It’s time for PC game demos to make a comeback

 

I’ve been privately lamenting the lack of PC game demos lately. There was a time when demos were commonplace: a chunk of a brand new game you could try out for free before you bought the full game. Demos gave us a chance not only see what a game had to offer and whether or not we enjoyed it, but also allowed us to continually tweak the settings and try different graphics options to see how our PCs handled it. Plus, instead of waiting months for a sale to try the game without a lot of risk, you could play right when the game came out, while everyone else was still talking about it.

While I was at PDXCon this past weekend I spent a few minutes talking with Kim Nordstrom, former general manager of Swedish game company King and current leader of Paradox Interactive’s mobile initiative. We chatted about PC and mobile games, and especially about Introversion’s Prison Architect, which is making an unlikely appearance on mobile platforms with Paradox as the publisher. Nordstrom’s plan for Prison Architect provide a few lessons PC games could learn from with its unusual, almost shareware-era approach to pricing.

Mobility

Big, meaty mobile games have a challenge when it comes to sales. The roots of mobile are in free games, or exceedingly cheap ones: 99 cents, maybe a couple of dollars. Pricing a mobile game at $15 or $20 is a dubious prospect, which is why so many are free-to-play with microtransactions: get the game into players’ hands first, and try to get money out of them later. The issue is that ‘microtransaction’ has become something of a dirty word, and that’s mostly true on PC as well. While there are a number of great free-to-play games on PC like Dota 2 and League of Legends, there are scores more that have left us highly suspicious of the F2P model, with gated progress and gameplay designed around making you so damn impatient you’ll pay just to advance at a reasonable pace.Image result for It's time for PC game demos to make a comeback

On mobile, Prison Architect will cost around $15. That feels like a fair price for what you get—it’s a complex management simulation and a great gameone of my favorites from 2015—but Nordstrom knows simply plopping it on mobile stores with that price tag probably won’t fly. So it will be free to download, and unlocking the complete game lands somewhere between free-to-play and full-price.

“It’s not a free-to-play with microtransactions, nothing like that, it caps at $15 right now,” Nordstrom told me. “But we basically just made it so anyone can install it, and it’s a try before you buy.”

Nordstrom holds out his hands a few inches apart, then widens them as he describes how the game unlocks more content for those who purchase it in chunks. “And the game size is this big, we offer you this much for free, and then we’re very clear on if you pay whatever dollars, you get the sandbox, if you pay [more] you get the chapters, and if you pay the full price you get the full game.”

So, you get to play a portion of the game as much as you want for free, just like a PC demo. Inside the game itself there’s a store that lets you unlock the rest of the features at certain price points. While that sounds suspiciously like microtransactions, there’s a difference: the total amount you can spend is capped. You won’t be nickel-and-dimed forever. If you decide to spend money, you’ll know exactly how much, in advance, it will cost you, and once you’ve spent it, you’re done. You own everything, and you’re never prompted or even tempted to spend more.

The demo, man

As Tyler concluded recently, big-publisher games can cost a lot on PC, especially when you factor in their many special editions, and that along with having no way to try a game before buying it has kept me away from a lot of games in the past few years. With Steam refunds, you can play a game for two hours before returning it or deciding to keep it but as we pointed out recently with Prey, which had a console demo but irritatingly none on PC, that’s nothing like a proper demo at all. (The reason given by Prey’s co-creative director Raphael Colantonio was “It’s just a resource assignment thing. We couldn’t do a demo on both the console and on the PC, we had to choose.”)

Sometimes there are free weekends for games, which are great, but that’s usually well after launch (this weekend’s Rising Storm 2 beta excepted) and usually long after people are actively talking about the game and your friends are still playing it. I’ve never bought a game just for a pre-order bonus, because pre-purchasing isn’t a great idea and the bonuses aren’t much to speak of (what am I really going to do with a digital art book, besides either flip through it once and forget it, or completely forget to flip through it at all). And pre-orders don’t always include a discount, so there’s rarely any real reason to pre-purchase anything.

We do get a few demos nowadays—though most often they don’t arrive as a game is released, such as Dishonored 2’s demo which came months after launch—but we need more, and more games with something like Prison Architect’s mobile model. If Deus Ex: Mankind Divided had been downloadable for free on day one, with a nice chunk of it playable indefinitely (like Prison Architect’s mobile version), players who were undecided about purchasing it for $60 could have gotten a good long look at what it has to offer. It would have given players like me time to play with a selection of augs and try out different playstyles. And it would’ve provided us with a good chance tweak the settings to see how well the it ran on our PCs, something the two-hour Steam refund window simply doesn’t allow for (and really shouldn’t be used for anyway).

