stumping up hard cash to buy more effective playing time. It’s like the “CoinOp” era all over again from where I am sitting.

To date Ngmoco’s most successful Freemium titles are in areas where games are almost guaranteed to succeed. One is the Sims style game TouchPets and the other is not only the first, but also the only multiplayer FPS on the iPhone : Eliminate Pro.
With or without a free download these games would garner quite a lot of attention anyway. So what are Ngmoco gaining from giving the title away initially? It seems to me they are quite able to market their games effectively – something which is harder for smaller developers. It’s also apparent that they have fairly high production quality when it comes to game websites, game front ends, and the overall look and feel of their products. So they would seem to be able to fair reasonably well if they simply sold their games at full price. After all they have enough backing and infrastructure to run their own global multiplayer network for “hundreds of thousands” of players. Not an insignificant undertaking!

(Yesterday I wrote about an interesting App Store pricing model experiment carried out by Indie Developer Tommy Refenes. Although an isolated unscientific study, it’s worth reading the account to get where I am coming from with this whole App Store pricing problem.) NOT PUBLISHED YET.

There is another important aspect to this method of marketing to consider. It’s a model very strongly based on the social aspect of gaming, and a certain amount of addiction to competition (passive or active), rather than the fact that something is free. It’s certainly true that by offering a free glimpse into every game you make you have a better chance of selling it to people than you do from static screen shots, or even gameplay videos. This is assuming that the entertainment value grasps the user in that trial period. But it can also canibalise your paid app sales. There is an interesting article on that here (GDC: Backflip’s Farrior On iPhone Ad Sales, Free Versions) where Julia Farrior, CEO of Backflip Studios talks about some of their hits and misses in the App Store.

I mentioned Scoreloop earlier, who’s entire business model is venture capital funded and free to Devs. Likewise with OpenFeint and the other contenders for the gaming social network crown. The difference is these startups don’t publish games, but provide the social networking back end for app developers to leverage. Something that OpenFeint and Scoreloop may have going for them is that they are more often than not part of a product that a gamer has already decided to buy. So up-selling app content is not actually part of their business model. Scoreloop, for example, very much rely on selling their own “coins” to players so that gamers can wager against each other. Gambling on their own skill, and against that of others, to amass more virtual wealth.

Let’s take a look at Eliminate Pro again. It’s a good example of what the “freemium” model is all about. Simply put the free game provides a limited amount of something. This “something” (energy in Eliminate’s case) is required in order for you to compete effectively, and then progress in the game’s hierarchy. You have two options: Put up with an arguably crippled experience after a very short introduction period, or pay some cash to compete on a level playing field – or compete at all! The great thing from the developers perspective is that they get much much more exposure with free games that are immediately accessible to gamers. The free versions of games I have been involved with are downloaded between 10 and 50 times more often than paid items. One of the older iPhone titles I worked on sells very little now, but still gets 20 or 30 free downloads a day, every day, with little or no promotion. It’s certainly a hard fact that if you want to at least get some market penetration, and a chance of being discovered in the burgeoning list of entertainment titles in the AppStore, then you need to give a free or “Lite” version of your title away. That is unless you have the marketing power of EA, or the IP of Ubisoft or RockStar. Then again you could just write a Zombie game!! I jest.

A cynical person could liken the Eliminate Pro or TouchPets model to that employed by drug dealers, or more charitably similar to that of World of Warcraft, or paintball even. First you get them hooked, and then you keep nibbling at them for a dollar here, 5 dollars there for ammo or consumables of some sort.. Simply put, this is how it works: Subscription. You want some more energy so you can go shooting people then it’s gonna cost you between $1.99 and amazingly $39.99 depending on how much “energy” or “dog chow” you want for your battle suit or virtual pet, respectively.

