In 17 years and 18 seasons, South Park has scathingly satirized dozens of organizations and cultural trends. This season, they’ve turned their attention to Silicon Valley. They’ve skewered everything from Apple’s culture of adoration to Uber’s rise over taxicabs to freemium, or free-to-play games.
In case you missed it, the recent episode “Freemium Isn’t Free,” opens with the four main characters introduction to a free game, based on a popular television series from the South Park universe (like so many actual mobile games). The app’s gameplay is simple: Harvest “Canadian coins” to build virtual hospitals and parks, or pay with real-world money to get more “Canadough.”
The game is revealed to be a product of the Canadian Department of Mobile Gaming, which happens to be in cahoots with the Canadian devil, Beelzaboot. Profits from the game fund massive infrastructure improvement projects in the northern nation.
When one of the main characters gets so addicted, he spends thousands of dollars in microtransactions, the actual Devil gets involved.
To us mobile geeks, what’s particularly fascinating about the episode is the explanation of how freemium games work (explained, of course, by the terribly unsubtle Beelzaboot), and how well the South Park writers hit the nail on the head.
In the “outdated” method of gaming, players pay a lot for a game upfront, and enjoy it for as long as they’d like, improving their character and circumstances through hard work and time spent in the game.
Beelzaboot and the Prince of Canada then reveal their updated RPG loop made for freemium games, infused with microtransactions wherever possible, gleefully shouting, “Money! Money, money, money, money, money!”
There is a grain of truth in the joke: In days past, a small, but highly-engaged group of gamers consistently bought consoles and games, and high-quality games were rewarded by large profits. However, that niche group has been expanding for over a decade, with games becoming more popular to a much wider group of consumers since the turn of the millennium.
Gaming no longer requires an investment in a console or a high-end computer: Ever since Snake, mobile phones are also gaming consoles. As mobile phones expand their reach, mobile gaming expands too. However, while users expect high-quality games on their game-specific consoles, they do not necessarily expect them on their mobile device. Plus, simple, casual games (and gamers) are on the rise.
The South Park animators nailed the issue on the head. It is a well-known fact that successful games are those that effectively balance time and pleasure. Users are allowed to “try before you buy,” but don’t ever have enough time with the game to get their fix, effectively “[keeping] them buying forever.” Candy Crush is the perfect example—users only get to play five games before they have to either quit or pay money, and five lives don’t always last long.
Short play periods fit right into the “distraction” periods in which casual gamers play. As the Canadian Department of Mobile Gaming so succinctly put it, funding freemium games means trying to find out “how to make people spend money on the toilet.”
Relying on microtransactions is fine. It’s a real, acceptable strategy. The problems come when games that are very good at getting players addicted, and converting them into microtransactions intersects with games that are low-quality time-fillers.
As the Devil says, “if something’s addictive because it’s fun, that’s one thing, but this is just blatant Skinner Box manipulation. […] Temptation has to be nuanced.” This is true: Quality, enjoyable games can turn over in-app purchases easily and not suffer. Monument Valley is a highly-acclaimed app that charges $3.99 for the initial download. When they asked their users to pay $1.99 for new levels, a whopping 10 percent were willing to pay—a conversion rate to make many app developers jealous. Users are willing to pay money to get quality content.
South Park is right to criticize the app industry for their questionable promotion methods. Random chance and limited opportunities make games more addictive, and these can have terrible consequences for players who, like young Stan Marsh of South Park, get caught in the web of microtransactions. Even the young get addicted to freemium games, and not all of them have the financial resources of John Lyndon of the Sex Pistols to support their habit.
Freemium app developers can say South Park is being a bit extreme in comparing them to Beelzaboot, and for the most part, freemium games aren’t evil. If games can convince their users to give them money—either up-front or throughout the game—because they enjoy the content and want to support the creators, then they’ve created something good.
Just remember: “When the Prince of Canada agreed to make a freemium game, he apparently signed a deal with the Canadian Devil.”
