My Adventure in Mommyhood

Sunday, January 1, 2012

EA, Please Improve Your iOS business Model and the Quality of Your Games

Electronic Arts, (‘EA’), makes a lot of great games for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad.
My particular favorite is Tetris. I’ve been playing Tetris on Macs since it was only available in B&W, (Yes, computers used to display things only in B&W). 
On the first iPod Touch I used, the first app I bought was EA’s version of Tetris. I paid $5 for it. I was glad to pay $5 for it.
In addition to Tetris, I have purchased Scrabble; Monopoly; Star Trek; Trivial Pursuit; Battleship; Battlefield Bad Company 2; and EA Hunting from EA. I have doubled these purchases by buying Tetris; Trivial Pursuit; and Battleship for the iPad.
I am not much of a game player, (or so I would like to think). However when I get into it, I can spend hours. (Spectre used to be my ‘game addiction' of choice and I once spent 8 hours playing it, but that’s another story. Thankfully, my wife was working all 8 hours and didn't know.) Usually, I play Tetris. If not Tetris then Scrabble or some non-EA pinball games.
Just before Christmas, EA released a whole bunch of new apps and modified many of the old ones for the iPod Touch/iPhone. Then they reduced the price across the board to ninety-nine cents.
All well and good. However, the games are really buggy. I mean REALLY buggy. They freeze frequently. If I didn’t know better,  I would say they were in Beta and EA is charging us ninety-nine cents to test them. Not to speculate, but I get the impression EA wanted to get these apps out in time for the people who got iOS devices for Christmas to snap them up - and then, not being familiar with the in app purchase mode, buy a bunch of stuff they may or may not need to play the games. And, in order to do this, they released versions of the apps that weren't adequately tested and debugged.
And it is not just me saying this. Read the reviews, they are overwhelmingly negative - both in how buggy the software is and how they appear to be lead ins to in app purchases.
The driving force to all these behind these changes seems to be ‘in app’ purchases. They nearly 'give away' the app and then sell you everything they can through in app purchases. In the case of new Tetris, that means just about everything needed to play.

(Although I am not a game critic, I have been playing Tetris forever. The changes made to the 'new' Tetris make it just about unplayable and in no way can they be considered 'upgrades'.)
The most annoying part of this is I have the original EA Tetris on iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. If I down load the upgrade, I am stuck with the new version. For me, the new version doesn’t even make any sense - it tries to turn a solitary game into some kind of group grope where you have to deal with other players over wifi or 3G – and, in some instances, pay for the privilege. I just want to be left alone to play the older, better Tetris by myself. (EA, Tetris is a solitary game, not a team sport.) (Note to EA: Completely remove the insipid and annoying Russian music from the new 'version' of the game. Better yet, trash the upgrade and go back to the version that actually works.)
I loved Battleship when I was a kid. “J18” “You sunk my Battlesip,” (okay, so the last one was from their commercial in the 1960s), etc. And the implementation of Battleship by EA is a pretty good – in concept. (Note to EA on iPhone/iPod Touch: Dump the graphic of the ships being sunk. Put in an easy way to get my music into the game. Realize the small boat you portray is a Riverine Patrol Boat - PBR. PBRs were part of the brown water navy, operating on the Mekong River Delta during the Vietnam War. They didn’t operate in blue water with the rest of the ships in the game.) 

EA's version of Battleship for iPod Touch/iPhone plays as good as the classic. When it doesn't crash, which it does frequently. The app freezes completely after you have sunk 4 ships out of 5 in the salvo version.  The screen where you deploy your ships occasionally goes berserk and rearranges your ships continuously. It is the 'definition' of frustration. I have stopped playing it entirely on the iPod Touch and iPhone. Good thing I only paid 99 cents for it.
Oh, yeah, using the "upgraded" Battleship app on iPod Touch/iPhone will burn, at least, 80% of a full battery charge. One could write this off as annoying - if iOS devices could be re-charged infinitely. They can't. The number of charges are finite. This makes nearly burning through a full battery charge for half an hour of play pretty expensive.
I guess my points are:
  • Dump, or minimize, the in app purchases. The only App where in app purchases are needed/reasonable is Trivial Pursuit, (which actually works most of the time.)
  • Lengthen the development time on your games. Make sure they are stable when you release them into the wild.
  • You used to sell apps for $5. I am glad to buy an app for $5. As long as it works; doesn’t require me to spend another bunch of money just to make the play worthwhile; and is of the quality of games you used to make.
  • Dump the ad that appears when you open an App on iPod Touch/iPhone nagging the user to buy more EA games. I paid for most of these apps, so stop bugging me to buy more*
  • Bring back $5 games that are well developed and stable. And which you don’t have to make in app purchases to make work. I will line up to pay $5 for a good, stable version of an app that doesn't constantly beg me to buy more of your products or try to sell me "coins" in the app for some nebulous, unexplained purpose. (Well, actually, I guess I know the purpose of these 'coins' - to make EA money.)
  • Sell ‘classic’versons’ the games for us purists.
  • Completely dump the current version of Tetris and let us Tetris fanatics get back to how Tetris is supposed to be played. I will gladly pay $5-$10 more for a stable app that doesn’t constantly nag me to buy more and more and more in app. And, remember, Tetris is a solitary game, not a team sport.
Anyhing else and EA should give people who bought these games a heartfelt apology and a swift refund.

Note: The iPad versions of Battleship; Trivial Pursuit; Scrabble; and Tetris, (thee is no 'upgraded' version of Tetris for the iPad that I can find), work well. None of them have crashed the iPad I am using. One wonders how the iPad versions can be so stable; while the iPod Touch/iPhone versions are so unstable.

*Last time I bought a pickup from a dealer, the dealer wanted to put a sticker on the back of the car saying it was bought from “We’re the Great Dealer in the World.” I pointed out to him, unless they reduced the price significantly, I wasn’t driving a pickup around with free advertising on it after I’d just written them a check for +S25,000. EA, sort of doesn’t the same thing - nag, nag, nag to constantly get you to make in app purchases and come back and buy more of their games.

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