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In the “outdated” method of gaming, players pay a lot for a game upfront, and enjoy it for as long as they’d like, improving their character and circumstances through hard work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.
Cologne, Germany, November 12, 2014 — Discover the magic of bombardier beetles in Little Luna – Big Talent, Bastei Entertainment’s newest addition to their portfolio of mobile applications. Designed for children ages 4 to 8, this delightful interactive story teaches children about the importance of embracing their own individuality.
The story of Little Luna begins with a lesson on a bombardier beetle’s special talent – tooting! While typically bombardier beetles use tooting as a defense mechanism in the wild, for Luna and her family it is a way to express themselves. Children will enjoy following along with Luna as she introduces each of her family members and the unique ways in which they utilize their talents.
Through fun mini games like practicing toot target-shooting with her dad, doing yoga with her mom, and matching musical melodies with her brothers, the story of Little Luna and her family encourages children to pursue their own special talents even if it sets them apart from others. Additionally, the app’s interactive activities promote concentration, musical expression, and coordination.
“Little Luna was designed not only to teach children about bombardier beetles, but also to allow children to embrace and cherish the qualities that make them unique,” says Sabrina Glodde, project manager for Bastei Entertainment. “With the help of our entire team, we were able to make an engaging app to celebrate children for the individuals they are.”
Features of Little Luna – Big Talent include:
Little Luna – Big Talent is available for $2.99 in the iTunes App Store.
Video trailer: http://youtu.be/KRQrU_nCPqU
About Bastei Entertainment:
Founded in 2010, Bastei Entertainment is the digital department of parent company Bastei Lübbe AG, a leading German trade publisher home to famed authors David Baldacci, Dan Brown, Jeff Kinney, Ken Follett, Lesley Pearse and many more. Dedicated to the development of new innovative products and global digital entertainment, Bastei Entertainment’s in-house development team continuously creates unique multi-media content which translates the written world into digital works such as eBooks, mobile applications and other digitally enhanced products.
For additional information about Bastei Entertainment, please visit the company website at http://www.basteientertainment.com/.
Land tricks, collect power-ups and avoid a wipe out in this addictive, turbo charged surf adventure.
Melbourne, Australia – Gamers, surfers, and retro arcade junkies alike are invited to ride the virtual waves of Surfy, an all-new endless-runner from the Australian app development studio DreamWalk Interactive. Surfy is DreamWalk Interactive’s latest independent mobile game following the very successful launch of their top-rated music app Jam for iPhone.
With simple two-finger controls Surfy is a fast paced and strongly addictive ride reminiscent of 8bit classics such as California Games. The ride begins when players are dropped into a wave by helicopter. Players must then stay ahead of the break while navigating exotic locations, performing tricks and collecting power-ups to compete for a spot on the leaderboard.
From surviving violent tropical thunderstorms to performing radical aerial stunts into outer space, surfers rack up points and coins when achievements are unlocked and tricks are landed. Coins are redeemable in the ‘Surf Shop’ for upgraded boards and power-ups for invincibility, gravity-defying jumps, power boosts and more. Click here to view the trailer for Surfy.
“We wanted to put a modern twist on a classic genre,” says Sam Russell, head of development at DreamWalk. “We hope gamers find Surfy as addictive and fun as the games that inspired us to make it.”
Features of Surfy include:
Surfy is available now on the iTunes App Store for free.
About DreamWalk Interactive:
DreamWalk is a boutique app studio based in Melbourne, Australia. It was founded by brothers, Joe and Sam Russell in 2008 with the development the world’s first commercial GPS treasure-hunting app, also called DreamWalk. DreamWalk’s most recent game, Jam for iPhone, reached #1 on the App Store music app charts in 26 countries, was featured in dozens of publications and showcased at SXSW 2013.http://www.dreamwalk.com.au/
We all know that Apple has its favorite phrases and uses them pretty heavily during its presentations. In anticipation of the special announcement coming up tomorrow, we came up with some bingo cards and shared them with our friends at the venerable news site Cult of Mac, who published them so they’re shareable with anyone.
Let us know in the comments what you’re most excited about from this announcement.
August 12, 2014, Sacramento, CA – Today, music fans everywhere can step into the shoes of their favorite artist and get an inside look at what it really takes to make it as a professional performer. TourStar, conceptualized by entertainment executive Brandon Pankey of Music Players Group and brought to life with the help of Eddie Meehan of GroundCtrl, is the first iOS sim game of its kind to bring tour life and the perks and challenges that come with it to the mobile screen.
