After months of teases and rumour, striking 3D puzzle game The Witness has finally landed in the App Store, for both iPhone and iPad. Likened to a modern-day Myst, the open world game sees players wake up on a strange, colorful island with no memory of who they are or how they got there. Only by exploring the vast island, discovering clues and completing curious puzzles can they hope to regain their memory and somehow find their way home. With dozens of locations to discover and more than 500 puzzles to solve, The Witness is a beautiful beast of a game, available now for $10/£10.
While Apple expanded its iPhone lineup today, a software update delivered for iTunes on Windows and Mac PCs is slimming things down a bit. Once users install version 12.7 they will no longer have access to the App Store from the desktop. As described on Apple's support page, a focus toward "music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks" means that you'll usually need to use your iOS devices to manage the apps installed on them. What it adds in this update is the ability to sync with devices running iOS 11 and social music sharing for Apple Music subscribers.
Source: Apple Support
China might say it isn't cracking down on personal VPNs, but Apple would likely argue otherwise. ExpressVPN, Star VPN and other developers report that Apple has pulled their apps from the App Store in China for allegedly including "content that is illegal" in the country. Some clients are still on other platforms (including ExpressVPN, for now) while others remain, so it's not a uniform cull at this point. However, this is still a big blow to attempts to circumvent China's mounting internet censorship through encrypted communication -- not to mention companies that may have been depending on those apps for remote work connections.
Apple has been nudging iOS app developers toward 64-bit code for years: it started by requiring 64-bit support, then told users that 32-bit apps might run poorly, and lately has been warning that 32-bit apps wouldn't work in "future versions of iOS." Now, however, it's pulling the plug. TouchArcade and others have noticed that 32-bit iOS software no longer turns up in App Store search results. You can still use direct links, but that's about as far as you can go. And you can probably guess why Apple is making this move right now.
Android app shoppers have long had the luxury of watching video trailers on Google Play, but their iOS counterparts have had to be content with static images on the App Store. Apple's portal just got livelier, though, as MacStories has noticed what may be the first App Store video clip. UK residents who visit the "featured" section of the store now see a trailer for Clumsy Ninja alongside the usual promo graphics and app icons. This isn't necessarily a sign of things to come -- other regions don't see the trailer just yet, and it's not present within Clumsy Ninja's app page. With that said, we won't be shocked if App Store sizzle reels become commonplace.MacStories
Loyalty is a powerful factor in consumer choice, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a company that has benefited more from customer loyalty than Apple. That's what makes the company's lack of support for software upgrade pricing so puzzling. Offering a discount on a new product (or more fleshed-out version of an existing product) to thank those who are already using your software is good business, and the lack of such an option on the App Store is, at this point, baffling.
Remember how things worked before we had a one-stop shop like the App Store for our software needs? When a new or vastly improved version of an application was released, it would be offered at two different pricing tiers: Full price for new customers and a discounted price for those who already owned the previous version. This ensured that brand-new users paid their entry fee while giving returning customers more of a reason to upgrade, along with a pleasant feeling of being rewarded for their allegiance.
The App Store has no such option, requiring updates either be applied to an existing product for free or be sold separately as an entirely new app with one price for all users. This structure works just fine for Apple's OS X upgrades, which are now priced cheaper than a trip to the gas pump, but Apple isn't relying solely on the revenue from each new version of OS X to pay its bills. Many of the App Store's developers, on the other hand, live or die by the sales of their software alone.
When it comes to launching a new and improved version of an existing app, developers are already working from a disadvantage, and to not be able to offer a lower price to loyal users can be painful.
"How much is the new version worth to me? I can already use the older app to do many of the same things, so the value of the upgrade is much lower to me: I can't justify the cost of making a full investment in the app all over again," Ken Case, CEO of The Omni Group, tells us. "As someone who has already invested in the previous version, what will make the investment worthwhile would be discounted upgrade pricing based on the relative increase in value of the new version, rather than having to pay for the full value of the app all over again. Otherwise, it may not be worth purchasing."
