Gaming news summary for October 6, 2015
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited gets its second expansion, Ubisoft announces another Far Cry spin-off, microtransactions in games get some attention, and two developers pull games from the App Store.
Company violated terms, Apple closed developer account
Teardown and repair site iFixit, best known for their examinations of Apple hardware and repair guides, has seen its developer account closed and its app pulled from the App Store because it tore down a developer-only pre-release Apple TV, in direct violation of the terms and conditions of the developer agreement. The site took responsibility for the error, and apologized to app users for "any inconvenience."
Peace developer claims Apple performing refunds for all customers
Apple has taken the highly unusual decision to refund all purchasers of the Peace ad-blocking browser, the developer has confirmed. After voluntarily taking the app out of the App Store after being listed for a few days, and providing refunds to customers requesting their money back, developer Marco Arment advises that Apple is now "proactively refunding all purchases" of the $3 app to its users.
The arrival of iOS 9, and the pointlessness of user app reviews
This week, the MacNN Podcast takes a good look at some of the burning issues of the past week, including of course the release of iOS 9. We talk both about the entire downloading experience -- one of the smoothest we've seen in a long while -- and our first impressions on some of the new features and optimization of the release. We also talk about two of Apple's biggest court cases, the Move to iOS app on Google Play, and how useless most app store reviews are.
Says uniform blocking of all ads hurts websites, creators
Developer Marco Arment has, after just two days of availability, pulled his iOS 9 ad-blocking browser Peace from the App Store, and will offer refunds for those who purchased it. The app will continue to work for those who obtained it during its brief period of availability, but will not be updated. The program relied upon a database used by OS X ad tracker, Ghostery, and blocked all ads without exceptions -- which ultimately led to Arment's decision to pull it.
Alteration of Xcode responsible for embed of relatively light monitoring package
The Chinese iOS app store was briefly serving two apps with very light embedded malware. Apps compiled from a modified version of Apple's Xcode development environment found on Chinese piracy sites have been found to include "XcodeGhost," a malware package that collects time, device name, and network type. In itself, the data collection is not a problem, but of more concern, Apple's vetting process for the apps clearly failed to identify the (admittedly mild) threat.
Apple launches App Store Games Twitter account
Apple has launched a new Twitter account dedicated to gaming. The @AppStoreGames account will be posting more than picks by App Store editors for app of the week, with The Verge reporting the feed will include previews of games heading to the App Store, tips for popular titles, profiles of talented gamers, and will be used to interact with game developers. It is suggested the new Twitter feed may have been put in place to coincide with a rumored refresh of the Apple TV at the September 9 event, with some suggesting games may be playable on the set-top box.
Trial user count of Apple Music half paid subscriber figure for Spotify
Apple Music has 11 million trial users since the streaming music service started up five weeks ago, Apple executives have revealed, effectively confirming a recent rumor of the service's uptake. The good news doesn't stop with Apple Music, as figures relating to the App Store shows it is continuing to see rising sales, with a record $1.7 billion in transactions conducted in the month of July alone.
Phantom adverts affecting data caps, defrauding advertisers
Over 5,000 fraudulent apps currently available for iOS and Android are displaying ads users cannot see, but which are causing problems, using up cellular data, and costing advertisers around $850 million per year, says online fraud research company Forensiq in a new report. The ads are not visible on screen, yet the volume of them contributes to an overal slowing down of iPhone or Android devices while stealing data from often-limited cellular data plans.
App Store fees, restrictive rules affecting music services draws ire from critics
The terms and fees Apple imposes on other music streaming services using the App Store has come under attack from more sources. US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and advocacy group Consumer Watchdog have both written to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), urging them to investigate whether or not Apple is "engaging in anticompetitive behavior" with regards to Apple Music and its App Store policies.
