Archive for the ‘apple itunes’ tag
Coming on the heels of an iCloud email issue, users are reporting Apple’s iTunes Store and App Store are also down.
Pretty Pet Salon debuted in the Apple iTunes App Store in January 2011. It generated more than 7 million downloads on iOS and later on Android. But on Jan. 12, it mysteriously disappeared from the App Store — and then it returned again in a different form at the end of March. Why this happened is an interesting tale.
The app, created by Hong Kong–based Animoca, a division of Outblaze Ventures, reportedly ran afoul of Apple because it violated an Apple policy that prohibits app creators from manipulating the top 25 rankings on the App Store. But Animoca says it did nothing wrong and it truly doesn’t understand why Apple banned it without explanation. [Read our investigative report on unaware developers caught in Apple's dragnet.]
Animoca admits that it used 25 different third-party marketing services. Some of these services may use bots, or fake users with fake iTunes accounts, to download apps in huge numbers and artificially inflate their rankings on the charts. Others use humans to do the same thing, downloading lots of games to fake accounts where the games are never used. Other services generate fake reviews. But it’s difficult for a company like Animoca to know whether its third-party marketing service is legitimately promoting an app or not. And Animoca’s own experience may very well scare legitimate developers away from doing anything that could be construed as risky — or innovative — in their marketing.
Developers want answers
Animoca and third-party marketers aren’t necessarily running from Apple’s enforcement. Rather, they just want to know what they did wrong. Ibrahim El-Mouelhy, a spokesman for Animoca, said, “We have never used bots or intentionally engaged in any manipulation activities.”
The manipulation of the App Store rankings was a big enough problem for Apple to issue a statement on Feb. 6. In a message on its developer page, Apple said, “Once you build a great app, you want everyone to know about it. However, when you promote your app, you should avoid using services that advertise or guarantee top placement in App Store charts. Even if you are not personally engaged in manipulating App Store chart rankings or user reviews, employing services that do so on your behalf may result in the loss of your Apple Developer Program membership.”
An Apple representative placed its first call to Animoca in early January. The caller talked to an Animoca representative whose first language was not English. Based on that conversation about “fake reviews,” the situation escalated. Animoca didn’t know what Apple was referring to and put the word out to its third-party marketing services to stop whatever they were doing. It didn’t actually know if they were doing anything wrong. But word got back to Apple, apparently, that Animoca had put this message out. This may have looked suspicious.
On Jan. 11, Animoca published a blog post about how the top charts on the App Store could be improved, simply by hiding the apps that a user already had installed. The next day, the company’s apps were removed.
Animoca acknowledged that it used third-party marketing service Gtekna, a two-person firm headed by chief executive Chang-Min Pak. Pak told us that his company only uses legitimate methods, including giving away gift cards, to help spread a game. Gtekna did change its website after Apple’s February statement so that it no longer guaranteed placement in the top 25 rankings. But Pak said his company has worked with thousands of app developers, and none of them has been banned, to his knowledge.
No one disputes that it’s important to get into the top 25 rankings, since the App Store isn’t great at helping apps gain notice among the sea of more than 600,000 active apps. The temporary boost from marketing services can be a godsend for app makers. Once on the charts, the apps receive more visibility and more downloads, and eventually, they gather enough momentum to live on their own, if they’re good enough to please consumers. Pushing an app up by promoting it to people is fair game, but pushing an app to people who have no intention of using it, or completely automating the process of app downloads, will get an app maker into trouble.
El-Mouelhy said that Apple’s communication to Animoca did not spell out why it was banned. An Apple spokesman told us it was for a violation of guideline 3.10, which says, “Developers who attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods will be removed from the iOS Developer Program.” Beyond that, Apple declined comment.
“We made several attempts to understand why this happened and how to rectify it,” El-Mouelhy said. “We offered an all-expense paid trip to Apple to visit us in Hong Kong to review our books. Apple didn’t reply.”
Apple appears ready to open the virtual doors to its iTunes store in the Philippines and Singapore, putting an end to over three months of rumors sparked by a “Parental Control” setting in iTunes 10.6.
Apple is adding its iPhone feature, Game Center, for use on the Mac for the first time. That will enable more social gaming features that allow players to more easily find their game-playing friends and play with them.
The new Game Center for the Mac will have access to a user’s iOS Game Center account, with all the same friends, achievements and other data. And now you will be able to play across platforms, with a Mac Game Center user finding and playing against a player on iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad).
“We have seen a renaissance of gaming on the Mac,” said Greg, one of Apple’s operating system chiefs.
Apple showed a demo of CSR Racing, a new racing game being built by Natural Motion for a summer release. The game started out as iOS only, but Natural Motion is now porting it to the Mac and integrating Game Center with it.
The Mountain Lion version of the Mac OS X operating system will be available next month for $19.99.
Game Center is being used by 130 million players on iOS. They are sending 5 billion updates a week.