Like any new artist just starting out, first-time players of TourStar are faced with a number of decisions like; What should their look be? Should they sign with a label or stay independent? Should they go on tour right away or record an album? Who should they trust for advice?; and much more.
As the game progresses players learn that just like in real life, every decision they make has an impact on their career in some way.
As players make their way through levels of the game, touring the country, recording albums and building their in-game fame, they become eligible to win real world prize packages including concert tickets and VIP meet-and-greets with their favorite artists!
“TourStar is life in the music industry,” states Brandon Pankey. “The game is a fun way to peek into the life of a performer as they try to make it to superstardom. And the fact that gamers get to actually win real prizes like tickets and passes to their favorite artists’ shows is pretty cool too.”
Additional Features of TourStar include:
– Design a personalized 3D avatar to match players’ music style and fashion preferences.
– Virtually tour the country, gaining experience and building a fanbase.
– Record albums and release them to boost fame.
– Improve musicianship with mini-games that keep players’ instruments in tune and shows in high-gear.
– Build a virtual band, and get advice from managers, agents and record labels.
Conceptualized by entertainment executive Brandon Pankey of Music Players Group and brought to life with the help of Eddie Meehan of GroundCtrl, a Sacramento, California-based artist engagement company and AtomicChimp, a leading mobile development shop in Redmond, Wash. Additional music for the game was produced by Roc Nation producer Jahlil Beats and Dilemma. For more information, visit www.tourstarapp.com.
There’s no denying how much we love apps, but we especially love apps for kids that are not only fun, but also educational. Apps claim to make learning fun, develop important skills, and give kids a head start on learning, but are they actually helpful to your child’s learning? In short — yes! A recent study commissioned by developer Motion Math suggests that significant learning can occur with the right apps. They can improve test scores as well as change a child’s attitude toward a subject. According to researcher Dr. Kate Highfield, quality apps can enhance learning incredibly, specifically when dealing with practicing specific skills or encouraging the child to create their own ideas and communicate in new ways. Quality apps can be like digital blank piece of paper, leaving room for the child to make or do anything with them. When used correctly and in combination with traditional mediums like books, apps do have a place in your little ones growth and development and are much more than a simple distraction device. Check out a few quality apps we love listed below.
1. Fun with Colors
Recommended for kids 2 to 5
$2.99, no in-app purchases
We love the adorable animations and interactions this app offers to its young users. It’s refreshing to see a new approach to experiencing the world of colors. What truly makes this app special is it’s teaching through storytelling that’s easy to follow. This app encourages creativity by allowing the user to create their own images, and this is what makes it such a quality app. Rather than limiting what a child can do on the app, it gives them the freedom to create their very own masterpieces. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here, or for Android here.
2. Freefall Spelling
Recommended for kids 4 and up
$1.99, no in-app purchases
We enjoy the many different options the user can choose from when practicing their spelling, and it’s definitely encouraging to see that Freefall Spelling won a Parents’ Choice Award. What makes this app amazing is the option to enter your child’s own spelling list from school. We love when our little ones stay motivated, so what better way than by the apps use of the reward system. For spelling a correct word, a fish is rewarded for their virtual tank. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here.
3. Marble Math Junior
Recommended for kids 6 to 8
$2.99, no in-app purchases
We applaud this app for challenging its little users to solve math problems and recognize numbers in a fun way! Their little hands will be able to guide their marble through fun mazes that will make learning enjoyable. Being based on the Common Core Curriculum makes this app worth checking out. Marble Math Junior has been widely recognized, winning the 2013 Parents’ Choice Award and Common Sense Media 2013 ON for Learning Award. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here.
4. BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week
Recommended for kids 6 to 8
Free, no in-app purchases
We love that this great app gives kids lots to think about —some of its video content may be challenging, but it’s definitely interesting and explained in a manner your youngsters will understand. They’ll learn something new each week with a different animated video. You can even test what they’ve seen though related quizzes and educational activities. The gentle, humorous, and relatable characters serve as guides through each topic, empowering your child to form their own ideas. Plus, the app has no in-app purchases, which protects your own wallet while your kids use the app. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here, or for Android here.
5. Britannica Kids: U.S. Presidents
Recommended for kids 6 and up
$1.99, no in-app purchases
We appreciate how this app makes it easy for kids to learn about America’s history, with concise information and fun facts provided for each president. It makes learning about each president much more interesting and entertaining. It truly brings the Oval Office into your living room and makes it enjoyable for not just your child, but also the whole family to learn something new about their favorite president, or quiz each other. Download the app for iPhone and iPad here.
