Apps

What is going on with the App Store rankings lately? – updated

Posted by admin on February 08, 2014
Apps, Development, Games / No Comments

The first shock was the crappy Flappy Bird game. Unimaginative, repetitive, with “borrowed” graphic concepts and not fun at all. Some people were driven to insanity just by playing. And nobody really liked it.

But it reached #1 in the US App Store almost overnight. “What? How?” I hear you ask, crying a little inside for all the countless nights you spent perfecting you awesome mobile game, and never reaching 100 downloads in the process. And to add insult to injury, the guy announced that he is making $50K. A day. From ad revenue. I mean, wtf.

And then there was another, this time even worse. As reported in Pocket Gamer, a game called Red Bouncing Ball Spikes practically leaped to #1 overnight. And what’s worse is that the “developer” didn’t even make the game, the game is just a template for  GaleSalad, which you get for $10. Sounds like a good deal right?

But the fun doesn’t seem to stop. Following the story, I see other crappy little games (Ironpants, Super Ball Juglling [yes, “juglling” or so it says on the screenshot and it’s from the same developer that launched flappy bird], , jumping to #1, all of them overnight. What gives?

Doing a little research quickly resulted in the method they used. Quite simple really. It seems that there are a couple of shady companies that do the following: As a developer, you cough up an amount (let’s say $5000) which they partly(they do keep a share of course) use to buy your game in mass using fake bot accounts.  70% of that goes back to you, so you end up paying something like $2K-$3K to get to #1 in the App Store. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such cheap promotion before.

Haven’t found the name of the companies, but I really hope Apple finds a way to stop this and deny payment to these developers, because this is as big a scam as they come. Many many people are trying to make a living through this, juggling with design, development, marketing, networking day in-day out (myself included) only to see their rankings and downloads rise oh-so-slowly and this really makes me angry.

Update:

There are more! Apart from Flappy Bird and Super Ball Juggling, developer nguyen has Shuriken Block. Now, take a look at these ranking changes and tell me if you think they are legit. All of then. AT THE SAME TIME. Remember, the games have been in the App Store for 6 months, and the developer has admitted that he has done zero promotion work for them. Now do the math.

flappy shuriken superball

 

How to fix Surface RT

Posted by admin on July 20, 2013
General, Windows 8 / No Comments

After the latest results, clearly showing that the beginning of Windows RT was not as good as expected, one has to think what could be done to fix the whole situation. I hope Microsoft people are taking notes (and I am also available for consulting :-p), so here we go, let’s design Surface RT2 together:

-It’s NOT (only) about apps. Hunting developers down to write apps for the platform is not the way to go, if your platform lacks other stuff (see below). The apps will come if your platform and hardware are interesting enough.

-Put LTE in there. When I got my first iPad, I got a 3G version but never really used it. But talking with people, I discovered that mobile data is REALLY important, so make sure Surface 2 has LTE functionality. I know people can use a 4G USB modem, but they don’t. Of course, make it optional, not everybody really needs it.

-Never, ever release under-powered machines. Surface RT is nice and all, but even my Samsung ATIV Tab feels snappier. I know that Windows RT are optimized, fast and fluid and all, but if the hardware lacks behind, it reflects bad on the whole thing. Many people don’t care why this is true, they just don’t want it to be there. Find ARM chips that make Windows RT REALLY fast and if you can’t, build them. We know you got the resources.

-Bundle the keyboard (touch or type) with the tablet. Every commercial I’ve seen focuses on the keyboard only for people to decide that it’s a rather expensive add-on.

-Keep the price low. After recent price cuts, it’s more reasonable, but the initial pricing was just ridiculous. It was almost priced as high as the iPad without offering as much. I don’t know how you will do it, sell more XBoxes to cover the losses, but when you create a new platform, and this is what RT is, you HAVE to lure people in. Even if you take a loss at the beginning. It’s like letting people pirate the first versions of DOS, remember?

– I personally love the idea of a desktop-as-an-app where one can actually run full versions of Office 2013 when they need to. But when people pick up a tablet, they should NEVER EVER be dropped on a desktop environment unless they specifically request that (by tapping the Desktop tile for example). In that capacity, make ALL Office apps available in RT form, with limited functionality of course (at least as feature enabled as Pages and Keynote on the iPad if not more), but usable completely without a keyboard and mouse. The desktop Office and IE should be there as the “one more thing” the Surface RT can provide. The same goes for ANY form of Control Panel settings page. EVERYTHING should be on a familiar and consistent metro touch friendly environment. Right now, it REALLY shows that the product is half baked. You even left Windows Defender running for some reason, even though users cannot run ANYTHING that doesn’t come from the Store.