The Omni Group -- developers of business and productivity software such as OmniGraffle and OmniFocus -- believes so strongly in the upgrade pricing strategy that it went so far as to create an OS X app called OmniKeyMaster that scanned for existing purchases and then offered customers discounts on upgrades from its own online shop. This is a fantastic solution, or at least it was for the few days between the announcement of OmniKeyMaster and the blog post by Omni detailing why the app would no longer be available.
But can you really blame Omni for trying? Apple has left developers little choice but to attempt to sneak through loopholes in order to offer a pricing structure that has been an industry standard for decades.
Apple is in love with simplicity, and a one-price-fits-all model is certainly simple. Unfortunately that simplicity comes at a cost to both developers and consumers, not to mention Apple itself. By not providing a paid upgrade option, developers are unable to offer loyal customers a break -- thus driving sales. Customers are hurt by not being able to take advantage of these would-be discounts, sometimes forcing them to purchase two different versions of a single product at each app's full price. Meanwhile, by incentivizing non-App Store purchases and forcing developers like Omni to promote upgrade pricing through their own online shops, Apple is missing its cut of the sales.
Newer developers -- the ones that need a marketplace like the App Store the most -- are left with few options. What we end up with is an App Store filled with paid "Pro" versions of each app struggling for footing alongside free, stripped-down skeleton versions of the same apps. If the free iteration of the app in question offers an adequate experience, many customers won't see the value in the paid version. At the same time, if the freebie fall short, there's virtually no chance of getting a user to throw down the money for the real app.
Some developers have found a way to promote new paid versions of their products -- such as offering limited-time launch discounts -- but this is a bandage on a hatchet wound. Sure, users who catch wind of huge launch discounts on new apps can benefit, but should those who happen to miss the chatter be punished? This strategy might work for apps that only cost a few bucks, but when these price cuts could have a noticeable effect on your bank account, like in the Mac App Store where software can run hundreds of dollars, it can often be the deciding factor when determining whether or not to upgrade.
For its part, Apple hasn't officially come out for or against upgrade pricing as a practice, but if the company does indeed support the idea, it's clearly not very high on the priority list. Whether we can ever expect to see such an option is anyone's guess, but in the meantime we're missing out on a better version of the App Store that we should have had all along.
As expected, the creepy but excellent Limbo is now available on the iOS App Store, and playable on your iPhone or iPad. Playdead won a lot of awards and critical acclaim with this title, which takes a mysterious young boy on a journey to save his sister through several environments. The game is an excellently designed platformer with interesting physics puzzles that get increasingly complex. The overall feel of the game can be a little spooky (especially that giant spider), but even scaredy cats will appreciate the craft of it.
Limbo is US$4.99 on the App Store, which may sound expensive, but the same game is still $9.99 on Steam, so we're getting it for half price right away. If you haven't sat down to play it on a PC or console yet, definitely consider picking it up.
And now, Playdead has announced that the game is coming to iOS. On July 3, it'll be available on the iPhone 4S, the iPad 2 and the latest iPod touch, and devices newer than those, for US$4.99. Playdead says it has been "rethinking the controls and performing extensive optimizations to ensure an amazing touch-based experience," but we'll have to see if the game uses virtual buttons, or goes for a more specifically touchscreen control scheme. There likely won't be any new content, but this is an excellent title, and should be a good addition to Apple's platforms.
Apple's delivered a whole bunch of new features for iOS 7, and the App Store is one of the beneficiaries. For instance, users will now be able to take advantage of automatic app updates, a feature that's been on our wish list for quite some time; additionally, Eddie Cue showed off a few new location-based options that give you recommendations for certain apps solely based on either your current whereabouts or local events that you're attending (say, a ballgame or concert). Last but not least, Apple has also thrown in a Kids category that is sortable by age. Solid enhancements overall, though we're still personally holding out hope for a transition away from the card-based search.
Follow all of our WWDC 2013 coverage at our event hub.
If you've been waiting for Ultima Forever, the new iOS version of Ultima from EA, then it's here for you (kind of). The app has been spotted over on the Canadian App Store, and if you have an account over there, you can go and download it right now. The Canadian App Store is often used as a beta testing ground for iOS apps, especially by EA, so the company is likely testing out the game and its services before releasing it worldwide soon (probably in the next few weeks). So it's not completely done yet, but if you want to go get it, you can.