Sara Kewin is an Account Executive at Appency who has spent too much time on her iPhone. She stands with Sheila Broflovski and blames Canada.
The web series, eBook, audiobook, and television documentary adds an interactive 3D graphic novel app to their fact-based virtual reality project.
Cologne, Germany – Bastei Entertainment is proud to unveil the The Butterfly Attack, an interactive graphic novel app available today for iOS and Android users. Created by award-winning British novelist and screenplay writer M. Sean Coleman, The Butterfly Attack graphic novel app is just one component of the Netwars Project, a cross-platform, fact-based, multimedia experience that uses fictional characters to explore the very real threat of digital warfare in today’s technologically driven society.
The Butterfly Attack graphic novel app is the first in a three part series of apps that coincide with a web series, television documentary, and a collection of eBook and audiobooks that make up the Netwars Project. Each part of the project is standalone while still complimentary to the larger story of Netwars.
In The Butterfly Attack, Coleman mergestrue facts with actual events to create a captivating and visually stunning fictional story about a team of hackers hired to conduct a mock cyberwar exercise that goes terribly wrong. Parallax technology enables the reader to become part of the story, with interactive motion sensors, 3D animations, video, and gaming elements fully integrated into the app.
“When I started out with this idea, I struggled with how to bring the amazing stories, threats and dangers posed by malicious hackers to the screen,” said Coleman. “The graphic novel format fell perfectly between the written and the visual, allowing me to tell a story that could incorporate technical information with interactive clues, and enable the audience to go deep inside the minds and machines of the main characters.”
The Butterfly Attack was originally created in English, and will be published simultaneously in German, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.
Additional features of The Butterfly Attack graphic novel app include:
– Unique animations and sound effects
– Intuitive controls
– Revolutionary 3D parallax technology with motion sensors for unlocking hidden artifacts
Episode One of The Butterfly Attack is available now for $2.99 on the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, Amazon App Store, and Samsung App Marketplace. Episodes Two and Three of The Butterfly Attack are scheduled to be released later this summer.
For more information on The Butterfly Attack, the Netwars web series, television documentary, and selection of eBook and audiobooks, visit www.netwars-project.com, like Netwars on Facebook, and follow @NetwarsProject on Twitter.
About Bastei Entertainment
Founded in 1953 and based in Cologne, Bastei Lübbe is one of Germany’s leading trade publishers. Home of bestselling authors David Baldacci, Dan Brown, Jeff Kinney, Ken Follett, Lesley Pearse and many more, it publishes more than 700 titles a year.
In June 2010, Bastei Lübbe started its own digital department: Bastei Entertainment, with the aim of encouraging new innovative product development and the creation of a global digital entertainment experience which covers everything from eBooks and audiobooks to apps and digitally enhanced products. With an in-house development team, unique multimedia content is continuously created with recent examples including multiple-language Vatican thriller, Apocalypsis which has been downloaded as an app more than 1,000,000 times in China alone. http://www.luebbe.de/
Bastei Entertainment brings Laura’s Journey to the Stars to iOS and Android.
Cologne, Germany, May 6, 2014 – Bastei Entertainment brings a new story from Klaus Baumgart’s bestselling “Laura’s Star” picture book series to the mobile market with the interactive children’s storybook app, Laura’s Journey to the Stars, now available for iOS and Android devices.
Recommended for children age’s two to five, Laura’s Journey to the Stars tells the story of Laura and her little brother Tommy as they blast off into a world of imagination in search of a star! This sweet story of love and friendships is brought to life with easy-to-follow narration (available in English, Mandarin and German), interactive animations, fun sound effects, and casual mini games including ‘Match the Sock’ and ‘Whack an Alien.’
With over 7.5 million books in the “Laura’s Star” series sold worldwide, Laura’s Journey to the Stars is the fourth book in the “Laura’s Star” series to enter the app market.