Transaction fee, rules for music streaming services in App Store under examination
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reportedly launched an investigation into how Apple treats other music streaming services in the App Store. Continuing from earlier reports that the FTC was merely making queries rather than performing a full investigation, the government agency has allegedly moved into an investigatory phase, looking into whether or not Apple is behaving anti-competitively with regards to the App Store's fees.
Jiggly math game offers fun, complex play
Number games have been popping up in abundance on the App Store for a while now, giving math junkies their daily fix of perplexing problems. If you're a self-proclaimed mathematician, or just someone who enjoys puzzles, we'd like to steer you in the direction of The Mesh, a hex-grid number game that we enjoyed.
Third spot of new campaign highlights 1.5M apps for iPhone
Apple has released another advertisement in its new "If it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone" campaign, this time focusing on the software experience. The new 30-second ad, titled "Amazing Apps" on Apple's YouTube page, promotes the wide array of apps on iOS, with more than 1.5 million of the "best apps available" available to buy and download to the smartphone.
Even lapsed former subscribers saw issues with cover art, metadata
[Update -- not all problems are fixed] A problem in the new iTunes 12.2 update -- which including a substantial behind-the-scenes change to the database part of the program to accommodate the new Apple Music features, and which caused confusion in metadata and album art in song files -- has allegedly been fixed in a new update, bringing the program to version 12.2.1. The update, now available through the Mac App Store, is also said to correct a problem where uploaded DRM-free music in users' iCloud Music Libraries had been replaced with DRM-enabled Apple Music versions.
App Store charges for Apple Music competitors queried by regulator
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is allegedly looking into how Apple treats competitors of its Apple Music service in the App Store. Industry sources of Reuters claim the regulator is making queries about how other music streaming services, such as Spotify and Rhapsody, are represented in the App Store and if Apple is breaking antitrust law, as well as other restrictions on how app creators must behave in order to remain listed in the marketplace.
Lightweight word processor does what it says
Back when Microsoft Word was king, you could do well selling a different word processor if it could open and save documents in Office format. You also needed to be cheaper, and it would help if you were easier to use -- neither of which, to be fair, were hard to pull off. Lastly, if you're in an App Store, finding a way to get the name Word in your title helped people find you. TinyWord 2.0 wants to tick every one of those boxes.
Message from Spotify explains how users can save $3 on their subscription
Spotify is attempting to encourage iOS users to alter their subscription, in order to save money and make it competitive against Apple Music. A guide is being sent to people subscribing to Spotify via its iOS app, explaining how to stop their app-based subscription for one conducted through the website, saving the end user $3 and preventing any ongoing subscription revenue from going to Apple.
Technology veteran on learning from mistakes
Chris Bledsoe was on the team at Apple that launched the App Store. On The Successful Failure podcast, the Apple executive has given a rare interview about failure, success, and what you can learn from each. While little actual concrete data was given about Apple's internal makeup, Bledsoe discusses the general culture around the launch, as well as provides some insights on the pressures that new product launches are under.
Apple Game Roundup for June 2
[Update: Heroes of the Storm is out for OS X] On Tuesdays and Fridays, MacNN takes a few minutes to round up important goings-on in the Mac and iOS gaming world. In today's entry, we look at the announcement of XCOM 2, a tweak to the way Apple displays content in the App Store, and the coming release of Raceline CC and Radical Rappelling.
Early pre-orders now shipping as Apple confirms UPS tracking numbers, status
There are an indeterminate number -- possibly as high as a couple of million -- very early pre-order customers who are very excited today, having received confirmation from Apple that their order for the Apple Watch has shipped. Various forms of evidence, from emails from the company notifying buyers of the status change to UPS alerts with tracking numbers has confirmed that a number of customers who got in early should be receiving their Watch order on or about April 24, the original planned public debut day.
Ukrainian couple gets production sample of 12-inch Retina MacBook, makes 15-minute video
Following on the heels of an unboxing video for the forthcoming 12-inch Retina MacBook that surfaced in Vietnam, a new 15-minute video has appeared featuring a woman from Ukraine touting the new device, featuring a "production sample" she obtained. It was functional prior to the video and some tests were completed on it, but an attempt to update it to current OS X releases rendered the test machine inoperative, a security measure from Apple.