To switch your iTunes install over to Canada, you just need to go down and click on little flag located on the bottom right of each App Store page in iTunes. You can switch your client to any of the world's regions there, and I believe that you can download apps for free from any of those regions (including Ultima Forever).
You can also switch your App Store region on the iPhone or iPad by going to settings, and then tweaking your Apple ID to match the region you want to browse. That's more of a hassle, however -- if you can be patient for another week or two, it might be better to wait for the official, worldwide release, undoubtedly coming soon.
[via Ultima Codex]
In conjunction with Apple's recently announced countdown to 50 billion app downloads, the company last week issued an updated list charting the most popular iPhone and iPad apps of all-time. Per usual, the listing is broken up between free and paid apps. As one might expect, the list is extremely game heavy, with Rovio's Angry Birds making a number of appearances on both the paid and free list. It's also worth noting that a number of Apple's own applications make appearances on the list of most popular paid iPad titles.
So without further ado, let's take a look at the apps that iOS users simply haven't been able to get enough of over the past few years.
All-Time top 25 paid iPhone apps
- Angry Birds
- Fruit Ninja
- Doodle Jump
- Cut the Rope
- Angry Birds Seasons
- WhatsApp Messenger
- Words with Friends
- Tiny Wings
- Angry Birds Space
- Pocket God
- Plants vs Zombies
- THE GAME OF LIFE Classic Edition
- The Moron Test
- Where's My Water?
- Draw Something
- Angry Birds Star Wars
- MotionX GPS Drive
- Minecraft - Pocket Edition
- Color Splash
- The Sims 3
All-Time top 25 free iPhone apps
- Pandora Radio
- Words With Friends Free
- The Weather Channel
- Temple Run
- Google Search
- Angry Birds Free
- Draw Something Free
- Facebook Messenger
- Google Earth
- Fruit Ninja Free
- Movies by Flixster
- PAC-MAN Lite
- Google Maps
All-Time top 25 paid iPad apps
- Angry Birds HD
- Angry Birds Seasons HD
- Where's My Water
- Fruit Ninja HD
- Angry Birds Space HD
- Words With Friends HD
- Cut the Rope HD
- Angry Birds Star Wars HD
- GoodReader for iPad
- SCRABBLE HD for iPad
- Minecraft - Pocket Edition
- Plants Vs Zombies HD
- MONOPOLY for iPad
- Quickoffice Pro HD
- Star Walk HD
- Draw Something
- Where's My Perry?
- Bad Piggies HD
All-Time top 25 free iPad apps
- Skype for iPad
- The Weather Channel for iPad
- Angry Birds HD Free
- Pandora Radio
- Calculator for iPad Free
- Fruit Ninja HD Free
- Words With Friends HD Free
- Google Earth
- ABC Player
- Calculator Pro for iPad Free
- Temple Run
- eBay for iPad
- CNN App for iPad
- Adobe Reader
- NYTimes for iPad
- Temple Run 2
- Hulu Plus
- Draw Something Free
Eclipse is one of the most popular board games around right now -- it's a vast, involving epic "4X" game, where those four Xs stand for eXploration, eXpansion, eXploitation (as in mining crops and resources from various planets) and eXtermination (as in finishing off your alien opponents). It was recently announced that Big Daddy's Creations would be adapting the game for iPad, and the iOS version has now arrived on the App Store, available for US$6.99.
As a board game, I think Eclipse is terrific -- it's very well-balanced, and all of the various things you can do offer plenty of different strategies to play with. There are three resources (money, science and material) that you can use to exert your influence on various areas of a galaxy, research new technologies for starships or your empire or build up those ships and other various structures to combat your enemies. The game's almost endlessly flexible, in that you can try to win over the game's nine turns in any number of ways.
The drawback here, however, is that all of that flexibility and complexity make the game, well, complicated. This is not a casual game by any means, and while the iOS version's interface is fairly good at converting all of the information you need into a visible, touchable form, it's not very good at actually explaining what all of that information is. So when you're confronted by 30-50 icons on screen at the same time and asked to choose one, the game can be overwhelming to say the least.
