EA announced SimCity a year ago, and we have been excited about every peek since. We even got to participate in the beta, and it only revved us up for the official launch this week. Well, much like the launch of SimCity 4, which Maxis has apologized for several times during the development process of the new game, the launch went horribly.
The new version of the game has a new, highly intensive feature, where all cities are connected one another, allowing people to visit their friends' cities. While enhancing the overall experience of the game, it does mean that EA needed to be prepared for the highly anticipated launch with A LOT of servers to handle the launch week load. Unfortunately, no one told EA, who seemed to have an incredibly limited number of server clusters, which all failed immediately.
Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of Maxis, said,
So what went wrong? The short answer is: a lot more people logged on than we expected. More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta. OK, we agree, that was dumb, but we are committed to fixing it. In the last 48 hours we increased server capacity by 120 percent. It's working - the number of people who have gotten in and built cities has improved dramatically. The number of disrupted experiences has dropped by roughly 80 percent.
This is not the first time EA has had a game use game servers - they are a publisher for PlayStation games, so they have setup game servers before. It is both surprising and disappointing that they failed this launch so badly. At least EA recognizes that they failed hard and have offered some sort of reconciliation: a free game from the EA catalog. This should help calm down those who were upset that EA's Origin service does not allow returns of digitally downloaded content.
So, did you get kicked off of a server like we have? Will a free EA title from the catalog make it better? Have you enjoyed the game when you have been able to connect? Let us know in the comments.
This is not the first time Apple has knowingly left its users unprotected, but this is certainly the most ridiculous I have ever encountered. If you know anything about the Internet, you know about HTTPS. It is the color-changed address bar at the top of your browser when you sign-in to your bank account or email account. It is the technology that encrypts data between two computers, and it is used anywhere secure data, like credit cards, are involved.
Well, almost everywhere. Apple had, apparently, decided when developing the App Store that protecting your data wasn't all that important. Subsequently, they developed the entire App Store to run on standard, non-encrypted protocols. This, of course, leaves every transaction open to be discovered, especially if you are connected to an open or public WiFi network.
For example, say you are at a park and your phone automatically connects to a WiFi connection it discovers around you. That WiFi could be setup by a hacker hoping you will do something stupid like enter a password or transfer data that connects to your banking information. Then, someone tells you about a new app you have to have, so you go download it. What could go wrong, right? Well, you have just given your information to that hacker, allowing them to potentially connect to your Apple account OR transfer infected files to your phone. They could even prompt for a fake upgrade, passing bad data to your phone. Good call, Apple.
The problem was discovered by a Google employee, of all possibilities. Elie Bursztein, a researcher for Google, discovered the flaw in his spare time and informed Apple of the issue more than 6 months ago. Believe it or not, it took them until this week to fix it. For those interested in knowing the process for fixing it, it is as simple as enabling SSL on the server and enabling a redirect for non-SSL connections. If you are new at it, it might take an hour; if you are an expert it probably takes 5 minutes. It took Apple 8 months.
That is a disgrace no matter how you look at it. To me, it shows a complete lack of respect for the customers from Apple. Do you agree that this should have been a top priority at Apple or does it make sense that Apple took 8 months to solve the problem? Let us know in the comments below.
If a crashing stock price wasn't enough, any potential future investors sure won't like this news. Another settled lawsuit adds to the ever-growing list of litigations against Apple. The shiny fruit trading company has settled on a lawsuit that alleged that the iPhone and iPad apps let kids make transactions on their parents' devices without the parents knowing about it or allowing it. The amount that was agreed upon? $100 million. Oh, and that's not in an important currency; it's $100 million in iTunes credits.
Five parents filed a lawsuit over two years ago that claimed Apple did not put enough security measures in place to prevent children from using the microtransaction features inside of videogames or other apps. This meant that children could buy whatever they wanted, sometimes costing parents thousands of dollars. Granted, perhaps parents should supervise their children more when letting them on their personal mobile devices, but what do I know? These adults (I will no longer call them parents) said that they were unaware of the children charging their accounts until the time of billing. The suit also cites some of the issue lies in games targeted to children as young as four years old, which also feature options to spend money without a password checkpoint.
The suit reads,
Apple failed to adequately disclose that third-party game apps, largely available for free and rated as containing content suitable for children, contained the ability to make in-app purchases.
In total, Apple has conceded to give $5 in iTunes credit to around 23 million customers who were affected by this. Apple will also be sending checks to those who were seeking $30 or more in restitution. As of March 2011, Apple, along with developers have added password verification to most apps which give you the option to buy something in-game.