Jessica Egan is a music, social media, and Disneyland enthusiast who currently attends UC Davis and looks forward to a career in either public relations and marketing.
Florida based Winning Blimp today announces Mosaique 1.1 for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices. Mosaique is a visually elegant puzzle game designed as the perfect pastime for long lines or lunch breaks. The game allows players to participate in the pastime of Vraxian colonial engineers and destroy small, localized gravitational pockets of sand. Users can develop their own strategy by swapping, lining up, and bursting the tiles in the playing field.
Temple Terrace, Florida – Winning Blimp is proud to announce today the release of their mobile game, Mosaique. Mosaique is a visually elegant puzzle game designed as the perfect pastime for long lines or lunch breaks. The game allows players to participate in the pastime of Vraxian colonial engineers and destroy small, localized gravitational pockets of sand. Users can develop their own strategy by swapping, lining up, and bursting the tiles in the playing field.
“Mosaique is a 10 minute brain snack, ideal for those wanting a short, engaging, intellectual distraction via a beautifully realistic visual interface,” said Alex May, co-founder and creative director of Winning Blimp. “The short length of the game, the graphic style, and even the name ‘Mosaique’ are all elements spawned from the feel of the music: intellectual, yet somehow familiar and accessible. We always prefer to create the music to our games first, and then draw inspiration from that.”
With just seven levels, Mosaique can be easily completed in ten minutes. Arrange and clear tiles of matching colors to beat each level and discover the hidden depths behind this addictive puzzle game. By switching to expert mode, players can use strategic elements to challenge themselves, earn more points, and progress further into the Mosaique. The game combines matching mechanics with a sci-fi theme, paying homage to the 16-bit games from the SNES, Genesis and Amiga era. It also features a 10-minute original soundtrack to help you slip away into the alien world of the Vraxian colonists and their intoxicating intellectual pastime.
* Algorithmically generated levels. Different each game
* Play as you please. Mosaique gives back as much strategic challenge as you put in
* No time limits. It’s a game, not a test
* 10 minute original soundtrack to help you slip away
* Elegantly designed interface and visual experience
* iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
* Requires iOS 4.3 or later
* 33.1 MB
Pricing and Availability:
Mosaique 1.1 is only $0.99 USD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Games category. Mosaique is also available on Google Play and the Amazon App Store. For more information please visit Winning Blimp online and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Winning Blimp specializes in sci-fi themed games that pay homage to the classic 16-bit games of the Nintendo SNES, Sega Genesis (Megadrive) and Commodore Amiga. Based in both Osaka, Japan and Florida, USA, Winning Blimp is headed by Bear Trickey, a former game designer from Kyoto-based studio Q-Games, and Alex May, a multi-discipline graphic artist and musician. All Material and Software (C) Copyright 2013 Winning Blimp. 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. Other trademarks and registered trademarks may be the property of their respective owners.
Leadwerks Software today announces today Leadwerks 3, their new development platform for building mobile games with native code. Based on the technology developed for their successful game engine for PC, Leadwerks 3 brings a totally new approach to mobile game development. Applications built with native code are optimized to work with each platform. Games written with Leadwerks will run faster and be more powerful than their managed code counterparts.
Las Vegas, Nevada – Leadwerks Software announced today the release of Leadwerks 3, their new development platform for building mobile games with native code. Based on the technology developed for their successful game engine for PC, Leadwerks 3 brings a totally new approach to mobile game development.
While environments such as Unity and MonoDevelop use managed code – that is, code that is designed to be easily run on multiple devices – Leadwerks uses an approach called native code. Applications built with native code are optimized to work with each platform. That means games written with Leadwerks will run faster and be more powerful than their managed code counterparts.
Mobile is growing rapidly, but there still exists a gap between mobile gaming and the larger game industry, which has traditionally focused on consoles. Professional game studios overwhelmingly favor native code because of its speed and flexibility. By focusing on the standard the game industry already uses, Leadwerks provides both professional studios and indie developers with an easy pathway into mobile. Games written in C can be ported to Leadwerks 3 without having to rewrite them in a new programming language.
Leadwerks 3 brings some innovative new approaches to the table:
* The editor features tools for building game levels using a technique called constructive solid geometry. This streamlines the process of creating games, and makes it easier for artists to see what their games will look like as they build them.