Having played Eliminate Pro I can honestly say the control system needs work (and many players I have spoken to repeat this complaint), but it’s eye catching and well presented. It seems to be predominantly populated with inexperienced players, which is explained by the developer chat I reported on earlier this week with the Ngmoco team, where they discuss their matchmaking efforts : (Ngmoco Gives Interesting Talk on How Eliminate Was Built | GDC 2010) However, I found I was in rooms with lots of people scraping along walls most of the time, and fragging people was somewhat satisfying simply because it was so easy! I seemed to do less “wall scraping” than my competitors at times, that’s all I guess! I am forced to wonder what the turnover of new players that never come back is. And unless you are paying you are not getting much for free.. Although if a player simply waits a fixed amount of time their energy will trickle fill again, and after a period of time they can play again for free.. But overall a lot of people find this frustrating as these kinds of comments bear out..

“This game is great. The graphics are good, frame-rate is good, gameplay is good, upgrades are good. Although, I must mention the controls don’t really work until you buy the first unlock-able weapon.”

“They really nickle and dime you for this.”

“But 4 hours to recharge for enough energy for 1 game is insane.”

After reading these comments I wondered what percentage of people who downloaded these free titles actually enjoyed their “freemium” experience, or simply left frustrated, as simply another statistic for marketing purposes. It seems that overall consumer views are split on these titles. If you look at the star rating there are a lot of high stars and a lot of low stars, very few in the middle! Which is interesting. And even the positive reviews for Eliminate (outside of the new main stream mobile gaming media) all state that it’s not really a good game *unless* you are paying for it. Again, and again.

It’s also worth noting that there are ads running on the front page of these games now. Something which is also available to any developer via AdMob and other similar services. Are Ngmoco still experimenting with where the bulk of their revenue will come from when the venture capital money runs out?

Back in the heyday of arcade games you fed 10p / 25c into a slot to keep playing. Now it seems that the plan is that you should attach a credit card to the AppStore and trickle feed your play habit that way. From a cash flow perspective this is very attractive. But as someone who enjoys his craft and is certainly not an up and coming Bill Gates with aspirations for world domination I am left feeling a little empty inside by this business model.

There are other titles out there that work on similar principals. “Baseball Slugger”, which although a paid game, offers you the option to either buy special packs for your player for cash or earn more “gold balls” to unlock those same upgrades. It’s a little similar to how Scoreloops coins work. This is a skill based model. Those players that don’t want to buy in have the option to progress based purely on skill, and at the same time I am guessing drive some other less “skillfull” players to buy upgrades to keep up. Of course I am sure many people simply buy the upgrades anyway. But at least the choice is there, and there is the satisfaction that keen players can get from having all the extras without having paid a dime!

Another slightly different example of exploiting this free to play model is our Editor (with obviously way too much free time) who takes great delight in playing “Skies of Glory” and beating players who have bought all the upgrades (“Cool bombs and a fancy plane worth $9.99″ – as he puts it) with his basic aircraft “with no upgrades at all”!

Overall these two examples, and to be fair, to a small degree Eliminate (as more skilful players can hang onto more energy each game and play for longer before they are depleted and benched), offer something for nothing without driving the need for players to pay for something. But the bottom line is they are all mini-systems designed to get the majority of players, either through friend envy, social pressure or sheer laziness, to pay a subscription of some kind to continue playing. Those top tier players who get it all for free are the constantly moving target that drives the less skilful to pay up. They are an important integral part of the overall business model. It kind of reminds me of the major players in the new SciFi (ScyFy – ugh) TV series “Caprica”, who play in the “one death and you’re out forever” VR Caprica world. Now that’s a gaming model I’d like – and one I’d pay to play in. But I digress…

“Tap Tap Revenge” is one of the standouts in this growing bunch of initially free to play apps. They provide a large number of songs with the free version, and do not seem to be pushing you to need to upgrade simply because base product is very satisfying. And yet they still make a lot of money. Part of that is they are now an established brand. But part of it is also that they provide a competitively priced, high quality product that people enjoy and want more of. Perhaps they see a friend with a cool avatar. Or perhaps they just want more variety. But either way it’s really their choice to upgrade, and they really don’t need to in order to be competitive, or to advance through any score table, or enjoy the game. In my opinion there is something to be learned there.

Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t make money from our software. Far from it. I write games myself, because I love games. I also need to eat though.