Still, if you like great board games and are up for a challenge, Eclipse is excellent. And if you're already familiar with the board game, then this might end up becoming one of your favorite games on the App Store. My only other complaint is that there's no real "metagame" to it -- winning or losing the various games you play doesn't matter much in the larger picture at all. Still, Eclipse is an incredible adaptation of a brilliant board game, and it comes highly recommended. Even at the price of $6.99, it's one of the best board game apps out there.
Apple has been steadily beefing up its in-app purchasing policy to prevent children and adults from inadvertently buying items from within an app. As spotted by App Advice, Apple recently added a new disclaimer about in-app purchases to its App Store on the iPad.
The new "Learn More About In-App Purchases" page explains what in-app purchases are and how they work. Apple also gives tips on how to limit in-app purchases using parental controls.
You can find this page in the featured section of the iPad App Store, directly below the "What's Hot" section. There you will see a "Learn More About In-App Purchases" card. Tapping on it will bring up the full page.
Right now, this information is only available on the iPad. We assume it eventually will land on the iPhone App Store and the iTunes desktop version.
There's good news, bad news, and the best news on this one, and I'll give you the good news first. Firaxis' Haunted Hallow appeared on the App Store this morning, which means the game is just about ready for prime time. The free-to-play strategy title was one of my favorite games I got to see at GDC a few months ago. It's a board game, basically, in that you move various monsters around a board trying to claim and conquer space as best you can, though there's a fun house-building mechanic as well, in the way you choose which monsters to summon and fight for you. Firaxis, the creators of Civilization and the recent hit XCOM: Enemy Unknown, are some of the most experienced strategy developers out there, and Haunted Hallow is a free-to-play gift from them straight to the App Store, so it's great to see the game is almost done.
The bad news, however, is that while I was writing this post to let you know the game was out, the title has disappeared from the US App Store. It is still available on the New Zealand App Store, so if you want to change your country to download the app from there, you can do that. But presumably this means the app wasn't supposed to be live on the US Store yet, so either there's more testing to be done, or we'll have to wait until this evening, as new App Store titles go official across the world.
The best news is that Haunted Hallow is just the beginning. Firaxis has also announced that it's porting XCOM to the iPad in the future, and there are some other, not-yet-announced exciting strategy titles on the way as well. Firaxis has some great things planned for iOS, and this game is only the first.
At any rate, Haunted Hallow is almost ready, and that's worth getting excited about. It's free to play (you get a certain number of monsters to start with, and you'll be able to buy more via in-app purchase), so whenever it is ready to download in your region, it'll be a must grab for sure.
Update: 2K has confirmed that this was an accidental release. The game will be available worldwide next Thursday, May 2. So we just have a short wait until then!
I love traveling, so back in September 2010 when Jochem Wijnands and Michel Elings came out with the first-ever iPad-exlusive magazine called TRVL, I jumped on the bandwagon as a fan of their amazing photojournalism. Fast-forward to April 2013, and the free app magazine is celebrating its 100th issue and over 1 million app installs.
To celebrate, the 100th issue of TRVL is a special edition about Timothy Allen, a former BBC and Human Planet photographer. The issue features 40 of Allen's most amazing images, and he talks about his career and life as a professional photographer.
Within a few months, Wijnands and Elings expect to unveil their magazine publishing platform, Prss. Here's hoping that the duo is as successful in creating more magazine startups as they've been with TRVL.
Yesterday, we posted about Apple reportedly banning issue 12 of a comic book called Saga, due to a couple of graphic sex scenes included in it. The book's creator, Brian K. Vaughan, had posted that Apple wasn't allowing his book to be sold on the App Store, though it was available through a number of other channels. But today it turns out that Apple isn't to blame -- instead, the book's digital publisher, Comixology, has confessed that they made the decision not to sell the book.
Comixology runs the very popular Comics app on iOS, and they publish the digital versions of books from a number of different publishers, including Image Comics, who publishes the Saga series. The company's CEO, David Steinberger, has posted on the company blog that Comixology made its own decision to not publish the book, based on its assumption of Apple's policies. Of course, after the news yesterday, Apple says it would not have a problem with the book being published in Comixology's app, and Steinberger says the issue will be available soon, and apologizes to Vaughan and Image Comics for the confusion.
