Tag Archives: mobile

video game addiction

Boom Beach: A lesson in how to overcome game addiction

Boom Beach
Boom Beach


Living in the shadow of George Yao

I came across the story of George Yao, Clash of Clans player extraordinaire (until he retired last year) after attending this year’s Gaming Analytics Summit conference in San Francisco. An eagerly sought after lunch had me sit next to a developer from Sony’s PlayStation London office. She told me how disappointed she was with this year’s GDC and its feeble analytics content. The story of George Yao, poignantly recounted by New York Times Bits columnist Matt Bai, remains a lesson for game players everywhere on how addiction can take control of your life (for better and for worse). Having a love/hate relationship with mobile gaming myself, I finally discovered and experienced gaming addiction. While I didn’t spend thousands of dollars to purchase more IAPs, I did spend money and in retrospect, I’m upset at myself for having done so.

Gem addiction

Boom Beach is listed as one of the top freemium games in Apple’s iOS store. I knew about Supercell’s Clash of Clans but decided to try out Boom Beach. Similar to Clans, you’re given some land where you are responsible for building your empire. Once you start playing, you quickly realize that similar to Clans, you’ve got to keep collecting pink gems in order to acquire more weaponry and resources to grow your presence. I quickly used up all of my gems and while I enjoyed trying to invade and conquer other players territory, I knew that in order for me to enjoy this game over the long haul I was going to need more gems. Power up as they say! I decided after watching my own island get invaded and ransacked  once too often that the only way I could compete was to purchase more pink gems. I did what I thought I’d never ever do. I purchased more gems. $5. Luckily, I still had some unused iTunes credit (given to me as a present) so I didn’t have to spend any of my own money.

I purchased 500 gems and quickly upgraded my weaponry and resources. I continued to fight competitors, invade islands, and found myself spending more and more time on my iPhone throughout the day. At any point when I had downtime, I jumped on my iPhone to login and see what additional progress I could make. This kept happening, at first, maybe 3 or four times a day, then it quickly jumped to double that, to more than 15 times a day and then into the evening as well. I bought more gems. Another $5 worth. I swore to myself that I’d purchase no more. And then another $5. I spent my entire iTunes credit of more than $40. I kept reviewing the leaderboards and visiting the islands of the top players. How could they have grown their power and influence without having spent money on more gems? Supercell was making a killing. Boom Beach, similar to Clash of Clans, tapped the competitive nerve endings of game players worldwide. Not content to be way down the leaderboard, players spend hundreds of dollars to acquire more gems and rise up. I never thought a player might spend $45 or more on an IAP but I was in for a rude surprise.

I decided for the first time to spend my own money on purchasing additional gems. I kept it to $5 purchases swearing to myself that I wouldn’t spend anymore. Sure enough, wanting to conquer more territory and surpass my competitors, I decided to purchase even more gems. In a three-week period, I spent nearly $200. I played solely using my iPhone. No iPads for me. I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t want to spend any more money but I had to if I was going to grow and become more powerful. How much time was I wasting? The gameplay became less rewarding over time. There’s was no way I could keep up with my competitors. And in an instant, I deleted the game from my iPhone.

Free from addiction

When you’re addicted to anything, you’re held captive by a force unlike no other. It’s that inner voice, telling you “come on,” “there’s nothing wrong with playing a bit more,” “remember, you’re playing with millions of others,” and they aren’t quitting either.” You’re able to prove to yourself why it’s OK to keep playing even if at some point you begin to realize that the returns on playing longer diminished many gems ago. Unlike George Yao, I didn’t make any friends playing Boom Beach. Maybe playing a game on an iPhone isn’t conducive to forging friendships. I don’t know. No one player ever reached out to me saying, “hey, want to be friends?” I felt alone, isolated, and no one cared. Matter of fact, every game I’ve ever played online, I’ve never made any friends. I typically get attacked by more experienced players who could care less about my novice ways. I remember playing World of Warcraft and feeling the same away. No friends and no relationships. In the end, I found playing Boom Beach to be a colossal waste of time. It’s time that I’ve lost and will never get back. But that was my experience. I’m not George Yao and George found friends through his addiction.

I don’t encourage game players to find or seek out addiction. For most, notoriety similar to George Yao won’t arrive. You’ll just remain an anonymous addict whom no one will care about. Think about that the next time you play Boom Beach or any other online game for the umpteenth time.