While Spotify might be making progressive moves towards bringing more music to mobile platforms, it seems Pandora is still stuck in some sort of crazy dimension, as we discussed on the show last week. The company announced in a blog post this week that increased royalty costs will force Pandora to limit the amount of time a free user can listen on their smartphones and tablets.
Founder Tim Westergreen said that a 40 hour limit will be placed onto free users' accounts beginning this week. Westergreen went on to say that considering an average user listens to around 20 hours a month on Pandora, this change will only affect four percent of its 65 million customers. However, one could safely assume that the 65 million users are not all active. Plus, when you consider that four percent of 65 million is 2.6 million people, that is quite a lot of people who will actually be affected by the change.
What specifically caused this limitation? Pandora explains.
Pandora's per-track royalty rates have increased more than 25% over the last 3 years, including 9% in 2013 alone and are scheduled to increase an additional 16% over the next two years. After a close look at our overall listening, a 40-hour-per-month mobile listening limit allows us to manage these escalating costs with minimal listener disruption.
And, if you go over that 40 hour limit, you can simply listen for free as much as you want on your desktop or laptop, or pay 99 cents for the rest of the month. Pandora also suggests that you simply subscribe to Pandora One for unlimited listening with no ads.
So there you have it. While Spotify is looking to cut royalty payouts to unheard of percentages, Pandora is sort of taking the easy way out by limiting the amount of time you can listen for free. While I get that a company needs to make money to stay in business, this move just keeps adding to the amount of things Pandora keeps doing to make you raise an eyebrow at the company as a whole.
Would you like to see a Mozilla Firefox phone? Do you still even use Firefox as a browser? Well, whether or not you do or don't, Mozilla unveiled the first commercial version of the Firefox OS at Mobile World Congress. They even announced phones and carriers who will play host to the operating system. Mozilla has positioned this OS to be perfect for basic smartphones and for "developing markets."
One of the interesting things for me, however, is the fact that the entire OS is built and driven by HTML5, and not by seventeen simultaneous instances of Flash, not like that happens on the Firefox browser or anything. At any rate, Mozilla also announced that the first batch of phones will be running on Qualcomm processors and that LG, ZTE and Alcatel will be the first manufacturers to produce the devices, with Huawei following suit later on in the year.
For the carriers who are standing behind the Firefox OS, we have a lot you might not recognize and a couple you will - America Movil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Japan's KDDI, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Telenor. These companies will launch the smartphones in Brazil, Columbia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela. Moving forward, Mozilla also said that more manufacturers and carriers are expected to get on board and that the US will see the Firefox OS in 2014.
Obviously, another platform adds a whole new level of crazy to the ever-changing mobile OS market that we're involved in today. It will definitely come down to the developers on whether or not Mozilla is successful with this rollout. If the devs don't want to make the apps customers want, then Firefox OS will simply fade into the background as quickly as it entered. However, the advantage Mozilla has is the fact it's running on HTML5, which means developers don't have to learn a completely new coding language, though that benefit never panned out for Palm. During MWC, Mozilla was showing off Facebook integration as well as Nokia's Here platform, fully working on the Firefox OS.
Having not yet played with the actual user interface or hear about a concrete commitment from popular developers, I'm unsure if Mozilla's Firefox OS will be a flop or a flagship win. Luckily, we have the amazing Avram Piltch from LAPTOP Magazine, who was at MWC in Barcelona and will be able to tell us more about this OS on F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.
While posting a small profit and having EA drop their copyright suit might be good news for Zynga, it appears to just be a bandage over a bigger problem. This week, Zynga announced it is shutting the doors on its Baltimore office. The company will also be shrinking its footprint in Texas and New York.
For their Baltimore branch, the closure will affect around 30 employees, or 1 percent of the developer studio. Further, this particular office was directly involved in the production of CityVille 2, which we know Zynga's COO David Ko canned after realizing the game was popular but not making them any money. Ko also mentioned in the announcement that Zynga did offer transfer opportunities to the affected employees, but only half of them decided to stay along for the ride.
Zynga will be closing the office in McKinney, Texas, as well as the office in downtown Austin, which will both be shifted to their sites in Dallas and North Austin. In New York, all of Zynga's offices will be shut down and the employees will be sent to the New York City mobile studio.
This is all a part of David Ko's no nonsense attitude when it comes to his attempt at making sure Zynga will stick around for longer than investors might be have predicted. From cutting the fat on non-profitable game titles to layoffs dating back to October, Ko is really putting the clamps down on the company. He did say in the blog post that the company intends to shut down the UK and Japan studios as well, however no date was given. On his plan to keep the company afloat, Ko said, "We still have a lot of work to do, but I'm confident that we're on the right path to deliver on the potential of Zynga."