* Leadwerks 3 uses automatic asset conversion. This means that images and objects can be reloaded on-the-fly, so an image can be modified in Photoshop and the result will show up in the editor right away. This removes tedious steps from the game development workflow.
* AI is supported out-of-the-box. The traversable areas AI can travel within are highlighted in the editor as you build your game level. Pathfinding is dynamic, meaning that if a door opens or a drawbridge lowers, the AI is smart enough to take the new routes that appear.
* The script language Lua is also supported, and can be combined with games written in native code. Scripted objects can be linked together in a visual flowgraph editor. This makes it easy to set up game interactions, something that can be a challenge when working with development platforms based solely on code.
Leadwerks CEO Josh Klint said that “Leadwerks 3 is a big step forward for our company and our users. We’re bridging the gap between mobile gaming and the traditional game industry.” The product received a favorable response at the GDC 2013 expo. “C is the game industry standard. Our market research at GDC 2013 revealed a huge demand for a cross-platform game engine built on native code. We found the design philosophy of Leadwerks resonates with a lot of developers.”
Leadwerks 3 can be purchased from the company’s website for $199 USD, with add-ons for iOS and Android publishing available separately. A source code license is available for professional studios. A 30-day trial can be downloaded from the company’s website.
Leadwerks Software has provided game development tools to thousands of developers worldwide since 2006. It’s technology has been used in commercial games, education, training simulations, and military applications. To find out more, please visit Leadwerks online. Copyright (C) 2013 Leadwerks Software. 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.
A new spin on a popular word game favorite, PinYinPal for iPad seeks to revolutionize how the Chinese language is taught. And it’s free too!
January 17, 2013, Huntington Beach, CA – Mandarin Chinese is spoken and understood by well over one billion people worldwide and is notorious for being the hardest language to learn. As business opportunities continue to arise in Asia, mastering Mandarin is becoming more and more important.
Enter PinYinPal, a new app for the iPad that makes it easy to define, read, and recognize Chinese characters. This is the first and only viable word game available in pinyin and comes in a format that many will recognize. Think of it as Words with Friends with a twist.
PinYinPal is the brainchild of Adeline Yen Mah, author of the New York Times best-seller “Falling Leaves” and founder of Chinesecharacteraday.com Foundation. She said, “I set out to create a game that makes learning Mandarin fun. I’m convinced that the future of language learning lies in playing games, consumed in bite-sized chunks on tablets or mobile phones.” Dr. Mah and her husband, Robert, first conceptualized the game in their living room, playing with pieces of cardboard and paper. Little did they know the project would blossom into something more impactful. “The first version of PinYinPal is being offered in English. However, at this very moment, our game is being translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, Japanese and Korean. It is my dream that all the people of the world will unite while playing PinYinPal and learning Chinese. Regardless of one’s mother tongue, the basic programming is the same. By tapping a button, a Russian can play with an American; or a Chinese with a Japanese, without knowing one another’s language,” says Dr. Mah.
But wait, isn’t Chinese made up of characters? That’s the beauty of pinpin; it is the Mandarin vocabulary spelled out with the alphabet. PinYinPal includes a built-in Dictionary and Word Finder, which act as guides during the game. Because of this, novices who don’t know any Chinese can play competitively against native Chinese speakers from the first turn. Players are pitted against their friends on social networks or random opponents, and challenged to take turns spelling pinyin words.
Some of the other key features include:
The PinYinPal app is available for free from the App Store on the iPad. It will be available soon on iPhone and other iOS devices.
App Store Link: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id573973393
Video Trailer: http://youtu.be/YDm8dyxPGYw
Press Kit: http://tinyurl.com/pinyinpr
About Chinesecharacteraday.com Foundation:
Chinese Character a Day Foundation is dedicated to teaching Mandarin Chinese to anyone who wishes to learn. It was founded by Dr. Adeline Mah, a physician and writer. Born in China, Dr. Mah lives in California with her husband, Professor Robert Mah, a microbiologist. In 1997, she wrote her memoir “Falling Leaves,” which became an international best-seller. To bridge the gap between East and West, she and Bob established their Foundation with the book proceeds. Conceived in the Mahs’ living room, PinYinPal was first played on a sheet of paper with cardboard cut-outs as letter-tiles. The Mahs are grateful for the help given to them in this endeavor by their nephew Larry Mar and Larry’s secretary, Ashley Gish.
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/