Quagmire - Family Guy mobile game artwork

Family Guy mobile game launch party – Adam West runs for mayor!

I attended the TinyCo launch party for its Family Guy mobile game (The Quest for Stuff) in downtown Hollywood. Turning the Happy Endings Bar and Restaurant into the Drunken Clam was a treat and made for quite an evening of entertainment, food, and booze.

The F2P mobile game is set to debut on April 10 across all iOS and Android platforms. In-app purchase pricing was not disclosed. Fans of the game will be amused by many of the game’s features, most of which borrow straight from the popular TV show. The core story behind the game is that you rebuild Quahog after Peter and Ernie the giant chicken get into a huge fight destroying much of the town. I share with you now some of my pics (along with a video) from this festive occasion. Voice actor Adam West also spoke about his intent to become mayor of every town in the United States.

The Drunken Clam bar
The Drunken Clam bar, set in Hollywood, California.
Family Guy Drunken Clam menu
Drunken Clam menu
Sipping vodka from the Peter Griffin mermaid
Sipping vodka from the Peter Griffin mermaid
Patrick Warburton, voice of Joe Swanson on Family Guy, outside the Drunken Clam bar, signing autographs and promoting the April 10 release of the Family Guy mobile game.
Patrick Warburton, voice of Joe Swanson on Family Guy, outside the Drunken Clam bar, signing autographs and promoting the April 10 release of the Family Guy mobile game.
Gary Cole, voice of Principal Shepherd on Family Guy, interviewed by Playboy Morning Show hostess
Gary Cole, voice of Principal Shepherd on Family Guy, interviewed by Playboy Morning Show hostess
Alex Borstein (voice of Lois Griffin) on Family Guy
Alex Borstein (voice of Lois Griffin) on Family Guy
Adam West, voice of Quahog mayor, interviewed by Playboy morning reporter
Adam West, voice of Quahog mayor, interviewed by Playboy Morning show reporter
Megan Carlsen, artist for Family Guy mobile game characters
Megan Carlsen, artist for Family Guy mobile game characters
Family Guy voice actors, including Patrick Warburton (voice of Joe Swanson on the far left) and Adam West (voice of Quahog mayor) next to him
Family Guy voice actors, including Patrick Warburton (voice of Joe Swanson on the far left) and Adam West (voice of Quahog mayor) next to him
Family Guy mobile game artwork

Family Guy mobile game sneak peek preview pics

Family Guy mobile game artwork
Family Guy mobile game artwork

I was lucky enough to get some advanced game pics from the upcoming Family Guy mobile game. If you’re a fan of the hit show, than I don’t think you will be disappointed.

The animations are pulled from in-game content created by TinyCo, in collaboration with 20th Century Fox.

Family Guy mobile art work
Family Guy mobile game artwork
Family Guy mobile art work
Family Guy mobile game artwork


Quagmire - Family Guy mobile game artwork
Quagmire – Family Guy mobile game artwork
Big Indie Pitch 2014 - San Francisco

Byron Gordon – featured apps judge at Big Indie Pitch San Francisco 2014

From exploring the strange tale of #FlappyBird to discussing how best to secure a feature with Apple, Pocket Gamer rocked the Gaming World stage at Apps World SF 2014. And yours truly was at the center of it.

Big Indie Pitch 2014 - San Francisco
Big Indie Pitch 2014 – San Francisco
Big Indie Pitch panel of judges 2014
Big Indie Pitch panel of judges 2014

My words of wisdom to mobile app developers:

Technorati’s Byron Gordon added, “Give plenty of time to review your app before it goes live, at minimum a month.”

Gordon added, “Promote the idea as opposed to the app. How is your app standing out from the rest? What larger trends is your app capitalizing on? What do you know about your audience? Are they hardcore, midcore, what other specific criteria can you specify? Will they finish the actual story to your game or will they quit half way through because they become bored or frustrated? How do you keep them engaged?”