“We developed the idea for the Laura’s Journey to the Stars app in collaboration with the author and illustrator Klaus Baumgart,” says Sabrina Glodde, project manager for Bastei Entertainment. “We realized if we wanted the story to reach a larger audience, we needed to use all media channels to do so. The development team was inspired by movies, television and games. And of course, by watching their own children play with apps and seeing what features they enjoyed most.”
Features of Laura’s Journey to the Stars includes:
For additional information on Laura’s Journey to the Stars, including the press kit and screen shots visit:https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7l8ruq1xbei158u/ZD32VTYdFj.
About Bastei Entertainment:
Founded in 1953 and based in Cologne, Bastei Lübbe is one of Germany’s leading trade publishers. Home of bestselling authors David Baldacci, Dan Brown, Jeff Kinney, Ken Follett, Lesley Pearse and many more; it publishes more than 700 titles a year. In June 2010, Bastei Lübbe started its own digital department: Bastei Entertainment with the aim of encouraging new innovative product development and the creation of a global digital entertainment experience which covers everything from eBooks to apps and digitally enhanced products. With an in-house development team, unique multimedia content is continuously created with recent examples including Cotton FBI, which reinvents the hugely popular Jerry Cotton novels, first published in 1954, with over one billion copies sold in Germany alone. http://www.luebbe.de/
Mobile startup Kamino reinvents the walking tour with user-generated hikes in cities around the world.
New York City, NY, May 5, 2014 — Don’t just live in your city — explore it! The iOS mobile startup Kamino is redefining how to become an urban explorer in a battle to be named the best startup at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014. Developed by co-founders Louis P. Huynh and Roger Obando, Kamino has been recognized across the globe for inspiring locals and tourists to get out of their cars and embark on urban adventures on foot.
Kamino, recently named “Best of Show” at the 2014 Macworld/iWorld conference in San Francisco, makes it easy for users to enjoy an authentic city experience by simply following (or creating) a walkable playlist, or “urban hike”. Each hike features recommendations from travel experts, user-generated content from other Kamino users, photos, and an easy-to-follow GPS enabled map, for an inside look at the special places that make a city unique. Kamino is heavily integrated with social media as well, and in their latest update, provides users with the functionality to connect to the Kamino community via email or Facebook.
“Exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt and participating in Startup Alley has been a Kamino goal since day one,” says Louis P. Huynh, Kamino Co-Founder and President. “Seeing that goal met is a huge milestone for our team and we are excited for the opportunity to share Kamino’s mission with Disrupt attendees.”
Features of Kamino include:
Kamino is available now for free on the iTunes App Store. For more information visit http://www.GoKamino.com, meet the co-founders in the Startup Alley, and join them on Facebook and Twitter at @KaminoLabs.
Kamino Labs, a travel and urban exploration planning company, was developed to change the way people interact with cities through the use of mobile technology. Established by an eclectic group of travel enthusiasts with an unyielding passion for exploring and discovering cites, the company is founded on the belief of experiencing cities in an authentic way. With the launch of their first mobile application, Kamino reinvents the walking tour as the ultimate social discovery engine for urban explorers. For more information about Kamino Labs please visit http://www.GoKamino.com, or join them on Facebook and Twitter at @KaminoLabs.
ABOUT TECHCRUNCH DISRUPT:
TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014 is TechCrunch’s fifth annual conference in New York City. The format combines top thought-leader discussions with new product and company launches. Morning executive discussions debate technology-driven disruptions in many industries, while the afternoons are reserved for the Startup Battlefield, where some 30 new companies will launch for the first time onstage, selected to present from numerous applications received from around the world. The winning company will receive a $50,000 grand prize and the Disrupt Cup at the conclusion of the conference. The conference is May 5-7, 2014 at the Manhattan Center, 311 West 34th Street (at 8th Ave.) Manhattan.