So there's both good news and bad news here. The good news is that this decision did not come from Apple -- instead, it was Comixology that jumped the gun and decided to not publish the book on the App Store.
But the bad news is that while Comixology did make the mistake, I can't really blame them for being concerned about Apple's retribution. Just yesterday, the company did threaten an App Store developer with removal over some adult content, and we've seen examples before of Apple being overly concerned about content that was already labeled for users 17-plus. That's why we here at TUAW jumped on this story and took the comic's creator, Vaughan, at his word -- because it's not hard to believe, given Apple's unclear and inconsistent polices on this matter, that they would have a problem with this book.
Fortunately, they don't, and all credit to them for confirming that. Macworld followed up with Apple to confirm the supposed ban, and in hindsight, we should have done the same. But as long as Apple's policies and their enforcement on what's OK and not OK for the App Store remain unclear, we may see more issues like this pop up, either driven by developers dependent on the App Store for revenue, or by Apple itself.
Digital comics publisher Izneo has pulled much of its content from its App Store app, after being cautioned by Apple about selling adult content on the iPad. Izneo has been on the App Store since 2010, but Apple only recently reached out to the company, saying that it had just 30 hours to remove all "adult" comics. Apple didn't identify the offending titles, so Izneo first pulled over half of its content, and then restored some of the (apparently) less-explicit content later. Still, about 1,500 titles are still absent.
Prohibiting pornography on the App Store is reasonable, but Izneo has been selling comics (mostly French and Belgian titles) for years there now. Obviously that content was only part of a much larger collection. It's a little disturbing that Apple elected to censor content that's clearly labeled as being for adults (the app is marked for ages 17+) in such a vague, arbitrary fashion. Izneo is obviously working to stay on the App Store rather than challenge Apple in its own domain, but this seems like this could have been handled differently.
One of my favorite things about the App Store is that it can offer some completely original and crazy ideas. Developers do have to get approval from Apple to be published, but that approval doesn't require a game to make sense or be clear, only that it works as advertised. Badland is one such product of this system. It's a wild and wacky, totally alien experience that I don't think would get published anywhere else but on a platform such as the App Store.
It's a platformer of sorts. You guide a little creature with some weird, flappy arms through a 2D environment on an alien planet, touching the screen to send him flapping upwards and releasing it to let him float back down. I don't know what your creature's name is, or even what he is -- the game works without words, communicating the premise and the story entirely through gameplay. But as you move through the levels, avoiding dangers as best you can, you collect various objects that give you other abilities: You can split the little guy into a few different creatures, grow or shrink him, or speed him up or slow him down.
That's just in the first levels. Badland is simply oozing with creativity, both in terms of the gameplay situations it throws at you, but also in that incredible art. The actual levels are essentially drawn in black 2D outlines, but the game's background is a colorful, crazy planet, full of life that seems completely alien. The game's audio is very impressive as well -- you can clearly hear each clank and thump as your creature bounces his way through the world, and the ambient sound is also very well done.
Badland is a treat, and we're lucky to have it. It's available for US$3.99, and as far as I'm concerned, it's a must-play game. Developers might argue about how "open" Apple's platform is, but being able to see such an original game like this on iOS makes me believe that Apple's doing something right.
Today saw a number of big releases on the App Store worth trying out. Here's a quick roundup of some of the biggest new app releases.
- Disney has released a game called Mittens, which looks impressive. It was put together by a company called Metrogames, so it's not a fully internal product. But most of Disney's work lately has been putting their own brands on titles like Temple Run, so it's good to see something with an original spin. It's available for US$0.99.
- Dream Chaser is Chillingo's latest title, a very flashy endless-running game, also for 99 cents.
- Lie Swatter is a new trivia game by Jellyvision, the makers of You Don't Know Jack. It's free to play.
- Wraithborne is an impressive new free-to-play action RPG from Crescent Moon Games.
- As mentioned yesterday, there's a new app based on Injustice: Gods Among Us, the upcoming console game featuring DC superheroes battling each other. It's also a free-to-play game.
Some excellent titles in there for sure. We'll have closer looks at a few of these coming up later on TUAW, but they're all available to go pick up right now if you're interested already.