This week our group of experts - affectionately known as the Mobile Gaming Mavens - were tasked with dissecting the fountain of news spraying forth from Apple's WWDC 2014 keynote speech.
Of course, they were up to the task, and wasted no time in tackling this week's question with the sort of verve we've come to expect:
Does iOS 8 herald a return to form for Apple as the leader of the mobile hardware and software business, or mark a dangerous narrowing of vision?
We certainly got a lot of improvements for the App Store, which are very welcomed and hopefully include some stability and usability improvements. I'm especially keen on parental permissions for purchases.
Swift, Metal, SceneKit etc are less impactful today than they would've been two or three years ago. If you're building iOS exclusively today you're making a massive mistake. However, I assume Metal will be implemented in to Unity as well as Unreal.
I really like the updates and finally adding "continuity" - by the way what a great name - between the smart devices and computer. It seems like something that was a natural progression and already proven by leveraging other platforms, specifically the congruency of games on Facebook and mobile.
[It felt like Apple was finally allowed to take features that were already performing well on other platforms and integrate them into their UX.
Metal is important advancement for the future and I am sure it will really fire up the OpenGL crowd to create a stronger and more direct experience. I believe metal only works with the A7 chipset, so it is useless on a bunch of devices.
Parental control of purchases, awesome. Shared family app purchases, awesome and about time.
Swift will bring access to a whole new type of developer to the Apple ecosphere. Script developers are rejoicing around the internet.
I almost fell out of my chair when they announced iOS 8 would be available on iPad 2.
Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.
I share Jared's enthusiasm for Parental Controls and Family Purchases, that's a great step. I'm also glad to see the introduction of video previews on the store to show off games properly. Obviously, I'm a big believer in that!
Developing just on the Apple ecosystem is rarely the best option for most devs.Oscar Clark
However, I'm not personally all that excited about Swift or Metal... not that I don't appreciate the possibilities. My problem is that it seems to me to focus on what devs can do with just the best hardware Apple have to offer rather than how Devs can be more successful overall.
Okay, that's not Apple's job, sure, but as Will says, developing just on the Apple ecosystem is rarely the best option for most devs. This potentially splits what we can offer on Apple devices but on the other hand we should welcome such innovations. After all we still want the best tech available.
I don't know what the Unity perspective will be so I can only give my personal view but I would imagine developers will want tools to both simplify development and take advantage of each platform's potential.
They'll want to know that the tools they use make the best experience without compromising performance or the ease of development. That frees them to be as creative in their game design and art as possible.
With regards to Metal it's great to see that Unity now forms a part of the technical launch group together with Unreal. Whatever the magical Metal doohickey really results in will undoubtedly have an effect on what gets placed into the big feature places in the App Store. "Apple's job is to sell devices, the developers' job is to help Apple succeed in Apple's job".
That brings me to the next point. As part of the announcement, Editor's Choice is getting an overhaul. Similar to Google Play, Editor's Choice will now stay as a "banner"/"stamp" on every app that has received the award.
I would imagine this will play an effect on the editorial aspect after the "Editor's Choice Week" is over, whereby receiving an Editor's Choice award becomes more valuable. Ticking Apple's technical requirement/nice to have boxes becomes all the more important, when UA costs in general are on the rise.
In addition, the new Spotlight feature in iOS 8 will also include a direct search function into the App Store.
When searching for stuff like "Candy Puzzle" within Spotlight, the question that begs to be asked is what exactly will Spotlight pull up? How many games, and based on what criteria / algorithm? Is it a reflection of what happens on the store itself, or does it function in some other way? If it is in some other way, it might have a profound effect on how users discover content through search. It's one to watch.
Video is finally coming to iOS App Store! I think everyone in this group welcomes that addition, but I'm also wondering whether the content featuring high quality trailers will get some form of boost in ranking, search and featuring, and, if so, how that quality will be determined.
With regards to Parental Approval it bugs me that over and over again the developers of F2P games are being punished for the mistakes that parents are making, as well as the UI choice that Apple has made concerning password verification.
The default setting for asking for a password, when a purchase is made is "15 minutes". So, if the password has been punched in within the last 15 minutes, the iOS user can make further purchases using the same iTunes account. If this default setting would be "always ask for password" a lot of the PR disasters would have been avoided.
Of course, it would also help if parents were more careful... but parents, unfortunately, are not careful, or knowledgable, about the 15 minute rule.
As a result adding this new parental control feature basically relies on parents setting it up, and parents knowing about the risks, and unfortunately I seriously doubt that parents will set it up, or be really aware of the risks.
I feel it's solving a problem with more features, when in reality a more direct and simple approach would be needed. We'll see.
There are many questions… but many things to be excited about.
A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.
A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.
He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.
Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.