Whether fluent or just beginning to learn the language, Livres Audio is an essential audio companion for iPhone users of all ages.
February 13, 2013 – Portland, Oregon – Learning French is easier and more convenient than ever with the new Livres Audio French audiobook app from Inkstone Mobile. iPhone users can enjoy access to over 1,180 free French audiobooks, including adaptations of classic novels, short stories and poems.
Learn the proper pronunciation and intonation of the French language from native speakers while doing everyday activities and household chores. Speed up or slow down the audio playback to better enhance study and increase comprehension.
“When learning to speak French, it is typically difficult to keep up with a native speaker. We developed Livres Audio with French students in mind,” says Patrick Thompson, founder of Inkstone Mobile. “We have fine-tuned the playback feature to adjust the speed of speech without altering the pitch. For instance, beginners can slow down a reading to better navigate the proper pronunciation, while a more advanced speaker can speed it up for a greater challenge.”
Livres Audio offers the same features as other popular Inkstone Mobile apps, including a sleep timer for listening before bed and high quality audio playback. The app also features Inkstone’s signature user interface with easy navigation and a sleek audioplayer that allows you to download books over wi-fi and play them back anywhere.
Download Livres Audio today and enjoy:
*A sophisticated player with simple controls to skip forward and back, bookmark, or set sleep timers.
*Controls to speed up or slow down the playback in 40 increments without altering pitch.
*Easy search functions to discover the most-read books from a variety of well-known authors.
*Leave bookmarks and notes to come back to your favorite parts of the selection, or to review pronunciation of a particularly tricky section.
*Download in advance and listen anywhere. No network connection necessary.
Livres Audio is available now for $1.99 in the iTunes App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id572367360?mt=8
About Inkstone Mobile:
Based in Portland, Oregon, Inkstone Mobile is an independent software development company founded by Patrick Thompson. Combining a strong blend of design and development skills, Inkstone Mobile’s passion is to craft elegant, easy-to-use applications for mobile devices.
Create completely original songs in just seconds by simply singing into your iPhone, share with friends and earn virtual badges and royalties to unlock exclusive bonus features
Melbourne, Australia, January 14, 2013 — Australian developer DreamWalk Interactive announced today that Jam, a new song-creation app for the iPhone, is now available for download. Perfect for anyone who dreams of becoming a star but might not have the vocal ability, Jam allows users to create original songs that can then be shared with friends. Featuring unlockable musical style packs, award badges and streamlined social sharing tools, Jam can now be downloaded for free at the iTunes App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/jam-for-iphone/id580366563
“Jam enables absolutely anyone to create original music, regardless of their musical abilities or experience, and best of all it only takes a few seconds!” says Joe Russell, General Manager of DreamWalk Interactive.
Using Jam is simple. First, choose a musical style from a variety of style packs ranging from pop-rock and hip-hop to punk rock, 80’s dance music and more. Then sing, talk, or rap into the device. Jam will automatically detect and adjust the pitch, key and song structure to create a completely unique song – no two tracks are ever the same!
Users can publish their songs to in-app Jam charts and invite their friends to listen via Facebook and Twitter. Earn badges and royalties for each published track to unlock additional style packs, grow a following of fans and even get signed to one of four Jam record labels.
Jam features include:
About DreamWalk Interactive:
DreamWalk is a division of Wellcom Group Limited. It was founded by brothers, Joe and Sam Russell in 2008 with the development the world’s first commercial GPS treasure hunting platform, also named DreamWalk. The DreamWalk treasure hunt platform and variations thereof have since been used by dozens of brands and thousands of users in Australia and the US. http://www.dreamwalk.com.au/
Portland, Oregon – Inkstone Mobile, maker of the top-selling speed reading and ebook reader apps, QuickReader, MegaReader, and eBook Search, is expanding their portfolio with the release of a new high quality audiobook app, Audiobooks HQ. Featuring over 5,300 free classic audiobooks, the Audiobooks HQ app gives users unlimited access to more audiobooks than any other app of its kind.