Apple spotlights World Autism Awareness Day with spotlight on helpful apps
Apple has showcased 16 apps specifically designed for autistic persons in the Education section of the iOS App Store. Two apps in particular, Proloquo2Go and Proloquo4Text, are being offered at an unusual sale price of $110 and $120 respectively, half off their normal cost due to the promotion. MacNN reviewed Proloquo2Go a little over a year ago, finding it be the best in class. Other apps spotlighted help users with math, clothing choices, environment comfort, and more.
Hoping for variety, if not plethora, of third-party apps by public launch
With just over three weeks to go until the first wave of countries will begin selling the new Apple Watch (and less than two weeks until curious customers can try one on), Apple has sent out a reminder to developers that they can now submit apps based on WatchKit to the App Store in order to be ready for the public debut on April 24. The email to developers included a link to a submission tutorial.
Connectivity down globally, but issue resolved by 11:30AM ET
A widespread but apparently brief outage was reported to have affected Apples online digital storefronts this morning, such as the App Store, iTunes Store and Mac App Store. The problem appeared to occur worldwide, but Apple's System Status Page did not acknowledge the issue until hours after it was resolved, which occurred at approximately 8:30AM Pacific. The company suffered a much longer and more severe outage just two weeks ago.
Disrupting industries is the new black, great apps and fair app prices, bad jokes
The MacNN Podcast episode seven is now available, and this week we looked at the rumor that Apple is preparing to revamp the Apple TV and sweeten the pot with an optional package of channel offerings that don't require a cable subscription; Google's entry into the MVNO space; the recent Microsoft announcements about Windows 10; Facebook getting into inter-site payments; the return of Launcher to the App Store, and the removal of so-called "anti-virus" iOS apps; our latest "Living With" column; and our favorite apps of the week.
Leading reseller B&H gets Apple mini-store at brick-and-mortar Manhattan HQ
Although many MacNN readers will be familiar with B&H Photo Video through the company's online site via its frequent mention in our various deals posts, the firm is actually the largest non-chain electronics retailer in the United States, having a midtown Manhattan location since 1973 and being a widely-recognized photo, video, and Apple specialist. Earlier this week, the store opened its Apple-authorized "store within a store" focusing on Apple products.
Small but meaningful changes enforce company's strong privacy, ethical outlook
On Thursday, Apple updated App Store Review guidelines to reinforce privacy, consent, and other ethical concerns regarding the implementation of apps that work with medical data (specifically ResearchKit), Apple Pay, and apps that download or stream music or video. The guidelines generally reinforce more transparency or set minimum standards, but also target apps that illegally "rip" copyrighted material from video and audio sites like Vimeo and Soundcloud.
Outage may have cost apple up to $8 million in lost media sales
After nearly a 12-hour downtime, Apple's Internet-facing services such as the iTunes Music Store, iOS App Store, iBookstore and Mac App Store have returned. Apple calls the issue related to an "internal DNS" problem, and with estimates of hourly revenue at about $1 million an hour, this may be the most costly Internet service outage ever.
Mac App Store, iTunes Store preventing users from buying content
[Update: Apple acknowledges issues] A range of Apple's online services are experiencing issues, with the majority of problems relating to the company's online stores. The iTunes Store, App Store, and Mac App Store are all apparently having issues loading up elements of some store pages, though the issues are also apparently affecting back-end services as well as those on the consumer side.
Clever route map for walkers
Footpath -- usually $1 but at time of review free on the App Store -- is a route map app for walkers and runners that does one thing very well. We would like it to do just a little more for the ambulatory, but it's one of those apps you'll play with just to see how it works.