As has already been said, the parental controls and family purchases are very welcome, but these, as with Metal and Swift, are all geared to try to move individuals, families and developers into the Apple ecosystem with multiple devices.
Personally, I think we're in a multiplatform world and, as a consumer, a manufacturer's devices need to fit into my ecosystem, not the other way around. Developers need to support as many devices as possible and, much as my initial reaction to Swift was to want to start playing with it, it would be hard to justify doing that when so much of the market is on other, incompatible, formats.
Similarly, seeing the performance of Metal with the Unreal Engine is great - although I still don't see a lot of high-end 3D games troubling the Top Grossing charts - but I can't imagine many people will be using it other than via Unity or UE4.
I think this is the biggest update for iOS so far. Not only does it include a lot of great features, but there are new features that non industry folks will actually notice for a change.
The parental permission feature is amazing. I totally disagree that this somehow punishes freemium developers in the slightest. Instead is answers all the existing criticism of freemium and places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the parents. No longer can someone complain that their child somehow racked up thousands in IAP without their knowledge.
I think this is the biggest update for iOS so far.Dave Castelnuovo
Also, the system is super easy to use and immediate. The kids don’t have to find their parent and ask them to enter their password, they just hit a button and their parent can give permission right away. If anything I think this actually reduces the barriers to purchase in a lot of cases.
As far as other things, I can see why the major news outlets say that Apple is “catching up” on things like third-party keyboards and lock screen widgets but Apple has a couple of priorities that Android does not have. Namely ensuring battery life and preventing malware. They were never going to implement something like “Hey Siri” unless they were sure they would get the same battery life out of this functionality.
Likewise they were never going to allow third-party extensions to the core OS until they found a way to completely sandbox those extensions and make the phone safe for users.
Metal is awesome. Maybe none of us will ever fully take advantage of it as developers. But someone will. Epic will for sure, other large scale releases will as well and that in turn will attract more users to the platform because the level of games on the iOS will be even closer to console quality beyond the expected jump in hardware performance coming this fall.
I just don’t see how Android can compete here with multiple hardware manufacturers. This is something only Apple can do.
Dave - the new family purchase system doesn't punish freemium developers at all. That wasn't my point.
The point was that historically freemium game publishers and developers have been and are being punished for the mistakes parents are making. The court hearings are done in populistic media.
What I'm worried about is that the new feature doesn't solve the problem - at least a big part of the problem.
As far as I've understood, the majority of the issues that have come up are not a result of parents giving their iTunes passwords to their kids, but a result of the 15 minute default rule where further purchases can be made within 15 minutes of the last password authorised download or purchase. I.e. , e.g. 1) parent downloads f2p game for kid from the App Store 2) kid starts playing 3) kid finds "buy function", and hits the buy function (sometimes many times). And all hell breaks loose.
Side note; exactly this user flow has happened in my close circles. Some of them more funny than others; "you know Wilhelm, your industry colleagues managed to sell my boy 100,000 carrots in this bunny game. Never knew digital carrots can be that expensive".
The majority of the issues that have come up with IAPs are not a result of parents giving their iTunes passwords to their kids.Wilhelm Taht
Majority of the above type issues would basically be gone if the default setting would be "Immediately", as opposed to "15 minutes". See attached for the exact setting that I'm referring to. The setting is found under Settings --> General --> Restrictions --> Require Password. I doubt many parents even know about this setting… And I fear the same will go for the new parental control feature, it will go unnoticed for many. And again the more populistic media will crucify "us guys" when shit hits the fan, because our games are "preying on the children".
Naturally, making this default setting "immediately" doesn't solve for situations when kids knowing their parents iTunes password (which I always have a hard time understanding in the first place), or for kids who have an iTunes account of their own with their parents credit card linked to it (which is another odd one to me). For those situations, yes; the new system should work perfectly. As long as the parents actually take the time to set it up correctly and has several devices (Apple family only?), to which the kid's purchase requests flow naturally… etc.
The oncoming tide of free-to-play regulation is about three issues in regulators' eyes- but only one of them is really covered by the new IAP control system in iOS 8.
The first issue is kids spending too much of their parents' money. That's the easiest one to fix, as Apple is now doing. (Incidentally, it's unclear how much of this is of Apple's free will or is due to the Apple class action lawsuit and then FTC investigation on this issue.)
The second issue is that regulators are worried that F2P games either don't do enough to make children understand that they're really spending real money, or - for some zealous regulators - simply shouldn't ask them for money in this way at all.
The third issue is whether certain free to play games comply with consumer protection or marketing law even where adults are concerned. In particular, I think attention will focus on campaigns and 'time-limited' offers.
Anyway, the point is: the new parental controls are a step in the right direction but they won't on their own end the increasing scrutiny of free to play games, whether we like it or not. Many good free-to-play games should sail through these tests, but enough will not that there will continue to be controversy from time to time.