If a potential customer such as myself ultimately decides not to buy the rest, what does the publisher really lose? I know creating game demos means more work, and that it’s not as simple as cutting off a slice of the game and plopping it in a folder. But in addition to demos being beneficial to gamers, developers and publishers can gain valuable information from making free demos available. As Kim Nordstrom told me, there’s value not just in the sales a company makes but in having information about the sales they didn’t make.

“The problem is that we as a company, we would never learn if we [had] a $4.99 price point in a storefront, or even a $14.99, because we wouldn’t know,” Nordstrom said. “We would just know who bought it, [but] we wouldn’t know who didn’t [buy] it.”

Information on who didn’t buy your game is useful. How many people were interested enough to download it but were turned off by something in the opening hours? How many people were willing to pay some, but not all, of the full price? Plus, it could whet the appetite of some customers who would then buy later during a sale instead of simply forgetting about it. This strikes me as a net positive for both developers and players.

Even if people don’t buy Prison Architect on mobile after trying it for free, Nordstrom says, “…they’ll play the game and if they enjoy it they might get interested in the company, or the brand, or Introversion’s games, and such. And they might spread it in terms of [word of mouth], and some people say ‘Holy crap, this is a great game, I’m going to buy it.'”

For publishers and developers, demos put a game in front of more players on launch day, provides them with additional information on how their game is being played and received, and can increase interest in their games even if not everyone who tries them, buys them. They can even get more technical feedback if their game is having problems on launch day. For players, they’re given a chance to sample more new games, to properly try before they buy, and less incentive to abuse Steam’s refund policy or wait months for a sale. PC demos are good for everyone, and it’s time for them to make a comeback.

Tencent to Limit Honor of Kings Play Time for Kids Amid Addiction Worries

 

Tencent Holdings, China’s biggest gaming and social media firm by revenue, said it would limit play time for some young users of Honor of Kings from Tuesday, amid claims that children were getting addicted to the popular mobile game.

Parents and teachers have complained that children were becoming addicted to the multiplayer online battle game, which, according to the company, has more than 200 million users, making it the world’s most popular game of its kind.

Users below 12 years of age will be limited to one hour of play time each day, while those aged between 12 years and 18 years will be limited to two hours a day, Tencent said.

The firm also plans to ban users under 12 years from logging in after 9pm (1300 GMT or 6:30pm IST) and will impose further restrictions on how much money younger users spend on the game, it added.

“There are no rules to prevent indulgence in online games in China, but we decided to be the first to try to dispel parental worries by limiting play time and forcing children to log off,” Tencent said on its official WeChat account.

Tencent, which has a portfolio of over 200 games, also said it would upgrade a parental-control platform rolled out earlier this year that makes it easier for parents to monitor their children’s gaming account activities.
It will also step up the requirement of real-name registration for all users, it said.Tencent to Limit Honor of Kings Play Time for Kids Amid Addiction Worries

The fantasy role-playing game based on Chinese historical characters raked in a revenue of more than CNY 5.5 billion ($810.47 million or roughly Rs. 5,247 crores) in the first quarter, Chinese gaming industry database CNG estimates. China’s mobile gaming revenue grew by CNY 4.5 billion to CNY 27.5 billion (roughly Rs. 26,232 crores) over the period, the biggest growth in two years.

Tencent, which declines to provide a revenue breakdown of its games, made CNY 12.9 billion from smartphone games in the first quarter, according to its financial report.

According to mobile data intelligence firm Jiguang, Honor of Kings has become China’s most popular game in recent months, doubling its monthly active users to 163 million in May compared with December. More than half of its users are below 24 years of age, including more than a quarter below 19 years, it said.

China is the world’s largest gaming market by revenue, and is expected to account for roughly 25 percent of global game sales in 2017, according to research firm NewZoo.

 

Mobile devices help clinicians spend more time with patients in Auckland’s Waitemata

Waitemata DHB speech and language therapist Bridget Oliver says her job on the road is now much easier thanks to a new iPad.

Speech and language therapist Bridget Oliver used to lug around books, flash cards, forms and photocopied bits of paper as she visited patients in west and north Auckland.

But all that has changed, thanks to generous donations from the community, which funded iPads for Oliver and 121 of her colleagues.

A total of $122,000 was raised for the mobile devices last year by the Well Foundation, Waitemata District Health Board’s fundraising arm.

Bridget Oliver says the iPad enables her to spend more time with patients as a speech and language therapist, and less ...

DENISE PIPER/STUFF

Bridget Oliver says the iPad enables her to spend more time with patients as a speech and language therapist, and less time doing administration.