Flappy Bird

Dong Nguyen’s Flappy Bird in 2014: Be careful what you wish for

Dong Nguyen
Dong Nguyen, creator of Flappy Bird (on the right)


I just came back from the recent AppsWorld held at Moscone Center West in San Francisco. I played judge on a big Indie Pitch panel. Developers came up one by one and had three minutes to pitch their latest mobile app. Some came very prepared with a polished product. Others were entirely ill-prepared and came with nothing but the best of intentions. One of the winners our panel of judges selected was Revel, a social networking picture game app that integrates photos taken from your mobile phone. Instantly, every judge got the concept. It’s social, uses your mobile camera, and facilitates socializing between groups of people in any number of urban environments, like bars or clubs. Everyone loved it and quickly understood the branding and marketing opportunities for this game.

The judges listened carefully to each developer wanting to appreciate their hard work. But the final product must answer important questions.  Does your app capitalize on a new idea? Is it traveling down a road less traveled? Is there anything groundbreaking about it? Is the artwork original? Does it captivate?  Does it have that “fun” factor making you want to share it with others? Does it have a story worth telling? Does it feel like it’s not just a complete waste of your time?

Flappy Bird
Flappy Bird

It’s 2014 and fresh out of the mobile app gate is (was) Flappy Bird

Candy Crush took the mobile world by storm in 2013. Its got the fun factor; it’s social; it provides a comfortable escape from your nauseating reality, and it carefully lures you into wanting to purchase more In-app extensions. Now, in 2014, pushing the mobile game envelope even further, we get (got)…Flappy Bird; a Nintendo-era looking piece of mobile graphic garbage that  has surpassed anything its creator could have imagined. Flappy Bird was downloaded more than 50 million times from the iOS App  Store and Google Play Store. It received more than 600,000 reviews, helping it pile up four out of five star ratings. But questions were raised about the authenticity of some of those rankings due to bot activity.

Grinning all the way to the bank was Flappy Bird’s creator, Dong Nguyen, who in an interview let it be known he was hauling in a cool 50K a day from In-app ads. My goodness. I tell all of these mobile app developers that they need to focus on a mesmerizing or clever idea, something that captures the imagination, is fun, thoughtful, social, and what did Dong create?  A game depicting a bird that can only fly if you keep tapping on your mobile phone constantly as you guide it through a maze of pipes.

I tried playing it for about two minutes. I couldn’t take it. I wanted to toss my iPhone into the garbage. Everything I told these dream-filled developers came back with the image of Dong laughing at my face.  Flappy Bird is no more, however. Dong took the game down less than 24 hours ago.

Walk the fine line of game development

When it comes to mobile game virality, what did Dong’s success teach us? You don’t need great artwork. You don’t need a great idea. All you need is to know how to walk that fine line between being horribly obnoxious and addictive at the same time.

You see, Dong, I was both disgusted and in awe with what you created. Flappy Bird was a simple but difficult mobile game that unfortunately catered to the mundanity of everyday life. You made bank (while the game was still publicly available) and you threw back the droplets of insight shared with all those mobile app developers and their dreams of glory at AppsWorld.

Were you content with your preliminary success? Your final tweets (before you took Flappy Bird off the market) suggested otherwise.

I can call ‘Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.

— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014

Message? You reap what you sow.

I’m here to say you got lucky, Dong. You definitely proved there are always exceptions. The mobile millionaire might remain a myth but you are/were an example of reality. What did Flappy Bird’s success prove? It proves that you can never underestimate the desire for simplicity. And you can never underestimate the low barrier for entertainment mobile apps provide. Better yet, the rules for viral mobile gaming success may have just been forever changed because with Flappy Bird, who needed graphics? All you needed was annoying repetition.

Or maybe it’s all one big exercise in futility because there was no pattern here to replicate. If I were to go back and speak to every one of those mobile game app developers at AppsWorld, I would let them know that they should never give up on their dreams. If what matters to you is success at all costs than by all means keep pushing yourself to that finish line. If your game’s secret sauce is dependent on simplicity and poor quality graphics, then by all means continue.

You earned your success, Dong. Nothing to be ashamed about. You could not have known just how widely popular Flappy would become.  I just hope no other developer tries a repeat performance. Games that set the bar for mobile gaming entertainment as low as you did do not deserve to be emulated.

Meanwhile, even it it no longer applies because Dong has taken down Flappy Bird from the iTunes store, this remains a favorite Flappy Birds hack of mine on YouTube.



mobile phones

2014: The year of mobile…or not?

mobile phones
mobile phones

The year of mobile?

