Apple Editorial

Will Super Mario Run be free for Android?


I’ve been watching with mild disgust and very little surprise as the iOS community reveals itself to be largely made up of whingeing entitled little kids whose mummys and daddys clearly didn’t teach about how commerce works. It’s happened before, with the likes of Tweetbot, and now it’s Super Mario Run’s turn.

A lot of users are getting their knickers well and truly in a twist over Super Mario Run’s price. Apparently they weren’t aware it would cost them money to buy the game, despite the game being announced as a free demo with a price to pay for the whole game, and the actual price being revealed a full month before release. And despite the fact that it has an ‘Offers IAPs’ badge on the App Store ‘Get’ button, and that the single IAP is listed in the App Store description.

No, apparently it’s a bait and switch. A scam. A con. They expected the whole game to be free dammit! And so many don’t understand how it works once they’ve exhausted the free demo, with many tweets saying they’ve got to “pay per level” (nope, one price to unlock the whole thing). Or that it’s the “definition of pay to win” (nope, that would be freemium games like Clash Of Clans or Clash Royale, where you pay to get cards that not many others have, and pay to upgrade them beyond what others have).

There’s even a brilliant review on the App Store that says this game would be so much better if they’d released a free Lite version with a few levels, then had a paid version that had all the levels… despite the fact that this is essentially what’s on offer already: try a free demo, then unlock the rest via IAP if you want the full game.

And another review that says Nintendo has so much money they should have made the game free. Seriously.

In fact, the App Store is where Super Mario Run is getting roasted the worst, with one and two star reviews vastly outnumbering five and four star reviews. Sadly, most of them are about the fact that users gotta pay for an app. Because, y’know, developers don’t deserve money to buy food or pay rent.

And yet there are actually lots of other things wrong with the app that are much more deserving of objective criticism, things Nintendo really could stand to look at before their next release.

As much as I firmly agree with Nintendo’s decision to make this a pay-once-play-forever deal, a traditional game with one price and no freemium gems or timers, I do think they made some errors in many respects.

I believe they resisted entering the smartphone app market for so long because by entering it they feel like they’re admitting failure of some kind. So when they did finally enter these markets, they refused to be told how to adjust their existing model. They stuck to their stupid Friend Codes, their ugly outdated bubble-tastic interface, their premium price point and more.

So what could Nintendo have done better?

1) They could have made it much clearer how SMR pricing works.

They shouldn’t have to, but smartphone users are now used to ‘free’ freemium shite, and have a visceral reaction to being “made to” pay for something, especially if it’s more than 99 cents. They can afford one of the worlds most expensive consumer-focussed smartphones at hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but not a few bucks for stuff to run on that smartphone (music, apps, whatever). Hypocrites.

What could Nintendo have done to make it clearer? If they wanted to stick to an IAP to unlock they should have made the very first words in their App Store listing a description of the game as a free three-level demo with a paid unlock if you want the full game. Or they could have opened the game for users that haven’t yet bought the IAP with a screen that explained “Welcome to the Super Mario Run demo”.

It still wouldn’t have been enough to educate the idiots that see FREE and expect it to be, well, FREE. But it would have helped head off accusations of a bait and switch.

2) They could have released two versions.

One free and clearly labelled LITE, with just three levels. The other paid and clearly labelled FULL with the whole game. But frankly this is messy and requires more updating and introduces confusion and people still would have whined, that there weren’t enough levels in the free version or that they didn’t realise there was a free version and they want a refund, or something. People are idiots.

This would also have sidestepped the issue that comes with IAPs, where they aren’t available for family sharing. See, if you buy an app for your own phone, but your kids want it, or your partner wants it, and you have family sharing, they can have your copy of the app on their phone. But IAPs aren’t included in that. So you could all download the free version under family sharing, but everyone that wanted to have the full game would need to buy it. One IAP purchase does not extend to all family users.

This is obviously because of the likes of freemium games that sell gems. Those developers, and Apple, don’t want one freemium gem purchase going to four different family users, for example.