Games have become the juggernaut of the App Store. Nine of the top ten apps on the Apple iTunes App Store are games, according to AppAnnie.
There are 657,575 active apps on the App Store, according to 148apps.biz. Games are still the most popular category, with 115,236 active titles, or 17.5 percent of all titles. About 98 new games are launched a day, with the average price per game at $1.05.
[Photo credit: Heather Kelly]
The goal of the PlaySay Survival app is to take learning out of the classroom and make learning a language more fun.
You can learn pronunciation by using the app to complete a series of real-world missions in scenarios such as ordering food, introducing yourself, delivering a pick-up line, or asking someone for help.
In the app, which is the culmination of four years of work, you can open a conversation with someone in the network. If you are learning Spanish, the app asks you to say an introduction in that language. If you pronounce the greeting correctly, you can send the message to the other person, who then sends a reply.
San Francisco-based PlaySay uses speech recognition technology from Nuance to evaluate your pronunciation and provide feedback. The app thus enables a conversation between people who are interested in language learning. PlaySay keeps score and tracks your points over time for the phrases you have learned. That adds gamification, or making a non-gaming app more game like.
PlaySay contends that rivals such as Rosetta Stone, Voxy, MindSnacks, and LiveMocha haven’t kept learners engaged with language learning the way that Facebook has with its audience.
PlaySay has also secured a $250,000 funding as a follow-on to its earlier funding. It has also secured a licensing deal with HarperCollins, the largest foreign-language dictionary publishers in the world.
PlaySay has four employees and was founded in 2008. Ryan Meinzer, founder and chief executive of PlaySay, started the company out of his own need to learn Japanese (and speak to Japanese women).
“Technological advances in speech recognition and cloud technologies have enabled us to create this iPhone app that I am most proud of,” Meinzer said. “It will truly change the way people learn and communicate in foreign languages worldwide.”
The company has raised $820,000 to date from Novak Biddle Venture Partners, Kevin Yu (former director of PayPal Japan; and Sean Glass (founder of Higher One).
PlaySay previously tried to improve language learning by communicating in that language via pictures. That didn’t work out so well, since the learning wasn’t verbal and the options for extending the learning were limited. But the company learned a lot and it turned to the speech recognition technology.
Funzio is three for three on the iPhone. The social-mobile game maker’s latest release, Kingdom Age, had more than 1 million downloads in its first five days on the Apple iTunes App Store.
Kingdom Age is a “high fantasy” title where you can battle monsters and beef up your skills in a single-player mode. Or, you can compete against your friends in multiplayer combat.
Since the game launched on April 19, players have trained more than 5 million troops. And players have fought more than 20 million battles, said Jamil Moledina, vice president of business development at the San Francisco, Calif.-based Funzio.
“In five days, more than 93 years of total time was spent playing the game,” Moledina said.”The amount of time people spend in the game is much higher than our previous games.”
Modern War, for instance, had 50 years of game play in its first five days. Funzio’s Crime City game also hit the top ranks of the App Store. And right now, all three of Funzio’s games were ranked in the top 25 grossing apps on the App Store during the past weekend.
“We can’t recall another example of this happening,” Moledina said.
It is exceedingly hard to do, considering that mobile games have to spread either via word of mouth or relatively expensive advertising.
This is one reason why Funzio may be raising a lot of money right now, possibly raising $50 million at a $350 million valuation.
Moledina said the mobile game market is starting to mature, and ad costs are going up.
“To play by the rules, you have to spend money on advertising,” he said. “You also have to make a game that is really fun to play. That’s a key part of how our games have wide appeal.”
Moledina said all three of the games are rated at least 4.5 out of 5 stars. And each game has also had good promotion. Apple featured Kingdom Age as “new and noteworthy” and on the “hot” section. While the first two were definitely male-oriented hardcore games, Kingdom Age has wider demographic appeal, Moledina said.
Smith & Tinker was one of the darlings of the new game startups when it launched its hybrid toy-game Nanovor in 2009. But while it was an ambitious attempt to win over young boys with a cool fighting game, it failed.
But the Seattle-based company was well-capitalized, having raised $29 million, and it was able to regroup. Now the company is launching a new version of Nanovor as an app for the Apple iTunes App Store. The game is a collectible card style battle game, where you collect little creatures known as Nanovors that live inside electronic devices.
The game has been re-engineered from the ground up for touch-based mobile devices. Each creature has offensive and defensive attacks. Players can compete against a computer player or battle human opponents online. You earn Nanocash in battles and use that to buy new creatures.
“The sustained interest from the Nanovor fan base has been amazing” said Joe Lawandus, CEO of Smith & Tinker. “It was their input that drove game design leveraging the awesome 3D creatures from Nanovor Evolution alongside the strategic play featured in our original PC release. The dialogue with our players, largely via social networks, played a huge role in our development resulting in a new, one of a kind collectible strategy game.”