Designed with a stylish user interface and advanced navigation, Audiobooks HQ enables users to easily browse though thousands of their favorite classic audiobooks, download them, and play them back at anytime – no Wi-Fi connection necessary. Audiobooks HQ adjusts to the personal preferences of the user with additional capability to modify the playback speed in 40 steps from .5X to 2.5X without altering the pitch, leave bookmarks, set sleep timers, and skip forward and back through chapters as needed.
Perhaps, the most unique feature of the app, however, is its high quality audio. Audiobooks HQ is the only app that provides access to high quality recordings of its entire catalog.
“Our goal was to give people an easy way to find the best quality free audiobooks available, “says Inkstone Mobile’s founder Patrick Thompson. “Audiobooks HQ does so with its advanced catalog navigation filters, curated recommendations, playback features, and high bitrate downloads to give users the best listening experience available.”
Additional features of Audiobooks HQ include:
* Easy search functions. Find books by most downloaded, top rated, genres, tags, solo read books, language, recent, related books, and Inkstone’s top recommendations
* Leave a note for yourself to come back to your favorite parts of the book with the bookmarks feature
* Exclusive radio theatre audiobooks, originally aired on NPR Playhouse, beautifully performed by Globe Radio Repertory
* Access downloaded audiobooks anytime, anywhere – no network connection needed
* iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
* Requires iOS 5.0 or later
* 15.3 MB
Pricing and Availability:
Audiobooks HQ by Inkstone Mobile 1.0.1 is $1.99 USD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Books category.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Inkstone Mobile is an independent software development company founded by Patrick Thompson. Combining a strong blend of design and development skills, Inkstone Mobile’s passion is to craft elegant, easy-to-use applications for mobile devices. Copyright (C) 2012 Inkstone Mobile. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Marseille, France – The 9th International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA) opens for entries today! Developers and studios across the world are invited to submit their games for these prestigious awards. Since 2004, the IMGA has become the most prestigious international competition for mobile games. For the past 8 years, the competition awarded the most talented game developers for the most innovative mobile games, whether they are made for iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Bada, HTML5 or feature phones; whether they are made by a top 10 developer or a start-up studio; whether the developers came from Spain or Singapore, Malaysia or Mexico, Brazil or Belgium.
This year marks a big step for the 9th IMGA as a few significant changes are made to enhance the quality of the entries:
* No categories will be defined for the entries; participants will instead specify their own category
* The Judges’ Honorable Mention will replace the Operator’s Choice Award
* 6 additional prizes will be determined by the jury
* The denomination of these prizes will be announced at the same time as the nominations on January 24, 2013
* Platinum-level sponsor Pro Sieben Sat 1 will award one million Euro in media exposure to the winners
Since 2004, the IMGA Awards Ceremony has been held at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. However, the exact location of the 9th IMGA has not been confirmed yet.
The IMGA Summit
Traditionally, the Awards are held in conjunction with the one day IMGA Summit consisting of a keynote, panels of leading experts in mobile games and pitching sessions. The Summit and Awards are traditionally attended by leaders in the mobile gaming industry as well as top international developers and studios.
The 9th IMGA Timeline
* October 4, 2012 – Call for entries
* January 14, 2013 – Entries closed
* January 25, 2013 – Nominees announced
* February 28, 2013 – Awards Ceremony, winners announced (TBC)
As of today, developers can submit their game online at www.imgawards.com and compete in an international arena with top studios and individual developers from all over the world. Games must have been published after January 1, 2012, or currently be in development.
Since 2004, the IMGA has become the most prestigious international competition for mobile games. Copyright (C) 2012 International Mobile Gaming Awards. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Montreal, Canada – Nickelodeon and Budge Studios continue to create endless educational and entertainment experiences for preschoolers by adding Team Umizoomi to the portfolio of their ever-growing storybook app series for iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch. Joining a line of successful apps like Dora’s Ballet Adventure and Dora’s Christmas Carol – Team Umizoomi Carnival introduces new characters and an engaging story that will bring added entertainment to the series.