Migration assistant set up; users have until March 31, or could lose purchases
Along with the death of AOL logins for use in Messages, the ability of AOL members to use AOL credentials to log into iTunes and its various stores is ending next month, Apple reports. The move, which appears to have been instigated by AOL, will mean that users who use AOL logins will need to migrate to an Apple ID in order to preserve purchase records and access to purchased items from iTunes, the iOS App Store and the iBookstore.
Take control of your own shipping company with this fun puzzle game.
Puzzle games are a great way to pass the time on a lazy afternoon, or on a long morning commute on the bus or train. The comfortable, familiar feeling of sitting down with a puzzle game is well known among game enthusiasts of all types, and the App Store reflects this. There are so many puzzle games on the App Store that it's entirely possible to miss a great game without realizing it. One such hidden gem is RGB Express by Bad Crane, a game about little trucks making big deliveries.
win 1 of 2 copies of Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut
Late last year, Harebrained Schemes released their latest title Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut. This RPG game features 17 missions, intuitive touch interface, team customizations options and more. Last week, our staff completed a Hands On review, and also obtained two iOS App Store redemption codes to give to our readers.
Google drops IMAP client Sparrow for Inbox Gmail/Google Now hybrid
Once again, a popular Mac product originally developed independently and later bought by Google, has been discontinued. Like Snapseed before it, Google has decided to kill off popular email client Sparrow for both Mac and iOS in favor of its own Inbox product. The former program has been removed from both the iOS and Mac App Stores. The Mac program never received an update after Google's purchase of Sparrow in 2012, while the iOS one has languished since October of 2013.
win 1 of 5 copies of OCRKit!
Recently, our staff finished up a review of ExactScan Pro scanner software. ExactCode, makers of ExactScan, also have another great software title called OCRKit, which is used for extracting information from a scanned document, and converting it into searchable file formats. We have teamed up with ExactCode to give away five Mac App Store redemption codes.
Companies agree to make in-app purchase systems more visible
Major app store operators Amazon, Apple, and Google -- as well as French publisher Gameloft -- have reached a deal with Italy's Antitrust and Competition Authority that will let them avoid fines for misleading people about so-called "free-to-play" or "freemium" apps. The Wall Street Journal reports that the companies have agreed to remove the word "free" from apps that may require in-app payments to be useful. The parties have also committed to making it clearer when a person is about to make an in-app purchase. All of the changes will be applied across the European Union.
US, Japan, South Korea generate most app revenue
Google Play is vastly outpacing the iOS App Store in terms of downloads, but the latter is generating more revenue, according to analytics company App Annie. Google saw about 60 percent more downloads than Apple during 2014, but the App Store produced 70 percent more revenue. This includes both initial and in-app purchases.
Company mum on iPad results in official press release
Apple has posted the results of its first fiscal quarter for 2015, which actually ended on December 27. The company says it achieved record quarterly revenue of $74.6 billion, and similarly record-setting net profits of $18 billion, or $3.06 per share. The figures compare against $57.6 billion, $13.1 billion, and $2.07 in Q1 2014; gross margins increased from 37.9 percent to 39.9 percent. Apple notes that international sales made up 65 percent of the recent quarter's revenues.
Parents gain new one-stop category, but in-app purchases still lurk
Over the weekend, Apple launched a new subsection of the App Store called Games for Kids, following the opening of the dedicated Kids category in September 2013. The Games for Kids section breaks out groups of games for various age groups, mirroring the other actions that offer more educational apps for children divided by age. Interestingly, most of the featured games avoid in-app purchases.
Apple blames shifting currency values
(Updated with detailed price increases) Apple has sent an email to developers, notifying them of App Store price hikes in Canada, Norway, and the European Union, according to the Vancouver Sun. The company blames the change on foreign exchange rates. It has not, however, said by how much prices will go up. While a detriment to the people buying apps, higher prices should benefit many developers.
