John Carey at 50 Foot Shadows:

All in all it seemed obvious to me that whoever at Apple was working on the effect found the ideal amount of give to the parallax panning to get a natural feel and set the dimensions of new desktop images to fit this ideal down to the pixel. Therefore, to get the most natural fit for your wallpaper images in accordance to their current programming I highly recommend you crop iPhone wallpapers to 744x1392px and iPad wallpapers to 2524x2524px.

So there you have it: the ideal resolutions for wallpapers that will appear properly at whatever rotation and with the right kind of parallax scrolling.

Speaking of, John has a fantastic collection of wallpapers available that you can purchase for both form factors combined for just $10. I recommend them because they are awesome.

To colleagues or anyone else who might be traveling in the near future and would enjoy a good and somewhat unusual game on their iOS device: try The Nightjar.

It’s a rather different audio-only experience. The only video components are your controls. Headphones required. :)

Tiny Cartridge reminded me of this quote from John Gruber’s most recent post regarding the 3DS and Nintendo’s level of doomed-ness:

A kid asking “What’s a Nintendo?” may sound preposterous to the ears of an adult weaned on Mario and Zelda, but trust me, put an iPad Mini and a 3DS on a table next to each other, and most kids today will reach, if not jump, for the iPad. If you don’t see that as an existential threat for Nintendo, there’s nothing I can say that will change your mind. A Nintendo that doesn’t make games for iOS is a Nintendo that doesn’t reach today’s kids; a Nintendo that doesn’t reach today’s kids is a Nintendo with no future.

I’d argue this is a bit out of touch; I don’t know too many parents who don’t see a big, big difference between a $169 3DS XL ((The 3DS XL is the model I’d argue anyone who wants a 3DS should purchase.)) (or especially the 2DS’s new $129 price point) and an iPad mini that retails for a minimum of $329. ((And I ask my children to save their money and purchase the devices themselves. They get $5 a week in allowance, so my son’s diligence in saving for his 3DS was commendable.))

I said earlier today that these devices are in different markets; the price points simply underline that.

Hey, so people are still talking about this, apparently.

In case you missed it, lots of people are discussing Nintendo’s introduction of a 3DS system (which is crazily but accurately called the 2DS) that lacks one of the main points of the system (the glassless 3D) just to drop the price $40. This has stimulated a lot of talk about how Nintendo is doomed. To many, the only way to save the Nintendo ship is for them to start making iOS games, and quickly.

I could link articles on this all day, but I’d rather keep what I have to say. Comments or questions are welcome. Salient points:

It’s too Early to Judge the 3DS (or the 2DS, for That Matter)

PokĂ©mon’s not out yet. Diamond/Pearl/Platinum sold 18 million copies. Black/White and sequels sold about 15 million copies. They are still making PokĂ©mon series and movies, and people are still watching them.

It’s not as popular as it was ten years ago, but PokĂ©mon is still a force. I predict it will drive a lot of 2DS unit sales. ((For the record, I’m bullish on the 2DS.))

Nintendo waited two years before releasing Diamond and Pearl for the DS, just like they have for the 3DS. Nintendo plays a long game in general—but in another segment, that’s not working in their favor.

Yes, The Wii U Is a Failure, and Here’s Why

They launched the Wii U without any compelling games and a split SKU strategy that made no sense. ((Nintendo appears to be fixing this bit I think it’s happening way too late.))

New Super Mario Bros. U is actually a really good 2D Mario game, but it’s not a barnburner by any stretch of the imagination, nor does it do anything unique with the hardware available. It was the only interesting thing available at launch that wasn’t available on other platforms, and other interesting games are only just now starting to appear.

The Wii U hardware itself is pretty novel and it has some promise that’s still not being exploited properly. It’s just that Nintendo hasn’t done anything to show off what it can do to the point that I’m curious what (if anything) they had in development when they designed the hardware.

For a company that designs hardware and software in tandem, it sure doesn’t look like it (yet) with Wii U.

Wii vs. Wii U: Markets Change

Nintendo’s other mistake when launching was courting third-parties to port (in some cases pretty old) titles to Wii U for launch. I just looked at my game shelf. I have a good number of Wii games sitting there, and not one of them is a multi-platform title.

