So, I missed doing a proper review this week. I have a couple in the pipe though, so next week should be back on track. I also may have another guest post coming in from Mike. Instead, this week I want to talk about two of my current biggest technology peeves on my Android phone. If you do any Android gaming at all, they are likely ones you are familiar with.
Needy Game Disorder
The first is a bit of fallout from the free to play fad that is currently sweeping through the gaming industry. The idea is that developers release the game for free, theoretically gaining a much larger audience than they would at just about any price. In the game they offer “micro transactions” to players to gain some advantage in the game. Sometimes it speeds up realtime processes, sometimes it’s gear, it varies from game to game. This is how they make money from the game, and when done well it pays out big time. Most devs who share numbers on such things are reporting higher net revenues and smoother income streams. Both of those are very nice to have. I’m currently playing Tiny Tower and Miracle City on my phone, and they do this fairly well. The games are fun without having to spend extra, making it easy to get drawn in, but I can see how the things you can buy would add value to people who get really into it. Another I played recently, Gaslight, didn’t do it so well. In Gaslight, one’s progress was so stunted without spending real money, it just wasn’t any fun. I never got drawn in enough to even consider making a purchase. Which is a shame, the game really has promise conceptually. There are numerous problems that devs face when figuring out how to make a free-to-play profitable, and some devs resort to some pretty heavy handed tricks to get people to pay up. A lot of gamers jokingly call these games “pay-to-win” because of the disproportionate advantages often given to players who pony up real cash. Perhaps the worst offender in the current free-to-play goldrush though is Glu Mobile, but not for the reason you probably think. They are managing to think outside the box, in a particularly annoying way.
Their games are high quality, and generally pretty fun. They manage to balance the free-to-play equation pretty well. BUT (and this is a big BUT) once you play the game once, if you don’t come back regularly, they put persistent reminders to come play in the notification bar on your phone, complete with whatever chimey noise you have your phone setup to make when something needs your attention. This is REALLY annoying. I find this kind of intrusion from a game to be totally unacceptable, especially since I haven’t been able to find a way to turn it off short of removing the game. Every game I’ve played from them has this “feature” and it’s actually moved me to remove a couple of games of theirs that I genuinely enjoyed just to make them go away. I actually liked Blood & Glory and Eternity Warriors, and intended to keep playing them, maybe even spend some money on them. Alas, I apparently wasn’t playing enough though, and they peppered me with alerts begging me to go play. My phone draws my attention enough with legitimate alerts that actually need my attention, I don’t need it bugging me about games I’m not playing enough. Not while I’m in meetings, or trying to sleep, or trying to work, or…. you get the picture. At this point, I don’t even bother with Glu games. They’ve completely lost me as a customer, before they managed to get any of my money!
Mother Knows Best
My second peeve is also related to gaming on Android. And that is the current trend for apps (usually games) to require me to use wifi to download them if they are over a certain size. This is insulting and inconvenient. I’m a grown up. I pay for my unlimited data plan myself, with money I actually go out and earn. It should be up to me how I use that plan, shouldn’t it? It used to be that most apps would show a warning to the effect of, “You seem to be using a cellular data connection, you sure you want to get all these bits right now?”. That is totally reasonable, polite even. The devs are seeing a potentially expensive situation for their users, and making sure they want to do what they are asking them to do, thereby protecting them from a potentially costly mistake. However, going all over-protective-mother and taking the option away is a bad thing. You earn zero points from me for that.
Here’s an important data point for any devs who do this or are thinking about doing this: If I can’t try out your game the moment I want to try it out, odds are good I never will. There are hundreds of games out there, and a lot of them are probably a lot like yours. If I have to wait until I’m somewhere with a wifi connection I can use to play your game, I will probably forget about it entirely or move on to one of your many competitors. I (and many people like me) have more money than leisure time. You have one shot to get my money, and putting a wall between you and my money is a bad move on your part.
This “helpfulness” is even creeping into the distribution channels. Amazon’s Android store also enforces the “only download on Wifi” rule for larger apps. Their threshold for “large” seems to be awful small though. I seem to recall a wifi-only app I installed recently that was about 30MB. I think it was Plants Vs. Zombies. I pull over 4GB of data onto my phone every month. Usually 1.5-2.5GB of that is over 3G. 30MB is nothing!! How did that earn a wifi-only tag? I don’t even think about switching to wifi unless I’m downloading something over 100MB, and I don’t usually actually bother to do it until it gets over 200MB!
I suspect that at least some of this is coming due to pressure from the carriers, in a misguided attempt to curtail “exploding” data usage on their networks. If that’s the case, then double-shame on everyone who is bending to this pressure. You are hurting your business to help prop up someone else’s. The carriers are unwilling (or even worse, unable) to meet the demand for wireless data that they have helped create, and you are cutting your own throat to help put an ineffective bandaid on that? How is that a good move?
I’m such a curmudgeon anymore I’m sure I’ll find more things to complain about in the near future. In the meantime, what mobile “features” are on your current least-favorite list?