But this also affects apps trying to sell upgrades to the full version. It makes no sense that a regular paid app can be sold one time to all members of a family but an upgrade to a paid app can’t be. But them’s Apple’s rules, and they aren’t likely to bother fixing or clarifying or otherwise improving the inconsistency any time soon, because Apple historically doesn’t give a shit about user experience when it comes to stuff like this, unless enough people bring a class action or enough media outlets run them over the coals for it.

3) They could have made it freemium

No. No no no. Pocket Gamer already explained perfectly well why this would be an utterly shit idea. With very, very few exceptions (I can think of really only one in recent times, Clash Royale, and even that’s still ‘pay to win’ frankly), freemium games are pay to win time wasting skinner box shit. They’re there to make gameplay as boring as possible unless you pay, to hoodwink as much money out of you as possible, and with no real end or purpose. They’re just cash generators for the developers. If you can get by without paying anything good for you, but I’d rather pay money once for as much properly-balanced gaming fun as I want, whenever I want.

Apparently I’m in a minority, which is why the smartphone app gold rush is long over for the overwhelming majority of developers, unless you create a whale-hunting freemium skinner box.

4) They could have made it cheaper.

I’ve seen analysists banging on about how many copies were downloaded versus sold. I’m not really sure what black magic they base their claims on, and frankly I don’t trust analysts anyway (how many polls claimed Brexit wouldn’t happen or Trump wouldn’t win?) and would love to know how to get a job like that because I think most bloggers would do a better job in most cases.

Anyway, they say around 4-5% of the 40 million downloads have actually paid. Let’s say that’s true. That’s a lot of money but obviously leaves so much on the table. Would making the game a little cheaper have increased sales to the point that overall revenue would be vastly increased? Again, some analysts claim so. One even produced a fancy graph that suggests way more revenue if the app was cheaper, but it’s all guesswork.

Personally, I’ve not bought it. I think £7.99 ($9.99) is too much for what’s on offer – I don’t really enjoy Mario games at the best of times and while Mario Run does seem to have far more depth than most ‘endless runners’ like Temple Run, it doesn’t seem all that deeper than Rayman (which is free and blighted with gem purchases, but it barely impacted on my play experience when I tried it), and £8 is a lot for something I’ll play a few times idly on my way to work, versus something like Steamworld Heist which is around the same price and offers hours of deep, strategic gameplay.

Oh, except I can’t play Mario Run on my way to work because Nintendo think I might be a thief. See the next point…

5) They could remove the always-online requirement.

Nintendo basically expects everyone to steal their game (smartphone app piracy is at absolutely fucking disgusting levels to be fair) and so to punish all their legitimate users while making life merely awkward for the piracy community (who will doubtless find a way around it eventually), Nintendo in their infinite arrogance decided to make the game require an online connection at the end of every level.

They’ve admitted this is because of piracy (or as they rather sweetly and naïvely put it, user security), but they buried that under a load of smoke about online features for other modes needing to be tied into the main game because it was too tricky to try to separate them. Yeah yeah, whatever Shigs.

As a result, you can’t really play the game unless you have a very strong cell signal, or a wifi connection. I’ve tried on a bus travelling through London, with a 80% signal, and it wouldn’t even connect to play the game. Kept telling me I needed to connect to the internet to download level data – this after downloading and installing the game?!

So, Nintendo have released a casual one-thumb-playable mobile phone game, that can’t be used on most people’s commute, or in areas of remotely patchy internet. Goodbye tube, metro, tram, train, bus, and plane users. And anyone queueing in a large warehouse-like supermarket, as I also personally discovered.

6) They could improve the in-game opening experience

Nintendo has always had a clunky online experience. Clunky is being generous. Because they’re seen as a kiddie game company, they felt it necessary to build an online community that’s as kid-friendly as possible. In order to significantly and repeatedly interact with a friend over Nintendo’s online systems you both need to manually enter in a long string of letters and numbers that represent that person’s ‘Friend Code’.