Claims New Year's Day was best day ever for App Store sales
Apple has released some updated statistics for the App Store, revealing that billings rose 50 percent in 2014, generating over $10 billion in revenue for developers. The store has produced roughly $25 billion for developers since its inception in 2008, which points to the tremendous growth in the stores over the last two years. Apple adds that the first week of January set a new record for billings, totaling almost $500 million in combined app and in-app purchase numbers; New Year's Day, in particular, is said to have been Apple's best day ever for app sales.
Refunds previously just loosely allowed
European shoppers now have a definite 14-day window in which to claim refunds for iTunes Store purchases, according to updated support documents (PDF). Customers can ask for a refund "without giving any reason," the documents say, and in most cases simply need to find the "Report a Problem" tool. In other instances -- namely those involving iTunes Match, Season Pass, Multi-Pass, or unredeemed iTunes gifts -- a person has to contact iTunes Support.
Or how to use up all those iTunes gift cards you're going to get
Although we have mentioned some app bargains in our "beyond the last minute" gift guide this morning, the elves at MacNN and Electronista have been hunting up some additional discounts by shaking the App Store tree and seeing what falls out. We found a few more, so click through to save a bundle on some awesome app deals -- and don't forget to check back with us regularly for DealNN reports, Apple refurb store bargains, and our usual Friday Deals all year long!
'Floppy Cloud' likely to get pulled, junior reviewer fired for missing illegal content
Once again, a rogue developer has attempted -- and succeeded, albeit temporarily -- in sneaking an app onto the iOS App Store that actually contains an emulator for a classic game system, forbidden under App Store rules. This time, it is Floppy Cloud ($2), which has taken the novel approach of pretending to be a file management app rather than the more-obvious Flappy Bird copycat. The app works exactly as described, but if users add a NES or SNES ROM file to the cloud-based management, the file will play in a full emulator.
Apps now almost double 2013 prices
Apple is increasing the prices of both apps and in-app purchases at the Russian App Store, according to a new memo issued to developers. An app that would normally be $1 in the US, for example, is now 62 rubles. That indicates that apps have almost doubled in cost in Russia during 2014, though the increase is largely due to recent currency pressures.
Could raise costs in some regions
Apple has sent an email to iOS developers, notifying them of a change to the way it handles VAT (value-added taxes) at European App Stores. Currently the company charges a single VAT rate across the European Union; soon, though, it plans to charge on a per-country basis. The change is due to take effect on January 1.
Updates to existing apps must switch by June
Apple has issued a new notice to developers, reminding them of two important deadlines concerning 64-bit support in iOS apps. As was previously announced, those submitting new titles to the App Store must implement 64-bit support -- and use the iOS 8 SDK -- by February 1. Additionally, the company now says that updates to existing titles must meet the same standards as of June 1.
Company says rejection was misunderstanding
The newly-launched iPad version of Papers, Please has briefly been censored by Apple, reports note. Players assume the role of a passport control agent in the fictional Eastern Bloc country of Arstotzka. Later into the game players have access to a full-body scanner; in the original PC title, players could toggle whether this presented characters in full (but cartoonish and low-resolution) nudity or simply in their underwear. A version with both options was initially rejected from the App Store, forcing developer Lucas Pope to remove the nudity.
App replaced by 'Amazon Shopping' app with no links to app store
As a result of a revised developer's agreement, Google has made the original Amazon Android app undiscoverable in Google Play. Amazon has replaced the removed app with a new "Amazon Shopping" app, which notably removes access to the retailer's app store through a Google Play-sanctioned app, leaving users forced to "sideload" a separate app from another source in order to facilitate downloads and purchases from Amazon's app store.
Could open up iCloud Drive-related functions in apps
Apple has quickly reversed course on a policy that broke "Send To" commands in the FTP app Transmit for iOS, app developer Panic now says. The company writes that it got a "nice call from Apple" on Wednesday, and it has resubmitted Transmit to the App Store with Send To restored. This includes the "Send to iCloud Drive" command that formed the basis of Apple's complaint.