Project manager Kelly Bohot said the iPads were rolled out to clinicians visiting patients in their homes, including dieticians, physiotherapists and social workers.

READ MORE: Well Foundation fundraising to benefit children with disabilities

The iPads were an important tool, giving clinicians remote access to DHB records, their emails, and pre-approved apps for therapy and education, Bohot said.

The main benefit was allowing clinicians to spend less time on administration and more time with patients.

Clinicians added three extra patient visits a fortnight, on average, after six months of mobile device use, Bohot said.

For Bridget Oliver, the iPad was “fantastic” for day-to-day use.

Oliver helped patients over 65 who had difficulty talking or swallowing, usually as the result of a stroke or a neurological condition like Parkinson’s disease.

The iPad was used to show patients things like 3D models of the swallowing mechanisms to help explain the process. Pictures found through Google also made good prompts, she said.

“For a patient from Fiji, I needed to start a conversation so we Google Mapped the island where he was from and he could see his church; it made it really relevant for him,” she said.

“Traditionally, we would use flash cards and have to print them off and laminate them.”Waitemata DHB speech and language therapist Bridget Oliver says her job on the road is now much easier thanks to a new iPad.

The iPad also meant Oliver didn’t have to go back to North Shore Hospital for administration tasks, meaning more time with patients doing the job she loved.

“For me, I just love working with patients and making a difference.”

Meanwhile, staff at North Shore and Waitakere hospitals are also taking to technology, with old paper charts being replaced with an electronic eVitals.

Waitemata was the first DHB in the country to fully roll-out electronic, real-time monitoring of hospital patients’ vitals, leading the way in Australasia.

Clinical lead Peter Groom said the electronic charts were easier to read and understand, and also easier to find, than the old paper charts.

 

Deal LG G6 will be 50% off at Sprint for a limited time

 

Sprint started accepting pre-orders for the LG G6 on March 17, but the smartphone is only hitting shelves tomorrow, April 7. The good news is that, for a limited time, Sprint will be selling the handset for half the price to “well-qualified customers with 24-month installment billing and eligible upgrade on qualified rate plan, or new line on Unlimited Freedom.” More exactly, instead of paying $29.50 per month over 24 months, you’ll have the chance to pay $14.75 per month – this means that the G6 will cost you just $354.

The free Google Home speaker (which everyone else is offering) is still included with Sprint’s LG G6, if you purchase the phone before May. However, that free 49-inch LG 1080p HDTV (normally priced at $349.99) offered to folks who’ve pre-ordered the handset is no longer available. Even so, at just $354, Sprint’s G6 is a very attractive handset.Deal: LG G6 will be 50 off at Sprint for a limited time

The LG G6 is the first HPUE-enabled smartphone to be launched by Sprint, so it should benefit from extended coverage and faster data transfer speeds. The device will be available via all Sprint channels, including online, in two color variants: black and ice platinum.

Sprint did not say when the 50% off G6 promotion would end, so you may want to hurry up if you plan to take advantage of the deal. More information can be found at the source link below, or in Sprint stores nationwide. Meanwhile, if you want to take a closer look at the new smartphone, make sure to check out our LG G6 initial review.

iPhone 8 Running on iOS 11 Leaked in Renders for the First Time

 

iPhone 8 renders have been leaked aplenty, but today’s leak brings reimagined renders of the smartphone running on the newly announced iOS 11 for the first time. The latest renders shows how the new Control Center, Lock Screen, Apple Music, and even the Messages apps will look on the iPhone 8’s rumoured bezel-less display. It also shows the iPhone 8 from varied angles giving us a glimpse at what possibly is incoming in the future.iPhone 8 Running on iOS 11 Leaked in Renders for the First Time

iDropNews has leaked these fresh renders, and talking about the design first, it sports the bezel-less design with no Home Button in the front, and a small lip at the top edge to place the earpiece, and front camera sensor. The report states that the iPhone 8 will also have a front laser and infrared sensor to bring facial recognition capabilities. As for Touch ID, the report reiterates that it will be embedded underneath the display.

The iPhone 8 is also expected to embed a large pad on the inside for introducing wireless charging capabilities. At the back, we see the vertical dual camera setup that is going to be essential for AR features to work. Apple has almost confirmed that the iPhone 8 will sport AR features, thanks to the ARKit released with iOS 11.
iphone8 main1q iPhone 8

The launch date of the iPhone 8 is another mystery with some reports claiming a delay due to production issues, and some claiming that it will be on schedule and launch in September. Apple is expected to integrate an OLED display, an Apple A11 chip, and a 3D front camera as well.