Weekly Round Up

Today week we bring you tales of both harmony and tension that hit the headlines this week…

Apple and Android Live Together in Perfect Harmony

Okay, don’t be too taken aback by that headline – we’re not talking about some shock merger, but we did nonetheless find this story on the BBC News website very interesting when it appeared on Monday.

It seems that researchers at Columbia University in New York have been working on a piece of software that enables iOS apps to operate on Android devices. The report states that the project – which goes by the very apple-y name of Cider – was started to get around some of the limitations that smart phone and tablet users encounter, namely Android users not being able to access apps that call on iTunes and iOS owners struggling with Flash-based content.

The team demonstrated Android and iOS apps working alongside each other on a Nexus 7 tablet. Sadly for now though the researchers insist it is simply a prototype and that they have no plans to turn Cider into a commercial product. We say never say never…

Apple and Android

Hailo Hacks Off Hackney Drivers

It’s not often that the app world witnesses face to face confrontations and vandalism, but that’s exactly what one app company experienced in London this week as was reported in the city’s Evening Standard among other outlets.

In 2011 three taxi drivers and three technology entrepreneurs launched Hailo, a free smart phone app that lets users summon a black cab in just a couple of taps. We think this is a pretty cool idea, summoning the taxi directly to you and eliminating the prospect of recreating that Steve Martin/Kevin Bacon race for the cab at the start of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Since its launch in London, Hailo has also rolled out to other cities including New York, Toronto, Madrid and Osaka.

It appears though that Hailo have upset London’s cabbies. According to a quote in the Evening Standard article from general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association Steve McNamara, Hailo was originally pitched to black cab drivers as a means towards taking back trade from private hire vehicles and minicabs. The drivers reportedly embraced the technology but recent news that Hailo has applied for a private hire licence – indicating that they are preparing to work with the Hackney fleet’s competition – has enraged them.

Things appeared to reach a head on Tuesday, with reports of between four and 10 drivers arriving at Hailo’s office and being “boisterous” – leading to a visit from the police. The report also says that “Judas” had been daubed on the wall of the premises.

Hopefully things calm down, but we imagine the guys at Hailo will be taking the tube for the time being…


Apps We Played at the Weekend: The Simpsons v Family Guy

We are pretty psyched for the Family Guy/The Simpsons crossover episode that’s going to air later this year. Yes – in a special episode of the former, the Griffin family will travel to Springfield and encounter Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie – all (except for Maggie) voiced by their regular artists in special guest appearances.

It’s a moment of unity that confirms that behind years of cheeky quips at each other’s expense, there’s a real mutual respect between the makers of each show. Something that’s pleasing to fans of both shows… like us.

But while on screen harmony is one thing, it remains each man for himself in the dog eat dog world of merchandising – and app gaming has become the latest opportunity to enter that multi-million dollar arena.

In 2012 Fox, which is responsible for commissioning both shows, teamed up with EA to launch The Simpsons Tapped Out. The playable app tasks the user with rebuilding Springfield after Homer (in a moment of classic Simpsons self-referential humour) gets engrossed in his “MyPad” game at the expense of his nuclear power plant safety duties and the town is wiped off the map.

Launched earlier this year – also by Fox, but this time in conjunction with TinyCo – Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff has a similar premise: Quahog too suffers a fiery destruction although this time it’s due to a catastrophic fight between Peter and his nemesis, the chicken.

So what is our verdict? Let’s quickly look at them individually before we draw comparisons.

The Simpsons Tapped Out

Tapped Out is a must have for any Simpsons fan – the structures which you are tasked with placing are all lovingly created replicas of the onscreen originals, down to some of the tiniest details. Although one minor criticism here is scale – of course we realise that it might be unfeasible to do everything to scale, but that the Springfield Mall is not much bigger than Principal Skinner’s house looks a little odd.

Speaking of Skinner, he – along with his Mum – is one of a huge cast of characters. And that is one of the greatest charms of Tapped Out – bringing all of Springfield’s citizens, major and minor, to life with their own set of bespoke tasks. The makers have rolled the characters out cleverly to keep people interested – on starting you unlock the likes of Cletus and Groundskeeper Willie before Marge enters the fray to complete the eponymous family. Others who make up the population of our now bustling town include Chief Wiggum, Lenny and the ghost of Maude Flanders.

