If you were among the first wave of people to buy an iPad last spring, there’s a good chance you spent a lot of time playing one game in particular: Plants vs Zombies. PopCap’s smash hit was one of the first games on the iPad and it did extremely well, and it’s also seen a lot of success on the smaller iPhone/iPod Touch form factor. Now, some 16 months after its release, the game still ranks #27 on the App Store’s list of top paid apps. It’s not Angry Birds, but it’s easily one of iOS’s most popular games ever.
And today, finally, Android fans are getting a chance to smack down some cartoonish undead. The application just launched on Amazon’s Android Appstore, and you can download it right here (it’s free today, and will be $2.99 starting tomorrow). Oh, and you won’t find it on the official Android Market for another two weeks. Unfortunately it isn’t currently optimized for tablets, but it should still work fine.
The launch is a big deal for two reasons. First, Android gets another AAA game title, giving users one less reason to look longingly at their iOS counterparts. And it’s also another big marketing push for Amazon’s Appstore, which is a direct rival of Google’s official Android Market.
Amazon’s Appstore launched in March, offering users a slightly different experience from Google’s official Market. Apps on Amazon’s store are all tested to ensure a baseline level of quality, and Amazon also provides recommendations and steep discounts on some apps. These are great features and it’s nice that Google has some competition when it comes to app distribution, but Amazon has its work cut out for it.
The Amazon store takes advantage of the fact that Android is an open OS — through a process called sideloading, you can install any application you want without requiring Google’s approval. To access the Amazon store, users visit amazon.com/appstore from their phones, then download and install the store client from there. Unfortunately the process is a bit cumbersome — you have to dig through your Android settings and tap a checkbox that allows for installation from “Unknown sources”, complete with a warning that you are potentially exposing your phone to more malicious applications. Most users aren’t going to bother with this unless they have an incentive to.
Which is why Amazon is working with developers to offer exclusives like Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds Rio — and they’re also giving away one application free every day. This is a good tactic for building early traction, though in the longer term Amazon will need to work out partnerships so that its Appstore comes pre-installed on devices (it will obviously come pre-installed on whatever Android devices Amazon builds itself). Because no matter how many neat games Amazon offers exclusively, that “Unknown sources” check box is a big hurdle.
This isn’t the first grade-A title that made waves on the iPhone and was later ported to Android: Doodle Jump has been available since March 2010, Angry Birds arrived last fall, and Flight Control came out in April of this year.
Social gaming giant Zynga is launching its latest game tomorrow—Empires & Allies, the company’s first strategy combat game. Zynga is going big with this launch, debuting the game on Facebook in 12 languages (CityVille only launched in 5 languages). Zynga says this is the gaming company’s most social title to date.
Empires & Allies, which is the company’s first title to be launched out of Zynga’s Los Angeles studio, is set on a sprawling multi-island game board. The game itself is a cross between FarmVille and CityVille in terms of the layout and overall feel. There are two main parts to the game. First, players aim to build a island-nation by arming themselves against enemy forces and preparing for battle. Second, throughout the game, players build army units, recruit friends, and encounter allies and villains as fight their way across enemy-held territories on the quest to defeat the final villain. It’s sort of like Risk meets CityVille meets Settlers of Catan.
Once you secure you island, you begin to strategically place your housing units, community buildings, military bases, and farms with reinforcements against invading enemies. As you build your empire of Islands, Scarlett, a female personal military advisor will help advise you within the game.
Empires & Allies also introduces 30 other characters that help guide play and reveal plot secrets along the way. “The Raven” is tyrant who wanted his pet mascot to be an eagle. You’ll also fight “Captain Krunsch,” an old school seaman who relishes taking out his enemies with his bare, arthritic hands.
Of course, what makes Zynga’s game social is the ability to play and interact with your Facebook friends within the game. Empire & Allies allows you to build up your troops, recruit your friends and send them out to invade in-game villains.
You can also visit your neighbors’ empires to help them secure more energy, decorations and collectible items, and gain Honor Points along the way. And you can enlist your neighbors help in combat to quickly finish off enemies with special attacks.
For the first time in a Zynga combat game, you can actually fight your friends and choose to invade your neighboring friends’ empires to collect Infamy Points. Friends who are not invading you or a threat will have a red heart next to their icon and friends who are threats will have a gray heart.