So rather than trust Apple’s existing system for gaming communities (and is there any other company more neurotic about child safety using their devices than Apple? A company that, for a while at least, banned any representation of a gun in an app’s icon, even if your app was an approved game all about shooting people?!) Nintendo have brought Friend Codes to Mario Run.

They’ve also brought a really reeeaaally long list of countries to the game! I’ve literally never been forced to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroooll through such a long list trying to find my country before being allowed to play a game before, and I’m not sure why I had to anyway. Can’t they tell where I am? Why do they need to know anyway?

After getting through that boring shit, then they make you play the tutorial. They’ll make you play this tutorial every time you accidentally hit the button that asks for a tutorial, by the way. It’s unskippable once it starts short of quitting the app.

And after all that, then they start to download the first level. For real.

You’ve downloaded the app, installed it, fired it up, scrolled through a massive list of nations, tried to understand the whole Friend Code bullshit, skipped it, gone through the tedious demo (which could be boiled down to ‘tap to jump’).. and then they initiate a further download of the actual game. Did nobody at Apple sit Nintendo down and explain anything whatsoever about today’s app users to them? Ever?

“Okay but I heard it’s going to be free when it comes to Android?”

The game is due out on Android soon and some folks have it in their head that Nintendo will either reduce the price, or adjust how they charge. Maybe make it properly freemium.

Yeah… no. It’s extremely unlikely Nintendo are going to change a single thing about the app for Android.

They can’t reduce the price without also permanently reducing it on iOS, and if they do that they’ll have every single person that already bought it going nuts at them. They’d have to refund those people, or tell them to suck it up. Neither are going to happen. QED: the price won’t be reduced for Android.

Same goes for making it a more freemium game for Android. They can’t do that and not change it for iOS, and they won’t do that. It’s a proper paid app for a reason, so that they don’t have to cripple the gameplay with gems to increase the height you can jump, or premium coins to buy access to the next level. One price, full game.

So no, Super Mario Run for Android won’t be cheaper, free, or freemium. Suck it up, cheap-ass freeloading whining entitled Mario-loving smartphone owners.

Gear & gadget reviews Other

Design: The worst thing about the New 3DS XL power button, and how Nintendo could fix it

This week I decided to take the plunge on Nintendo’s New 3DS XL, and I love it! But there’s one small problem: the power button is in precisely the wrong place, and how it works is about the least user-friendly it could be.

The position is on the lower right front edge. It’s very close to where my pinkie often comes to rest during regular play, but when things get tense I often grip hard and the pinkie slides up and presses the button. That’s the first part of the problem. The second part is how the software is designed to work once it’s pressed. It brings up a top-screen telling you to close the console if you want it to Sleep, and on the lower screen asks you to tap a button to Power off, or hit the hardware Home button to just return to the Home screen. There’s no option to just cancel the whole process and return to your game.

So in practice if you have software running when you hit the button that software will quit immediately, no saving, no matter what. In something like Animal Crossing one’s grasp of the console is a lot more relaxed, but in a particularly tense moment like the end of a Mario Kart race, or claiming a tough prey in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, it’s all too easy to find my pinkie pulling down on that Power button and it’s Game Over.

How Nintendo could fix the Power button issue

There’s a couple of things Nintendo could do to fix this with software updates. The first thing that would help would be to make the Power button only respond to a long hold rather than a firm press. It should really be like this anyway, as it is on most other portable devices. They’d ideally combine this with something a little more like how the Home button works. Instead of quitting the game just pause it like the Home button does, then ask me if I want to Sleep, Power off, or go Home.

It’s such an easy and you’d like to think obvious fix that hopefully it’s something we’ll see in a future software update. If you happen to know someone at Nintendo, do suggest this from me. 😉


How to get YNAB for free if you’re a student

If you’re a student and struggling to manage your money, here’s some great news – Jesse Mecham over at You Need A Budget just announced they’re going to give a year of YNAB away free to every student that emails them their course registration.

