If you’re a fan of endless runner games like Temple Run, starting today you’ll get your chance to do more than outrun a pack of demonic monkeys — you can take on your friends, too, with Zynga’s new title Running With Friends.
That’s the basic distinction that Travis Boatman, Zynga’s senior vice president of mobile, offered when describing the game to me. There’s already “a huge group of players that love these games,” he said, but they aren’t able to “play with friends and family the way that I can in Words With Friends.” At the same time, even though the social component is Zynga’s main addition, Boatman said the team was also focused on making sure the core gameplay was fun.
That gameplay involves running through the streets of Pamplona, Spain, during the annual Running of the Bulls. As players try to keep ahead of the bulls, they also smash obstacles like haystacks and barrels to improve their scores. If they’re feeling particularly daring, they can jump on the back of a bull. As they race, they can compete with friends in a turn-based fashion, each player trying to best their friends’ time on the same level, and also trying to move up the game leaderboard.
Although I have had my share of intense Words With Friends gameplay, this seems a little more fast-paced and action-oriented than the other titles in the With Friends franchise, which tend to have their roots in board games. However, Boatman said Running With Friends is linked to the rest of the franchise because of its asynchronous gameplay and its aim of being “very approachable” to casual gamers. (Plus, it uses the same login system as the other With Friends titles.)
The game actually launched in Canada back in March, but today is its global launch on iOS, with an Android release promised shortly. This comes after some disappointing titles led to a relatively slow period for new releases from Zynga — during its most recent earnings call, executives said that the company is planning to accelerate its launch schedule again, and that both Draw Something 2 (which launched in late April) and Running With Friends were showing some of the best internal scores that the company has seen.
Zynga is also announcing Dunkin’ Donuts as a promotional partner, with Dunkin’-sponsored tips appearing in the game, and plans for Dunkin’-branded in-game rewards and boosts.
Running With Friends was designed by team members who had previously worked on Scramble With Friends — they worked with Eat Sleep Play, the developer of Twisted Metal. Zynga said Eat Sleep Play built a custom 3D engine as well as helping out with art, animation, and other aspects of the game.
For today’s launch, Zynga didn’t provide me with an advance copy of the game, just a video illustrating the gameplay. I did, however, get a chance to play once or twice during a company dinner with journalists earlier this year. As with other endless runners, I got caught up in the race pretty quickly — though it was only a few seconds before the bulls caught up and gored me.
You can download Running With Friends here.
Memories of Scamville have faded, and we don’t see the brazen customer ripoff schemes from the big gaming companies these days.
But the main company behind Scamville, Offerpal (the company renamed as Tapjoy after the Scamville disaster), just can’t seem to find an honest way to make a buck. In their new incarnation Tapjoy is the primary purveyor of paid app downloads, and it has made a mess of the mobile app ecosystem.
Here’s how it works. You use a mobile app and want virtual currency to do things (usually a game). In the old Scamville you’d get signed up for a recurring mobile phone charge or some other nonsense. Today you just get offered currency to download other apps.
Sometimes those apps are free and sometimes they aren’t. Uniformly, they suck. But Tapjoy gets paid for the download and they pass on some of it to the first app. The app developer buying these downloads gets a massive spike in activity, driving it up the leaderboards. Which means more downloads.
Within a few days Apple catches on and removes the app. But then the devlopers just create a new junk app and the whole system starts again.
Apple has waged war on incentivized app downloads for a long while now. See this post from 2011, for example, when Apple started rejecting apps that included these offers.
Tapjoy and others evolved, simply moving the offers to HTML pages opened with a browser, something Apple can’t review during the approval process (because it isn’t turned on yet). The offers remained; the only real difference was Apple didn’t even get their 30 percent cut any longer.
Apple is coming down hard on apps that use HTML pages to push offers, too. It’s not clear how they’re doing it, but it’s clearly having an effect.
Example – Glu Mobile, a public company, gets 13 percent of their overall revenue from Tapjoy. In an earnings call this week CEO Niccolo de Masi had some bad news to report:
We have also recently experienced degradation and iOS advertising revenues as Apple has extended it prohibition of incentivize advertising to include any linkage to external HTML 5 sites.
This reduces revenue from the Tapjoy iOS channel. As a result our expectation for Q4 are being substantially lowered to reflect these factors as well as to delay our five new titles while our President of Studios completes its 60-day review.
