Headline Of The Week
Apple has been ordered to refund at least $32.5 million in the next year to parents whose children have made in-app purchases without their consent. The decision, courtesy of the US Federal Trade Commission, also advises that the company alters its procedures (including the App Store’s policy that lets users enter their passwords once for a single purchase then continue to buy things during a fifteen minute period) to make it more difficult for children to engage in micro-transactions.
In-app purchases are (depressingly) big business, contributing heavily to the $10 billion worth of revenue raised for developers via the App Store in 2013. In the most extreme cases a single transaction has cost anywhere up to $70, and some parents complained that their little ones had cleared spent well beyond $2000 on a game. Personally, I feel that a lot of the blame lies with the parents failing to observe the content or practices of the games their children are playing, but there is little doubt that some developers have deliberately cashed in.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has stated that the company has begun the process of reimbursing near to 40,000 claims, although took issue with the ruling claiming “It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled”.
In Other News…
As it turns out, the Wii U has been a slow seller – who would have guessed it? Sadly for Nintendo, they have only just come to the realization and have drastically cut their financial forecast. Whereas Nintendo had originally planned to ship 9 million Wii U’s in the fiscal year ending March 31st 2014, they have now brought that figure down to just 2.8 million. The 3DS family of handhelds have also sold under expectation, despite dominating the Japanese market and being the best-selling console in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2013.
“Wii U sales showed some progress in the year-end sales season as we released various compelling titles from the summer onwards, launched hardware bundles at affordable price points and also performed a markdown of the hardware in the US and European markets; however, they fell short of our targeted recovery by a large margin” – Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo
Projections on net sales have dropped from £5.4 to £3.5 billion, and the Big N is set to post a net loss for the year of nearly £147 million. Iwata has kept a brave face during the announcements, apologising to shareholders and insisting he will not resign before the company’s fortunes are reversed
Almost a year after its disastrous release, Maxis have announced that an offline single player mode for Sim City is to be made available with the next set of updates. For those without long memories, the launch of Sim City (which required players to be always online) was one of the biggest debacles of 2013, as servers buckled under the strain of new players and left the simulator unplayable for many. A wave of bad press followed and the reputation of the game has been in tatters ever since.
All previously downloaded content will be available to use offline and saves will be stored locally, although players will not be able to access the Global Market or leaderboards. The new update will also introduce modding tools to Sim City – perhaps these changes will alter a bit of that ill-will towards the game.
Perhaps in a bid to retaliate to criticism that its Steam Machines will not offer the multimedia experience that Sony and Microsoft offer, Valve have stated their desire to have music, television and films added to the SteamOS before it is released.
According to tweets sent during the Valve Dev Day event in Seatlle, general business developer Anna Sweet wants SteamOS to be a first choice option for living room entertainment, although there are no details at all on how Valve will go about achieving this.
In additional Valve news, the active user base of Steam has now grown beyond 75,000,000 users, a significant growth since the last time I reported on it back in October 2013; as ever the discounts over the holiday period are thought to have contributed to the surging numbers.
With the rut well and truly set in for the next couple of weeks, FIFA 14 notched its seventh week at the top of the UK Game Sales Charts. The rest of the Top 10 remains pretty much the same, with the notable return of Aliens: Colonial Marines in tenth spot – mainly because if it is so awful, why do people still buy it?
Top Ten For Week Ending 12th January 2014 (from GFK/Chart-Track)
1 – FIFA 14 (EA Canada)
2 – Call Of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward)
3 – Battlefield 4 (DICE)
4 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft Montreal)
5 – Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North)
6 – Lego Marvel Superheroes (Traveller’s Tales)
7 – Need For Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games)
8 – Killzone: Shadowfall (Guerrilla Games)
9 – Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition (Mojang)
10 – Aliens: Colonial Marines (Gearbox Software)
You might not have expected a SNES game to feature in the ‘In Stores Now’ list anytime soon –well think again! Super 3D Noah’s Ark, the only game commercially released for the SNES in the US without Nintendo’s approval, is getting a re-release 20 years after the game first went on sale.
From what I can gather, Super 3D Noah’s Ark retells the classic Biblical tale…apart from the fact that it takes place in an exact replica of Wolfenstein 3D as Noah runs around in first person shooting animals with food. In order to get around Nintendo’s strict censorship guidelines, the game was produced on unusually shaped cartridges that required a standard SNES game to plug into to. Truly, it is a bizarre chapter in gaming’s long history of knock off software.
If you want to own this rare (and I’m going to take a wild guess here, pretty crap) game, then developers Wisdom tree are offering a full boxset complete with instruction manual and cartridge via e-mail order only for $65 with an extra $7 for shipping costs. Better yet for fans of weird Christian themed games, they also plan to remake Bible Buffet Quiz (also for the SNES) in the near future.
What an age we live in, eh?