Guess what? It’s the year of mobile. Yes, you thought it was the year of mobile back in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, but no, this time it’s really the year in mobile. In-App mobile spending reached 3.5 billion in 2013 and according to Juniper Research, In-App ad spend will reach almost 17 billion USD by 2018, up from 3.5 billion USD. Trumpeting the good news was this year’s San Francisco Mobile Media Summit Keynote speaker, Sean Muzzy, CEO, Neo@Ogilvy.
For Muzzy, mobile usage is skyrocketing so the question remains: when will mobile ad budgets catch up? Facebook is killing it with mobile advertising, now accounting for nearly half of its revenues. What can we learn from Facebook’s vaunted charge into mobile glory?
  • Publishers are adopting more of a feed or streaming style to their content
  • Twitter, LinkedIn, Buzzfeed, are all excellent examples
  • Desktop webpage to begin drifting away
  • Publishers creating more ad units native to their devices
Other pivotal mobile issues in 2014:
  • Privacy – Making sure opt-in protocols are in place
  • Location-based targeting:  “We’re at the tip of the iceberg,” according to Muzzy. Technology such as Apple’s iBeacon will continue to push forward retailers ability to connect and communicate with their customers
  • Mobile banner ads – Predicts they won’t go extinct (just yet)
  • Add-ons are still where the money is
Biggest trends? More advertising is shifting from paid investments to investments that drive more impressions. Money will come from better targeting by spending less in broader channels, and be more targeted.

How to achieve mobile app enlightenment?

How can a brand add value to an existing customer experience without having to build a new app? The answer depends on whom you talk to. According to Erin Simino, SVP Director of Mobility, SMG, brands think they need to build a new mobile app when it just might be completely unnecessary. Why build an app that people may not use? 99% of the time another app already exists with a solid user base. Brands should consider how they can integrate into it. Reasons not to build a new mobile app?
  • Too expensive
  • Need to work hard at getting people to download it
  • Cost of customer acquisition becomes too expensive
  • Build a great app but then lack the resources to support it. Who cares?
Biggest mistake? Brands aren’t focused enough on the consumer experience. What is the utility of your mobile app? Great example: SitorSquat: Restroom finder, produced by Charmin, a Procter & Gamble brand. With this app, Charmin is helping the user find a public restroom. The brand is helping you solve a problem and not sending you ads. Banners are lazy advertising, according to Peter Dille, Tapjoy.
Stuart Meyler – Principal, Beeby Clark+Meyler emphasized the value proposition that any app should provide the user. Case in point: Post from Japan

In post 2011 earthquake Japan, this app was built for tourists allowing them to connect via mobile to the government network, and post their photos to Facebook. Every like received from their friends provided 3 extra minutes of free Internet, helping one to get around the crazy streets of Tokyo, for example.
USB Cuecat
USB Cuecat

TV data closing the loop

Anyone remember the Cuecat USB? Built back in 1998 by the now defunct Digital Convergence Corporation, VCs poured 185 million into it. The Cuecat was shipped to every subscriber of WIRED magazine. Designed to plug into your computer, it was a barcode reader that enabled a user to open a link to specific website by scanning a barcode. It bombed. Why? It was designed to solve a marketing problem, not a consumer problem. At the time, it was seen as the unholy marriage of digital and print. And print was scared shitless (rightly so) that digital was going to kill it.
How can marketers not replicate the Cuecat failure when mixing mobile and TV?
Understanding consumer behavior comes first before marketing, according to Rebecca Hawkins, Director of Mobile Strategy, 4D. Mobile spend is on the rise but still makes up only 1% of the total media pie. But mobile and TV have come together. Mobile video is sticky, and vendors like Netflix have taken advantage of it to boost its subscriber base by 11 million in 2013. Twitter has integrated with Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics company.  Drew Breunig, VP of Strategy, PlaceIQ, mentioned his agency has partnered with RenTrak, a media measurement and analytic service enabling users to measure TV viewership and study behavior models.
Mobile is targeted, interactive, becoming omnipresent and personal. Television still has massive reach, is immersive, event-based, and communal. If you have a solution that can connect mobile and TV, the only way to demonstrate business value is through insights and measurement. Understanding the user’s experience and their journey will assist marketers in determining the correct course of action.