I can’t wait to see what Tapjoy does next in this ever-escalating arms race. One thing’s for sure – it’ll be very profitable. And very shady.
Read the rest here: Apple Stomps On Tapjoy’s App Download Circle Jerk (Again)
If you are a college student anywhere in the world, Dropbox just launched an interesting new program for you that . The Great Space Race, which will run for the next eight weeks, will allow college students to get up to 25GB of free Dropbox storage for the next two years. To qualify for the extra space, students have to register here with their school email addresses and the more students at each school sign up, the more storage space they will get.
Schools get one point for every student who signs up and two points for everybody who completes the “Get Started” guide. Every student who signs up gets an extra 3 GB for two years by default. After that, they will earn more as their schools pass each of Dropbox’s three pre-set thresholds. Dropbox will set different thresholds for every participating school.
- You must register for Space Race with an eligible school email address (if you have an existing Dropbox account you can still join)!
- If you’ve signed up for Dropbox with a non-school email, no problem! You can verify your school account on the Space Race page.
- Your school gets 1 point for each person who registers for Space Race and installs Dropbox on their computer (if they haven’t already).
- Your school gets 2 more points for each person that goes through the Get Started guide (including you!)
This program is obviously meant to increase Dropbox’s footprint among college students. As companies like Google and Microsoft expand their full-service offerings for schools, which also include large amounts of cloud storage, Dropbox and other independent cloud storage vendors have to up their marketing game in the college market with efforts like this.
As of right now, the top 3 schools on the leaderboard are the National University of Singapore, MIT and Portugal’s Universidade Técnica de Lisboa.
Oh, this is shameless.
Productivity at TechCrunch offices around the world have taken a blow over the past couple of hours, thanks to the Great TechCrunch Race, a website where TechCrunch staffers (or rather, uh, farm animals that share our names) race each other across the screen. It turns out that watching a turtle with my name on it going head-to-head with chickens, horses, and pigs named after my bosses and coworkers is weirdly addictive. (While on the Caltrain, I only barely restrained myself from shouting, “Die, Rip Empson, die!”)
The site was developed by Rick Reich, creator of ShoutOut Radio, a smartphone app for sharing music with your Facebook friends. What does that have to do with farm animals? Nothing, really. Reich says he “just really had a few days of downtime and wanted to break out from iOS for a bit.”
But to my mind, the real question is: How are the winners calculated? What algorithm has Reich devised to determine out our real-life running speeds? Has he hacked RunKeeper? Or, in a fiendish twist, is it tied to the speed of our posts on TechCrunch?
Not so much. Reich actually says the results are totally random. At least that explains why I don’t win more often.
Continue reading here: In Desperate, Successful Ploy For Coverage, ShoutOut Radio Turns TechCrunch Against Itself
Twitter aired its first ever TV commercial today during the 2012 Pocono 400 Nascar race. The ad features driver Brad Keselowski, who finished in a disappointing 24th place, using his phone to share his point of view with the world.
The ad is the first on the list below, but is part of a series of similar ads promoting one URL: http://twitter.com/#nascar. The hashtag page is simply a Nascar branded page with a stream of tweets, and people strongly related to Nascar and the race.
The ads are new but the new hashtag pages are part of a first of its kind partnership with Nascar. The hashtag pages were announced last week by Omid Ashtari of Twitter’s Sports & Entertainment Team. In a blog post, Ashtari explains:
Throughout the weekend – but especially during the race – a combination of algorithms and curation will surface the most interesting Tweets to bring you closer to all of the action happening around the track, from the garage to the victory lane.Anyone watching the Pocono 400 on Sunday — even if you’re not a current Twitter user — can visit twitter.com/#NASCAR watch the race unfold from every angle, and get insider access to all the places the cameras can’t take you. For example, teams will update you with information about how their car is performing in the race and what their strategy will be when they come into pit road. You’ll also see photos from the pit and read what the drivers and spotters are saying in the heat of the moment.
With hashtags becoming increasingly prevalent on TV, it’s a smart move by Twitter to ensure it is able to provide a user friendly branded experience that can benefit both the user and the brand – whilst presumably (and hopefully) generating revenues for itself. (Omid Ashtari Via Business Insider)
Originally posted here: Twitter just aired its first ever TV commercial promoting its brand new hashtag pages [Videos]