What concerns me is the way both mobile gaming and home gaming is slowly moving towards a rental model. Companies increasingly aim to push out as many products as they can in a year, all fairly formulaic, and now it seems with “Project 10$” from EA, and something similar from Sony (except twice the price!), that the idea is to turn games into revenue streams rather than outright purchases. Including when they are sold second hand. And all this by exerting more and more control over content in terms of the access to it, and the volume / timespan of that access.

With the “Freemium” App model consumers may be getting something free initially, but it’s little more than an advert / demo they would get for free anyway back in the day with more traditional models.

One individual reviewer put it very well with regards to another “freemium” title: “I’d rather pay $10.00 now and play as much as I want, than pay $1.00 every day to play.” If someone is paying a $1.00 a day to play it’s very simple maths to work out how much they might pay in a month even if they only play every other day. When compared to a one time sticker price of $10.00 (or more often $1.99) in the AppStore this starts to make real sense from a financial perspective for a publisher.

What worries me is that we are looking at a lot of energy and development time being put into a very fast moving market for the next great marketing opportunity, to sell more credits, and hook more people. Rather than crafting quality challenging and enthralling experiences for players which have some shelf life for the developers. But hey, if that’s what the market wants who am I to argue. My concern is that the market knows no better simply because they are not getting offered anything different going forward.

From a small Developers perspective keeping up with this market you are either going to have to do a lot of work to setup a system like this for yourself with server support, and lay out quite a lot of cash on bandwidth and so on to service a successful “Freemium” model. Or you are going to have to sign up with the likes of Ngmoco, OpenFeint or Scoreloop. I don’t see Ngmoco providing their networked multiplayer for free (but I’d love to be proved wrong). I also wonder how long OpenFeint and Scoreloop will continue as they are before they have to charge in some way – despite what they say to the contrary. In any case (as a developer) your future, and your potential fortune is in their hands to some degree if you go down that route. My only advice if you are leaning that way is to pick your partner carefully. Scoreloop and OpenFeint have a more focussed and mature business plan, and are in a different market than Ngmoco, as I’ve already pointed out.

Ngmoco are courting developers right now with possible publishing deals. Which is great. Lots of opportunities. But I am not convinced that this is really the creative freedom I am looking for as an Indie myself.

An alternative to all this is to craft a quality standalone game and charge a fair price for it. But as we all know it’s very hard to get exposure in the App Market these days, especially with “the race to the bottom” in pricing.

Which brings us back full circle, it seems, to the free demo, paid upgrade model – which Apple introduced with StoreKit in OS3.0. And other bigger publishers on other platforms have been doing for a while too. This is something all iPhone developers can do quite simply themselves with StoreKit, and a “Lite” version of their App which can offer in game purchases or full upgrades as part of it’s features. Or as a set of standalone “Lite” and “Premium” titles.

So have we really moved that far forward from then? I don’t think so. I just think we’ve put some lipstick on the same old pig.

Indies still have to work hard. Big venture capital startups and major publishers have the clout and existing IP to get market awareness. We all have the opportunity to produce both free and premium titles and sell them ourselves, or go with a publisher. What everyone really needs to focus on is producing quality products that people want and then getting the best exposure and marketing possible to share their idea with the world.

Disclosure : Where I work we use Scoreloop in our titles, and we too sometimes wonder how they make any money! But overall in our experience they are the most approachable and enthusiastic company for Devs and gamers alike in this industry.

Services Referenced in this article:

Social Networked Gaming Services with SDKS and various levels of Push notifications and in App Purchase.
Scoreloop :
OpenFeint :

Promises Social Networking and possibly global networked play. But SDK pending.
Plus+ :

Push Notifications and in App Purchase system. (Limited free model and premium model)
Urban Airship :

Monetising games with in game advertising.
AdMob :

]]> 2 Gameloft Posts Modern Combat: Sandstorm Trailer Tue, 04 Aug 2009 14:45:56 +0000 Read More]]> Modern Combat: Sandstorm

Gameloft today posted trailer of their highly anticipated FPS for iPhone/iPod touch.

The controls look similar to Hero of Sparta, Brothers in Arms, Assassin’s Creed and other similar games where you move using the virtual analogue stick and perform attack, aim or change weapons by tapping the onscreen controls. 3D graphics look outstanding, which is quite common with any gameloft game


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