The Wii was a weird aberration; an underpowered piece of hardware with a (then) novel control system. In many ways, it mirrors the original DS. Nintendo found a success marketing to people who hadn’t been marketed to before, and captured the attention of a consumer segment that until then wasn’t interested in buying a game console.

But the Wii launched in 2006, in a pre-iPhone world. Here’s what sold on the Wii ((

  1. Nintendo franchises.
  2. Mini-game collections.
  3. Rhythm games (primarily Just Dance).

In 2013, the Wii U suffers from a dearth of Nintendo franchises ((So far, it’s Pikmin 3, a New Super Mario game and DLC pack, and an upcoming remake of an old Zelda game.)), mini-game collections have largely (if not completely) been subsumed by iOS free-to-play games, and the music game genre has dwindled to near-nothing due to overexploitation.

Given the current state of the games market, Nintendo’s reaching out to independent game studios is a good sign, but it’s not a compelling reason to buy a Wii U instead of something else. Much like the Virtual Console, it’s a reason to spend money once you have one.

Nintendo should do what it did with the DS once upon a time: create compelling first-party experiences using their franchises to sell units. A new IP or three wouldn’t hurt, either. ((Marco Arment realizes this. So does John Siracusa.)) (Nintendo hasn’t created a successful new IP since the Gamecube days.)

iOS Is (Hopefully) a Different Beast

Making iOS games is not in Nintendo’s DNA and I firmly believe they will go down fighting before they publish a game on iOS. (They have already published an app in the form of the PokĂ©dex.)

Reasons I say this:

  1. Lack of physical controls (a controller API for iOS does not and will not fix this).
  2. Race-to-the-bottom pricing and the dominance of free-to-play, which is a game I do not believe Nintendo will want to play.
  3. Handheld gaming is where Nintendo is and has been in the strongest position. Even during the Wii era, there were 50% more DS units sold.

Apple’s not really competing in the same space. I agree with Lukas Mathis that the 3DS and other game systems are not the same market as iOS gaming. The use cases are fundamentally different.

I do think that this new segment of mobile gaming is stealing consumers from the more traditional handheld market. They are taking those market segments the Wii managed to reach and siphoning them off; it’s questionable traditional game consoles will see them again, though not for lack of trying.

There’s still a core audience that will continue to purchase and use consoles and handhelds. I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to last, but you should want it to if you like games. Take a look at the iOS top 25 grossing games chart and see the types of games that are in there.

I don’t want that becoming the dominant force in games, and if you care about the form, neither do you. ((cf. The Loudness Wars, The Megapixel Myth.))

All This Distracts from Nintendo’s Real Weakness


(But that’s a topic for another day.)

Marco Arment writes about the state of pricing and sales in the ever-crowded iOS market:

If you make another RSS reader or Twitter client, there are certainly a lot of people who could use it, but you’ll need to compete with very mature, established apps. Competing in these categories isn’t about price: it’s about relevance and attention. If you can’t find enough customers here, it’s probably not because you’re charging $2.99 instead of $1.99 or $0 — it’s because your app isn’t convincing enough people that it’s worth using over the alternatives.

For these “Big Six” apps, price is almost irrelevant. If your app is useful enough for many of its customers to use it almost every day, they’ll pay a decent price for it. (Not all of them will — but you don’t need all of them.) The challenge is either making your app that much better than the alternatives, or finding new app roles that are that useful to a lot of people.

Of course—and as he mentions—the poor design of the App Store doesn’t help people get noticed, but the point about breaking into established markets is something that applies everywhere IMO.

The original Monsters Ate My Condo was a game that was so bizarre and so enjoyable that I actually gifted it to at least two of my friends just so I could make sure they played something that I figured they would otherwise not even think about buying.

At its heart a match-3 played against the pressure of an ever-closer-to-toppling-Jenga-like pile of colored condos and bizarre monsters straight out of poorly dubbed movies, MAMC provided just the right amount of personality and a Tetris-like constraint to the available playfield that made the gameplay more interesting than the standard “running out of available matches” you get with most match-3s.