Designed for preschoolers, the educational app invites kids to read along with their favorite Team Umizoomi characters, Milli, Geo and Bot, as they search through various locations at the carnival to help find their friend Jake’s lost stuffed animal, Bunny. Players can follow along with the story as text is highlighted while being read aloud, or narrate the story themselves.
Team Umizoomi Carnival features 14 story pages with interactive moments on each page, where tasks are changed every time the story is read. Additionally, users will have access to two bonus activities – Sticker Picture Game, inviting players to create their own carnival sticker scene by adding backgrounds from the story and placing tappable animated stickers anywhere on the page.; and Balloon Pop Carnival Game, which will help users strengthen key developmental skills by practicing color and shape recognition, grouping and patterns.
The curriculum in this app includes:
* Visual discrimination
* Positional vocabulary (over, under, around, through)
* Pattern recognition
“We’re thrilled to see kids getting excited about math and reading. Team Umizoomi makes learning fun, and this storybook app is packed with so many activities that kids won’t be able to put it down,” says Michael Elman, Creative Director at Budge Studios
With over 100 fun animations throughout the story, look for characters and objects that have a special glow to interact with them and find clues or hints to complete the task on each page as kids help Team Umizoomi find Bunny. Using actual character voices and original music, players will be entertained from start to finish time and time again.
Nickelodeon, now in its 33rd year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, online, recreation, books and feature films. Nickelodeon’s U.S. television network is seen in more than 100 million households and has been the number-one-rated basic cable network for 17 consecutive years.
Pricing and Availability:
Team Umizoomi Carnival 1.0 is available for $1.99 (iPhone, iPod touch) and $3.99 (iPad) from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Budge Studios leads the apps for kids industry in innovation and creativity with top tier, category-defining games, books and toys. The company is changing the way kids play and learn by creating more robust and engaging experiences. Played by millions of children worldwide, Budge products are amongst the most acclaimed and popular apps. Copyright (C) 2010 Budge Studios. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom Inc.
Lotto Fever Grips Nation: Hatchi Grips App World
A Half-Billion New Features (OK, Maybe Not That Many) For Your Little Monster
(London, England) – Driven by its extreme popularity, the Hatchi universe just exploded, with new features, platforms and an exciting new fan art contest. The first addition you will notice is the Hatchi store, a place where you can buy coins to accelerate your Hatchi’s evolution, fill its stats, change its gender, and much, much more.
The new mini-games are proving to be a huge hit with Hatchi owners. You can now play Hatchi Squares and Hatchi Catchi, just to name a few.
Hatchi is now also available on the iPad! You can enjoy all the great things you love about your virtual pet on the larger format screen.
What’s sure to be a hit with Hatchi’s huge on-line following is the fan art competition! You can visit the Hatchi Facebook page to learn more and to download the template you will need to create your very own monster. The winning design will be incorporated into the app!
All of these additions are on top of what is already receiving tremendous reviews… and creating quite the community. The Hatchi reboot that launched earlier this year, brought everything you love about virtual pets right to your iPhone. Your Hatchi monster will go through several stages of growth (if you are a nurturing parent!), and will develop differently depending on the quality of care the player provides. A successfully raised Hatchi monster will be smarter, happier and require less attention.
Notifications remind pet owners when their little monsters need attention. You can also share Hatchi experience through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Portable Pixels Ltd is a privately owned iPhone, iPad and Android development agency based in London with clients including Wallpaper* magazine, Audi, Alfa Romeo and Imperial College London. We believe in high production values and creating apps with charm. All development is done in house at our Camden Lock offices.
As well as the quality of our apps being recognized by Apple and displayed on in store iPads, our Wellnote app was recently highlighted in a speech by UK Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley.