Android users and an unwillingness to pay for great games

Half the time, mobile is a disaster for gaming. There’s so much entitlement, and freemium fare has only intensified the idea from certain quarters that all games should be free. When they aren’t, such people tend to get very annoyed; and this problem is especially bad on Android.

I’m asked why premium games often rock up first on iOS and in some cases many months (or years) show up on Android, like an afterthought. In reality, games creators have put in plenty of thought. Mostly, said thought is whether porting their game to Android is worth the hassle, given the state of the market.

A recent case study of this occurred when a games creator whose work I’m fond of announced one of his older iOS games was coming to Android. Said game remains objectively excellent — a highly polished premium effort that is like a classic arcade title finely tuned for mobile play. Short of you being a gaming genius, it’ll take you a good few hours to get to the end of the game; and because it’s arcade fare, there’s plenty of replay value.

When the game was first announced as coming to Android, people were very excited. This games creator has a strong and loyal following. But he’s noted in the past — publicly — that free to paid conversions for his other titles could be better. In part, I put this down to a certain subtlety in his pointing people towards the paid option — this creator has a tendency towards being too generous. Even so, some reckon he’s not generous enough: I’ve seen plenty of gripes about in-game ads, in his flagship title that is otherwise free, and moans that updates from a tiny one-man indie were taking months to materialise.

With this latest title, things hit a nadir. On announcing the game would be premium, people kicked off. “Why can’t it be free?” they complained. And today, I’m told that a whopping 50% of Android users are requesting refunds on the title. Now, perhaps by some staggering coincidence, this game is just not their thing. More likely, they’re taking advantage of Google Play’s two-hour refund window, burning through whatever they can in that time, and then getting a fiver back into their pockets.

Ultimately, this event merely highlights why a lot of game developers no longer bother with Android at all. 50% refunds probably sounds extreme, but I’ve heard of similar figures from other games creators who’ve released objectively good games. In short: Android gamers as a group too often just aren’t willing to pay. (iPhone/iPad users aren’t yet quite at the same level, although things on Apple’s platform aren’t exactly rosy for creators, judging by what I hear from various quarters.)

Perhaps this is the final nail in the coffin — yet more confirmation of sorts that freemium killed mobile games. That notion everything should be free extends far beyond gaming, and is a major problem from creative indies to publishers alike. I suspect what many people forget in their entitlement is that there are creative people at the other end of these games — and their livelihoods. So, again, if you claim to love something, support it — it really is that simple. Otherwise, whatever praise you’re offering is nothing more than hot air.

April 13, 2020. Read more in: Apps, Opinions, Technology

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Adobe Photoshop for iPad’s problems are down to hype, value, and not managing expectations

Bloomberg has run the piece Adobe Exec Defends Photoshop for iPad After App Falls Flat, quoting Adobe’s Scott Belsky about the launch. In a series of tweets, Belsky said:

a real-time v1 lesson: you’ve gotta ship an MVP to start the journey, but it will be painful at first. by definition, it won’t please everyone (and if it’s a reimagination of a 30yr old popular/global product, will displease many)

if you try to make everybody happy w/ a v1, you’ll either never ship or make nobody happy. such feats require customer feedback to truly exceed expectations. you must ship and get fellow passionate travelers on board.

He’s right, but the problem is that expectations weren’t managed. Instead, we got a hype train, and suggestions we would get full-fat Photoshop; instead, v1 is a stripped-down release. Belskey says the team decided to “nail perfect PSD support” rather than “just port 30 yrs of stuff (and baggage) on day 1”, which is sensible, except some of that baggage includes taken-for-granted features like layer effects.

Photoshop on iPad also represents a U-turn for Adobe, who’d previously argued people didn’t want this kind of pro-level software on iPad. It now feels like that argument was made because Photoshop didn’t exist. I can’t help wondering how long this app has been in development. Was it around in some form for years, or is it a reaction to Affinity Photo showing that, yes, pro-level creatives really do want this kind of app on iPad?

Affinity Photo itself is another piece of the puzzle, in the sense of the value proposition. If you already pay for Creative Cloud, Photoshop for iPad doesn’t require further outlay. But if you don’t, it’s a tenner a month. By contrast, twice that cost nets you Affinity Photo – with its richer and mature feature-set – forever. (In fact, at the time of writing, Affinity Photo is on sale, in an epic piece of trolling, for the same price as a single month of Photoshop for iPad.)

Despite its flaws, I’m glad Adobe released Photoshop for iPad. It’s something that needed to happen, and further cements the importance of Apple’s device. But it doesn’t surprise me that the response to what we got has been a mixture of anger and disappointment. Adobe must now iterate very quickly, and bring Photoshop towards feature-parity with the desktop version. After all, that’s another thing that Affinity Photo enjoys – the iPad version is not a ‘lesser’ product.

November 8, 2019. Read more in: Apple, Apps, News, Opinions, Technology

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What’s more important in UI: what you tap or what you see?

Daring Fireball recently linked to Maps Plus. The app uses Google Maps data but filters it through an Apple-style interface. John Gruber says:

It’s close to what you’d get if Google Maps were still providing the data for Apple Maps.

And this is true. It even has Street View. It doesn’t, though, have turn-by-turn, and there is, to me, a worse problem: the roads are the wrong colour. This is because when Google shifted its system to a faster vector-based approach, it dispensed with varying road colours individual nations used, preferring US ones worldwide. Instead of blue motorways, green A roads and yellow B roads, UK motorways became orange, A roads were coloured yellow, and B roads were white, not differentiated from smaller roads. Motorways and A roads since received correctly coloured markers, but that only helps when one is in the viewing area. Otherwise, at a glance, the M3 diagonally crossing the screen looks at a glance like an A road.

Apple Maps got this right in iOS 7b4. This means in the UK, you can more easily spot the roads you need, just by what colour they are. By contrast, Maps Plus loses this, through working with Google’s mapping system. So you end up with a user interface that’s more suited to iOS, but content where its ‘user interface’ is far worse. Complicating matters further, Google remains far superior to Apple when it comes to points of interest and with Street View versus the oddball Flyover. So either Apple needs to get way better with POI or Google needs to get over itself and start recognising everywhere isn’t the USA. Usually, I’d suggest there’d be no chance of Apple winning such a race, but Google doesn’t seem to want to budge on this one.

 

 

June 6, 2016. Read more in: Apps, Design

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App Store review guidelines

In light of Apple’s recent about-face on Liyla and the Shadows of War, it’s interesting to look at Apple’s App Store review guidelines. One of the statements is:

If your App is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.

The wording here is pure Jobs, but the thing that gets me is this statement is flat-out wrong. Most developers don’t have the contacts or a subject that results in a load of press. Generally, though, those who have ‘run to the press’ have found bizarre decisions Apple made about an app rapidly overturned. Perhaps the ‘and trash us’ bit is key. But certainly running to the press can help.

It’s also interesting looking at Apple’s other so-called ‘broader themes’:

We have lots of kids downloading lots of Apps. Parental controls work great to protect kids, but you have to do your part too. So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.

This, I think, governs an awful lot of what Apple deems acceptable regarding app and game content, but the App Store has age gating. On that basis, I still find the following baffling:

We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App.

Clearly, Apple isn’t really budging much on this, but it makes no sense to consider interactive content somehow ‘lesser’ than books or music when it comes to self expression. I recall during my fine arts degree that it was innovative for people to be creating interactive art, but that was during the 1990s. Now, apps and games are just another medium for working within. Treating them with kid gloves helps no-one.

We have over a million Apps in the App Store. If your App doesn’t do something useful, unique or provide some form of lasting entertainment, or if your app is plain creepy, it may not be accepted.

I actually like this one’s ‘plain creepy’ remark, although as ever with Apple, it’s almost like the vague language that politicians use, meaning you can apply all sorts of content to that rule if you want to kick out an app. As for ‘useful, unique or provide some form of lasting entertainment’, plenty of apps in the store arguably fail that test.

If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.

This is the other rule that really gets me. Amateur hour is everywhere on the App Store. There are thousands of truly terrible apps and games that are devoid of quality. I suppose it’s still helpful for Apple to argue people should aim higher, but it strikes me this rule has never been seriously adhered to.

We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.

“We won’t tell you what the rules are and can change them whenever we see fit.” It’s this kind of thing that is slowly putting off developers from creating innovative content for iOS. And times are changing.

I recall chatting to a lot of game devs at an event five or six years ago, and without exception they were thrilled about the platform. As they saw it, Apple was a major step up from existing players, who too often made onerous demands on developers. There was a kind of hands-off freedom in developing for iOS. But goodwill continues to be chipped away as developers almost randomly find apps and games blocked for no obvious reason. (And then, worse, you see other apps of the same kind approved, and the original sometimes making its way to the store many months later, far too late to make an impact or any money.)

But hey, at least Apple points out your app could trigger a bout of craziness:

This is a living document, and new Apps presenting new questions may result in new rules at any time. Perhaps your App will trigger this.

‘Boom’.

 

May 23, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Apps, Opinions, Technology

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App Store search is currently broken

Developer Travis Ryan just noted to me on Twitter that App Store search is broken. Presumably, this is a temporary glitch, but it’s frustrating for developers. In Ryan’s case, a search for Dashy Crashy doesn’t bring up his excellent game of the same name. All you get is Dashy Crashy Bird, a one-thumb sort-of Flappy Bird clone.

Once Ryan reminded me, I realised that I’ve seen this problem crop up quite a bit recently, although I’d never really thought much of it. When writing round-ups, I’d not find the odd app by searching the App Store, and would then check online to see if it still existed. I’d end up on iTunes Preview, click View in iTunes, and then go straight to the app’s page to install it.

All this makes me think is that, once again, the App Store needs a serious kicking. But also Apple needs to do a bit more stealing. I might grumble about Android and that Google Play is mostly full of garbage, but at least when I find something I want to install on my Android devices, I can do so from the web. That Apple doesn’t yet allow me to install an app or game from Safari (or, for that matter, an iPad app from an iPhone) is ludicrous. It’s not so much a walled garden at that point as walled stupid.


Developer Gary Riches says this screw-up has led to daily sales falling by 66 per cent, and adds that you “literally cannot find my app, even by keyword“.


Update: it’s fixed now. Apple presumably glared at the server hamster. WORK HARDER, SERVER HAMSTER. OUR BOTTOM LINE HAS FALLEN. NO HAMSTER FOOD FOR YOU TODAY.

May 5, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Apps, Opinions, Technology

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