In conclusion, people just don’t get it. Naming the new platforms Windows anything is a classic mistake. You made the same mistake with Windows Phone. I know how much you love Windows, but the Xbox is successful partly exactly because it is not called Windows anything. When someone buys something that runs Windows something and resembles a computer, they expect it to be a Windows computer. Which Surface RT is not. When they buy a phone that is called Windows something, they might expect blue screens of death and drivers installations, even though that is not the case with the excellent platform that Windows Phone is. But me knowing that is not nearly good enough. In branding and communication, I would give you a low mark for the past 2 years, when it comes to the new platforms (Windows Phone and Windows RT). And if you don’t believe me, go outside and ask non-technical people what is the first thing that comes to their mind when they see a tablet-thingy that runs Windows something. Or a phone.

Surface RT can still succeed (and I am not the only one that says so). Just make sure you fix the important stuff first and fast so that you can save it on round 2. Because otherwise, I don’t see a round 3.

Developers Roundtable

Posted by admin on June 05, 2013
Apps, Development, Windows 8 / No Comments

Tomorrow I will be giving a speech targeted mostly to iOS and Android developers about why it makes sense to develop apps for Windows Store too. This is a small roundtable event in Microsoft’s building in Zurich. Apart from me, Reto Senn from Bitforge will give a small talk about using Unity to make games for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. If you are in the area, you are welcome to attend, the event starts at 16:15.
I will put the slides here after the event if anyone is interested.
You can see more about the event at the official website of MSDN: http://msdn.microsoft.com/de-ch/aa570302.aspx?EventID=1032382768 (in German).

Update: The slides can be downloaded here  (31MB).

MWC 13 is now over

Posted by admin on March 01, 2013
Apps, Development, General, Windows Phone / No Comments

Well I am back from Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona and I had lots of fun. Met some nice people, learned a lot and saw a lot. I can now say that at least for apps and games for mobile, I feel like I have a new perspective on many things. Let’s see how well this will help me in future games.
Here are some pictures I took with my Lumia 920 during the MWC 2013 week.

Mobile World Congress 2013

Posted by admin on February 23, 2013
Apps, Development, Games, General, iOS, Windows 8, Windows Phone, Windows Phone / No Comments
Mobile World Congress 2013

Mobile World Congress 2013

Tomorrow morning I will be leaving for Barcelona to attend this year’s Mobile World Congress. MWC is of course the biggest event for all things mobile in the world and this will be the first time I attend it. After attending last year’s Build in Redmond, WA and Microsoft Partner Conference the year before in LA, CA I guess I am getting the hang of going to big technology related and non-academic conferences for the first time :) After finishing my PhD last year, this seems like the next best thing, since I’ve been to quite a few academic conferences during my studying time anyway.

So back to Barcelona, MWC will take place between February 25 and February 28 in a new venue, not that I knew the old venue. The new venue is called Fira Fran Via which is apparently an awesome state of the art event space. I am sure the venue cannot possible beat being to Microsoft’s HQ building complex in November, but I’ve been to Barcelona 3 times already and I like the city and the people, so at least it will be much closer to where I live (no more crossing the Atlantic ocean – yey) and in Europe for a change.

I will arrive on Sunday and attend the Mobile Sunday event, where apparently will be lots of cool people and free beer tasting. The event  will begin at 6pm, look for me there if you want to meet up and discuss games over beers (what better way is there?). I will be wearing my MonsterUp t-shirt if it’s not too cold:) I will try to where these everywhere (I have a few of them) so you can find me:)

On Monday I will be attending Nokia’s separate event all day long. There is a keynote at 11am where I hope we get to see all new shiny awesome Lumia phones and (why not) the first Nokia tablet. That would be awesome ;) There are quite a few interesting sessions throughout the day, including game development sessions which I will make sure not to miss (in both Track 1 and Track 2) but the main thing I will try to do is talk to Nokia people about working with them for more Lumia games from Karios Games.

Tuesday will be a bit more relaxed. I think about going to Connected Living and Clicksoftware sessions about HTML5. I already have a couple of games on Facebook and Chrome Store using HTML5 so there might be a few things to learn there.

On Wednesday there are a few interesting things. I will try to attend the Generation ‘M’ session as well as the App Planet Open Forum.  After the congress, I will also try to be at WIPJam and Mobile Mixology parties. They are not very close to each other but I will do my best!

Finally, Thursday is going to be WIP-ADC day. Many interesting topics there so I will most likely spend the whole day attending these. After this, straight to the airport.

So if you are there, drop a line! I will try to tweet and otherwise write about the event here and on my twitter account (@marioskar) so if you are interested about WMC, make sure to follow me!