Monsters are threatening the city and color-matching condos drop from the sky. To get rid of the condos, you can swipe them to either side to feed them to one of the monsters. Match three of the condos, and you create a bonus condo that you can either feed to a monster to activate its bonus power, or hoard in the hopes that you will create even more matches and make better bonus condos. The tower gets more unsteady with each swipe, and straightens with each match – if the tower falls, that’s the end of your game.

But you have to be careful: there are concrete blocks that will block your matches, and bomb blocks that will count down and destroy your tower. And feeding the monster a condo that doesn’t match its color will make it mad, causing it to shake the tower you are trying to keep together.

Today, enter Super Monsters Ate My Condo, which is billed as a sequel to the original, but plays more as an extreme refinement of the original.

They made a few changes to the core gameplay, most of them for the better. Yes, there is now a monetization currency in the form of coins you earn while playing and then can spend on powerups and other goodies, either for every game you play or just for boosts that last for a single play (much like the recent Rock Band Blitz system).

But Pik Pok also added something that was really missing: a time limit. Giving the game a hard time limit increases the value of those boosts you can use at the beginning and alters the strategy as you begin each match, as the limited number of colors that appear at the beginning of any match provides you with easier chains and larger matches. The time limit also increases leaderboard competition—you have finite resources to score points.

The condos are more varied and get even crazier, with piggy banks that give you extra coins, cats that boost the level of your matches, and more detrimental condo types than just the bombs, but it never feels like it’s any more than just out of control. It’s delightful and adds flavor to the game in neat ways.

It’s only a buck and is pretty accessible. This new version has a better set of tutorials and explanations of what’s going on, plus goals to accomplish like those in Jetpack Joyride that teach you the basics of getting to super high scores. I’m hoping to break a billion at some point soon.

It’s a bit hard to explain what makes this game so special, but easier to see when it’s played. In that spirit, here’s a gameplay video of SMAMC in action for you:

Illustrator Scott Balmer created this really awesome geometric-style design with the items from the Super Mario series of games:

It’s available in multiple sizes, as well as various resolutions for iOS devices, and even a set of icons for your desktop OS of choice.

If you like this one, he’s also created a set of the same for the Zelda series.

Cultured Code:

When we set out to build Things Cloud, we wanted it to be fast, robust, and scalable. There’s no way to achieve that, of course, without doing extensive, real world tests. So a little over a year ago, we started inviting our users to our Things Cloud beta. We then extended the beta by making it publicly available to everyone 6 months ago. During all this time, we kept enhancing and improving both Things Cloud and our client applications. By now, more than 30,000 beta testers are using it on a daily basis, and the feedback we get is phenomenal – our users love it.

We are excited to finally drop the “beta” from Things Cloud. It has been thoroughly tested, and it’s ready for prime time.

The best task management software in existence just became completely awesome. If you haven’t yet tried Things, and you are in to task management without making it overly complicated, you should give it a shot.

I’ve been beta testing Things Cloud for a while now and it works pretty much the way you want it to: todos on all your devices are synced without hassle.

Lex Friedman for Macworld has a report on the in-app purchases hack that’s been circulating. The most amazing part:

iOS users who try the hack may find that, in addition to robbing the developers behind apps that they enjoy, they’ve put themselves at risk. “I can see the Apple ID and password,” for accounts that try the hack, Borodin told Macworld. “But not the credit card information.” Borodin said that he was “shocked” that passwords were passed in plain text and not encrypted.

According to Tabini, though, “Apple presumes it’s talking to its own server with a valid security certificate.” But that was clearly a mistake—“This is entirely Apple’s fault,” Tabini added.

Anyone who has done this is fortunate that the first person who found the hack seems to be a pretty nice guy.

And this being the case is shocking.

Matt Gemmell:

As developers with a functional centralised software distribution mechanism, we love to complain about capricious reviews by customers. It’s so unfair, we essentially say. And it no doubt is, but at some point, at least one party has to stop being a teenager – and it won’t be our customers.

Crappy reviews aren’t surprising, even if your software is the best thing ever. I always get a mild feeling of unreality when I (regularly) hear a CrapStore-review complaining session, because people haven’t changed.

His analysis of why people write super-critical things for no apparent reason applies not just to iOS reviews, but also to pretty much every software-related customer service situation ever.

Sometimes the best decision is not to give the people who are saying crazy things about you an audience.

Internet translation: don’t feed the trolls.