Check out his blog post, but the short version is: every year you’re a student, they’ll give you a year’s license to use YNAB. And of course, when you graduate you can always save 10% off the full license with this discount.

Free YNAB for students is a damn generous offer, and should definitely help you get your money sorted. We’ve been used YNAB 4 since February 2013 and it’s turned our money situation around by following the rules and budgeting properly – and sticking to it of course.


CatPig Studios change the icon for Radium

new radium iconA while ago I wrote about Radium, a great app for listening to internet radio on your Mac and iOS devices, but which was rather blighted with one of the stupidest, most incongruent and confusing icons I could possibly think of for such an app: a heart-shaped chocolate.

Yes, a heart-shaped chocolate. For a radio app. I know.

This extended to the menu-bar icon, which was particularly galling to me so I wrote another post explaining how to edit the Radium app package to insert the original radio icons.

I’d always liked Radium, but I absolutely loathed the new icon and as I care about this sort of thing I wrote to Catpig to ask why they’d changed it. At first they brushed off my suggestions that it wasn’t the most obvious choice saying it was in keeping with their new tag line ‘chocolate for your ears’ (yep, also weird) but ultimately they weren’t that interested in taking any feedback and just got rude, suggesting that I was an idiot for not understanding design. I suggested they were the ones that put highfalutin but incongruent ideas ahead of user recognizability, but they made it explicitly clear that they couldn’t care less what I thought.

Well, I wasn’t the only one utterly bemused by the ridiculous new icon: a few users who saw my post mentioned in the comments some of the rude replies they’d received from CatPig when they too got in touch to ask about the icon. It seems that even though CatPig ask for user feedback on their site, they’re really not that interested in actually receiving it.

Or, are they? I’m afraid after the very rude replies they sent me I deleted Radium and subscribed to Rdio, so I never noticed a Radium update that completely changed the icon again until someone mentioned it in the comments recently. It seems CatPig finally got the message and switched from the ridiculous chocolate to an altogether more sensible radio tower. And it’s rather lovely!

Well done, CatPig! You’ve now got the best internet radio app and one of the best icons. Hopefully a customer interaction attitude adjustment is up next…?

Other how-tos

How to get a Facebook Page vanity URL without 25 Likes

I’ve recently started a few Facebook pages for my various sites, such as my professional photography, a hobby review site I’m working on, and this site itself (, in case you weren’t paying attention).

When you create a Facebook fan page, by default it will have a URL that looks like this: Pretty ugly. It used to be that you needed 25 Likes for that page before you could use the ‘vanity URL’ option to change it to something like: Back in 2011 Facebook changed that rule to allow a vanity URL when you set up the page, with no Likes required.


I just tried to create a vanity URL for this site’s Facebook page, and it told me I needed 25 Likes. Hmm. Why? Did a bit of Googling, turns out that actually every admin only has one single ‘free pass’ to create an immediate vanity URL. After you’ve used it, you’ll need 25 Likes again.

Like I say, I’m an Admin for several Pages on Facebook. The first time I created a vanity URL using was for my photography Facebook page, using my free pass. When I earned over 25 Likes for that page I must have been granted a second free pass (or I got a ‘refund’ on it!) which I inadvertently used on a page for a different site I’m building.

So now I’ve got no free passes, which means every new vanity URL I try to set up will require 25 Likes.

The solution

In order to earn an immediate ‘free pass’ to create a vanity URL for my new Facebook page without waiting to accrue those 25 Likes I can add a new admin to my FB page. It has to be someone I know and trust and who has not yet used up their ‘vanity URL free pass’ and doesn’t want to use it themselves.

Once they’re added to the page Admins they can log in to the page and create the vanity URL straight away!

Obviously you’re going to want to have someone you trust completely do this – a family member or good friend. And, just to be sure, I’d be sitting over their shoulder while they do it! 😉

Hope this helps, thanks for reading!