While this is one of the few combat games for Zynga (Mafia Wars is also considered a combat game); Empires & Allies is definitely not for the hardcore gamer. As I wrote above, it combines elements of combat and hardcore gaming with more mainstream, casual components. Amer Ajami, executive producer of Empires & Allies at Zynga, says the focus of the game of combining social gaming with elements of combat gaming. He says the game is deinitely not for the hardcore gaming crew, and is designed to appeal to a wide audience.
“We’re focused on bringing our players a new form of entertainmen and a strategy game is definitely a new playground for us. Play is in everyone’s DNA, and this game lets you have fun and get creative by choosing your own destiny, building a nation and eventually, conquering the world, ” says Ajami.
One aspect of the game that Ajami says is worth noting is that it is significantly more social than any of Zynga’s previous games. Many of the social gaming interactions, such as fighting against your friends, are new to Zynga’s games, says Ajami.
Another question I had for Ajami was whether the game would appeal to both women and men. Ajami says that Zynga’s goal with Empires & Allies was to appeal to both genders. In fact, I’m told Empires & Allies is a hit with Zynga’s female employees.
Empires & Allies will be available at in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Turkish, Malay, Traditional Chinese, Korean and Norwegian tomorrow.
Apple announced today that Steve Jobs will unveil iOS 5, iCloud and Mac OS X Lion at next weekâ€™s WWDC 2011 keynote.
TechCrunch reports that according to multiple sources, iOS 5 could include Twitter integration, which is one of the reasons Twitter is launching its own photo-sharing service this week.
Weâ€™ve heard from multiple sources that Twitter is likely to have a big-time partner for such a service: Apple. Specifically, weâ€™re hearing that Appleâ€™s new iOS 5 will come with an option to share images to Twitter baked into the OS. This would be similar to the way you can currently share videos on YouTube with one click in iOS. Obviously, a user would have to enable this feature by logging in with their Twitter credentials in iOS. There would then be a â€œSend to Twitterâ€ option for pictures stored on your device.
John Gruber of Daring Fireball who has a good track record when it comes to Apple related news has commented on the TechCrunch article, indicating that the Twitter integration in iOS 5 may go beyond just the photo-sharing service:
So close to the bigger story, but yet so far. Imagine what else the system could provide if your Twitter account was a system-level service.
Any guesses what that might be?
There were a lot of stellar startups at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC last week, and unfortunately, there could only be one set of finalists and one winner. Of course, that doesn’t mean that those companies that didn’t make the final heat aren’t worthy of some love.
The Daily followed the entrepreneurs behind three Disrupt NYC battlefield competitors, SpotOn, Spenz, and Madbrook Publishing through their unique experiences at Disrupt. They came by plane, train, and automobile, fought some nerves, endured some ups and downs, but in the end were exposed to a host of eyeballs and launched successfully.
While judges were tough on some of the companies, the entrepreneurs gained some valuable feedback, and will no doubt use that advice to achieve future fame and glory. From butt art on the iPad to location discovery and spending tracking, these three companies proved that you don’t have to take home the Disrupt Cup just to be noticed.
Check out TechCrunch’s coverage of the three startups live from Disrupt NYC below:
It’s something that Dave Morin isn’t too quick to talk about, but it’s impossible to ignore: his new startup, Path, is becoming quite the gathering ground for ex-Facebook employees. Of course, Morin’s reluctance to establish the connection probably has to do with the fact that he used to be the head of Platform there, and still has close ties to the company. But the small startup just hired its fourth ex-Facebooker today. And the latest is a pretty big one, considering he had been at Facebook over four years.
Matthew Welty will be Path’s new Head of Operations, Morin tells us. Welty had been an operations engineer at Facebook for the past four-plus years. For some perspective on how long he had been there, when he joined in April 2007, Facebook had 20 million active users. Today, they’re about to hit 700 million active users.
And when Welty joined Facebook, Morin was just gearing up to launch Platform. Now Morin will be Welty’s boss in this new venture. Welty decided to leave Facebook a few weeks ago, and approached Path about an opportunity.
“Welty is a world class leader in technical operations, we are excited he chose to join Path as his next step. He will be key in ensuring that Path is always available to our quickly growing user base and that our infrastructure continues to scale with quality in mind,” Morin says.
Welty follows Nathan Folkman, who joined Path from Facebook a couple weeks ago. Interestingly enough, Folkman used to be Head of Operations at Foursquare (and is the only employee to leave Foursquare so far).
The team that Google has already offered $100 million+ for is getting stronger.