That’s right – Ned’s deceased wife haunts the town and she was introduced into the game via another feature, one of its seasonal themes (Halloween in Maude’s case). These are pretty cool and get you in the spirit of the season – Halloween saw the town go all misty with a creepy soundtrack, while Springfield became snow covered for Christmas; this year so far we’ve gained an Irish pub for St. Patrick’s Day and a colourful Easter float.

Family Guy - The Quest for Stuff

The Quest for Stuff is the relatively new kid on the block so our Quahog is nowhere near as developed as our Springfield, but we’re off to a good start. Again there’s no immediate splurge on the family at the heart of it – at this time we’re still to unlock the all-important Stewie and Brian, yet we’ve got peg limbed Seamus and money obsessed Mort wandering around town. The scenery and buildings seem a little duller than in Tapped Out but that is probably as much to do with the shows as it is with the games – Matt Groening’s universe has always been a little more colourful and off the wall than Seth Macfarlane’s which, despite the insane storylines, has always had relatively conservative backdrops.

So far all characters on The Quest for Stuff are voiced – and you realise again how funny the characters are through the fact that even the shortest grunt from one of them can raise a smile. It’s also pretty funny to lift one of them up off the ground and hear them protest as their legs dangle in mid air. In Tapped Out it seems that only certain actors signed up to allow their voices to be used and so there are a lot of mute characters – particularly where women and children are concerned.

To look at the games’ other features we look at the things they have in common. Both are free to download and free to play – considering the quality of the animation that is exceptionally good value. They need to make money somehow however and that is done through the sale of premium currency – donuts in Springfield and clams in Quahog – which are in turn redeemed for certain buildings, characters and decorations that can only be acquired by paying for them. It’s fair enough given what you get for free, and to date there’s been no instance of either game meanly making you pay for something before you can proceed any further in the game. The problem arises though if you’re someone who likes to complete things – a virtual Springfield without the Krustylu Studios for example may well be like a football sticker album with empty spaces and that is where the money begins to be spent…

So the verdict at the moment is a seal of approval for both games. As we mentioned, we’ve only been playing The Quest for Stuff for a few weeks but so far it has kept us interested. Tapped Out’s longer history tells us more – we’ve downloaded other games in the 12 months since we first started building Springfield, but we’ve since deleted many of them. After the time spent lovingly creating our own unique town we’re not about to put Tapped Out to the side, and if The Quest for Stuff can keep up its initial good form we’ll be obsessed with our big old Quahog this time next year too.

Weekly Round Up

If you blinked you might have missed it, but on Wednesday Marketing Week reported on Yahoo’s latest acquisition – Blink (see what we did with that opening line there?). Regarded as a rival to the hugely successful Snapchat, Blink is a mobile messaging app with – among its features – the ability for users to set messages to “self-destruct”. We’re assured that’s just fancy speak for “delete itself” – no reports of injuries from smartphones going all Mission: Impossible on their users.

It looks like the Blink name will be disappearing with the report stating that it will be “shut down in the coming weeks”, but its seven person team will be retained by Yahoo to work on its smart communication products and the announcement on the Blink website talks positively and excitedly about bringing the Blink vision to Yahoo.

Time will tell if Blink’s vision and Yahoo’s might will go on to be a dominant force in mobile messaging…

While Yahoo was welcoming Blink into its bosom, HootSuite and Springbot were giving each other a big hug as they teamed up to launch Magento Social – as reported by geeksworld.com

The new app is “an integrated application that assists with scheduling, revenue attribution tracking, publishing and monitoring social media campaigns for eCommerce retailers.”

Sounds to us like it will give smaller businesses easier access to the kind of data that would traditionally be quicker for the big guys to extract, thus giving them a competitive advantage. Could be an interesting development in levelling the eCommerce playing field.

Running A Kickstarter Campaign – Life After Kickstarter

Well. It’s been a while since we’ve done any sort of blog post, tweet or anything really. Why is that? Because in March we launched a Kickstarter project with a company called Connect-IN to help fund Lupo hardware and app.

Kickstarter is a very interesting thing. It has a unique ability to focus you like no other channel. The urgency that’s pressed on you by the timer counting down and the revenue going up or in some cases not, is like nothing anyone in the team has experienced. It was awesome and intense. With a Kickstarter campaign it really is all on the line, not just from a reputation point of view but also if the campaign fails the project implodes, money dries up and people lose their jobs. There are real world impacts here.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about some of our experiences and interesting discoveries during a successful Kickstarter campaign. Really, we are still processing everything that happened.

Don’t miss our series of Kickstarter posts, follow us on twitter @miratrix_digi.