The initial game has 24 different creatures. Smith & Tinker was founded in 2007.
Asked about reviving the franchise, Lawandus said, “Bringing the game back really wasn’t on our radar once we jettisoned the PC versions. But there was a core group of kids that were so persistent in asking us to bring the game back that we took another look. After a cruise through the App Store, we felt that CCG style games were one of the few underrepresented categories so we went back to the archives and found a bunch of game assets from Nanovor Evolution so it helped cut our development cycle down significantly.”
He added, “Our guys here were fired up to bring the game back so we started dialogue with the fans and created a hybrid game using the 3D assets from Nanovor Evolution combined with more battle strategy from our original release.”
Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was awarded a Grammy Trustees Award on Saturday, and Apple senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, accepted the award on his behalf.
In 2011, the competition between Google Android devices and Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) became heated. But as new year-end data shows, consumers turned to the iPhone to play games while they enjoyed broader apps on Android.
Clearly, the numbers show that iPhone consumers are using their devices for games, while Android users are using other kinds of apps. Xyologic, a research firm that indexes and search mobile app stores, reported that the number of app downloads on the Apple iTunes App Store for the top 150 titles in the U.S. more than doubled in 2011 to 97 million from 37 million a year earlier. On Android, the number of app downloads for the top 150 grew four-fold in 2011 to 125 million from 29 million a year earlier.
In the Apple App Store in the U.S., 100 of the top 150 downloads were games, while the remaining 50 were non-game apps. On the Android Market in the U.S., the number of games in the top 150 was 65. Game downloads on Apple outnumbered other apps by a three-to-one margin, or 71.5 million downloads for games versus 25.6 million for non-game apps. On Android, there were 91.5 million non-game app downloads, compared to 33.4 million game downloads.
On Apple, the game “usage is mostly driven by game publishers who find Apple’s system working well for their business model,” said Matthaus Krzykowski, co-founder of Xyologic. On Android, payment issues held back game publishers from fully embracing the platform, he said. He said that the dominant form of monetization on Android is advertising, with less emphasis on free-to-play, where users play for free and purchase virtual goods with real money. Game publishers on iOS have shifted to the more lucrative free-to-play model.
Here are the top 25 downloaded publishers on Android in 2011, with links going the traffic descriptions for each publisher.
Google, Facebook, Rovio, Adobe, DroidHen Casual, Outfit7, Magma Mobile, Glu Mobile, Go Dev Team, Kittehface Software, Skype, Notes, Nikolay Ananiev, Swiss Codemonkeys, NHN Corporation, Yahoo, Handcent, Pandora, Al Factory Limited, Kaufcom Games Apps Widgets, Verizon Wireless, Runnergames, Backflip Studios, Polarbit.
And here are the top 25 downloaded app publishers on the iPhone in 2011. All but one of these are game publishers (Burbn is the creator of Instagram).
Glu Mobile, Gameloft, Big Fish Games, Rovio, Capcom, Chilingo, Storm8/(TeamLava), Outfit7, Electronic Arts/Electronic Arts BV, Gamevil, Halfbrick Studios, DeNa/(Backflip Studios/Ngmoco), Zynga/Newtoy, NaturalMotion, Pocket Gem/(Streetview Labs), Tencent, NimbleBit, PopCap, Playforge, Clickgamer, Com2uS, Burbn, Orangenose Studios.
Xyologic also released the November top download data for both the iPhone and Android. On iOS, Zynga’s Words With Friends free-to-play app was No. 1 with 3 million downloads, followed by Cut the Rope: Holiday Gift from Chillingo and 101-in1 Games by Nordcurrent. On Android, Facebook was the top app in November, with 5.3 million downloads, followed by Brightest Flashlight Free and Facebook Messenger.
[Disclosure: Xyologic cofounder Matthaus Krzykowski was previously VentureBeat's advisor on mobile issues and remains an occasional contributor.]
Online verhuurders als Apple iTunes, Microsoft Zune, Sony PlayStation Network, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Best Buy CinemaNow en Blockbuster.com hoeven voorlopig weinig omzet te verwachten van gebruikers van internetapparaten. Dat concludeert de NPD Group. Slechts 5 procent van de (Amerikaanse) gebruikers bestelt wel eens een film.
Het is nog veel erger volgens de NPD: zelfs gebruikers van apparaten die specifiek zijn bedoeld voor streaming media lopen niet warm voor zogenoemde iVOD films, oftewel films die ze via het internet kunnen huren.
Volgens de Movie VOD Monitor is er nog te veel concurrentie van kabelaars of van bedrijven als Netflix. Veel iVOD gebruikers bestellen ook films bij deze Amerikaanse filmverhuurder.
iVOD is blijkbaar nog te weinig bekend, want volgens de onderzoekers staan er inmiddels voldoende internetapparaten in Amerikaanse huishoudens waarmee digitale films gekeken kunnen worden.