Lots of interesting links below, across a whole host of subjects from SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), crypto-currencies, Minecraft and an amusing (inept) bank robbery.
Here are the best articles that I’ve read during the last week:
Today is European Data Protection day 2014, or ‘Privacy Day’ if you live outside of Europe. Happy EDP or PD depending on where you live.
To celebrate EDP/ PD, I thought I’d share the latest scam going around on EA Sports FIFA 14 and Twitter, mainly targeting children.
FIFA 14 has one of the best monetisation strategies of all computer games which leaves Candy Crush and Farmville well behind.
Firstly, the game costs around £40 to buy, and to play it online on the Xbox, you need to buy a subscription to Xbox Live, which is a further £40 per year. And that’s only the beginning of the journey because many online gamers have quality football ‘players’ in their squads.
There are two ways of getting decent players into your own team – either to trade players in a marketplace or buy ‘packs’ of players (a pack contains a random selection of players which are undisclosed until purchase).
The currency for these transactions are FIFA points. You can buy FIFA points with real cash or through trading players. A brief survey of my kids’ friends revealed that the average amount of money spent on FIFA coins is around £10 per month. Playing FIFA is a £200 per year hobby.
The trading option provides the perfect environment for scammers – it’s the combination of naïve children who constantly want more FIFA Coins.
There are dozens of websites and Twitter accounts setup offering ‘free’ or cheaper coins. Remember that we’re dealing with children who want more coins quickly. So these websites ask for personal details in return for the coins. These personal details appear logical to a child.
I saw a Twitter scam as follows:
- The ‘Free coins’ account asks the gamer to follow them in return for coins. The reason for asking a gamer to follow the account is because following a Twitter account enables both parties to Direct Message (DM) each other. This means that further communication can’t be publicly viewed.
- The ‘Free coins’ account now DMs the gamer, dangles the carrot of ‘Thanks for following, do you want 100K or 500K coins?’
- The gamer responds
- The ‘Free coins’ account now asks for the FIFA team name and the Xbox Live account name. Both appear reasonable and are easily justified as “I need to know who to send the coins to.”
- The gamer replies.
- Now the clever part… the free coins account claims the transaction didn’t work correctly. They will ask the gamer to re-confirm their details. It builds the frustration and emotion for the gamer.
- The free coins account now explains there must be some sort of technical problem and asks for the gamer’s email account and password.
At this point, the DM conversation may have taken under 5 minutes from the gamer following the account. Once any hacker has control of a person’s email account, they have an open door to many other services because they can visit other sites and press ‘Forgotten password’, and keep resetting these services. And of course, the hacker’s first job is to change the email password and backup email account/ phone number.
Remember that we’re mainly dealing with children who undervalue security.
There are two steps to prevent this scam:
- Explain to your child the importance of never giving away their email password to anyone, no matter what the ‘offer’ is. It’s the online equivalent of giving a stranger your house keys.
- Explain no one on the Internet is likely to give you something for nothing, especially just for following them on Twitter. Back to the first analogy, it’s like someone on the street offering to buy you some chocolate for free, but they need your house keys to leave the chocolate in the fridge.
Parents of children who have fallen for this scam are rightly upset. The psychological impact is that a stranger has managed to break into the family home and steal from the children, all without parents noticing.
With more apps and games offering freemium options and monetised gamification, these scams will become more common.
Have a happy European Data Protection day.
If a 10 year old child walked into a cinema and wanted to watch an 18 certified film, they wouldn’t be able to buy the ticket. If a 10 year old child walked into a video rental shop (remember those?) and wanted to rent an 18 certified film, they wouldn’t be served.
So I was pretty surprised recently when I discovered that I had been playing Battlefield 3, accidentally using my 10 year old son’s XBox account. My son plays on the XBox much more than I do, and leaves his account signed in when he switches the console off.
I guess that in the (10 year old style!) excitement of receiving Battlefield 3 through the post one day, I switched on the XBox and started playing without checking which account was logged in.
Back to the original point, my XBox knows that my son is a minor because his age is part of his profile and Xbox doesn’t allow him to accept new terms and conditions – it always asks for me to log in. So why does it allow him to play an 18 rated game?
In reality, it’s easier for the XBox to block someone by age than the cinema or video shop, but in reality I suspect games sales would plummet. That’s no defence to the games companies though.
And finally for the record, my son isn’t allowed to play Battlefield or Call of Duty whatsoever…
It’s been absolutely crazy busy at work for the last few weeks, mainly on the new business front. I’d like to add this is a report, not a criticism. Anyway, when it gets this busy at work I often remember Bill Gates’ book The Road Ahead where he discusses how future business will all be conducted by electronic systems exchanging data with each other.
The truth has turned out to be quite the opposite – customers want ever increasing levels of detail before signing up to a product or service.
I did get a chance last week to go to an interesting technology event run by Vizrt. The event was aimed at their large publisher and broadcaster customers – many of the broadsheets and tabloids use their system (or similar competitors) for creating content for their newspapers or TV news snippets. We were there because we work with some large publishers, integrating their systems together.
One of the speakers at the event was Morten Holst who is a Product Strategy Manager for Vizrt, and raised some interesting points which are paraphrased below.
Morten’s first point was to wake up the audience with the following video:
His point was that whilst the video is amusing – a baby who knows the iPad interface so well that she can’t use a paper magazine, and even checks her finger to see if it’s her finger that’s broken – this baby is going to be a consumer in ten years. Publishers and broadcasters need to wake up and realise their consumers are changing very quickly.
His next demonstration was a comparison of a web site 10 years ago and nowadays. I’ve used the BBC News website as an example below.
Look at the two homepages for a few seconds, and you can see many similarities. In fairness, over the ten years, not a huge amount has changed.
I’m not particularly targeting the BBC (it’s still my favourite news site). The point here is that publishing hasn’t actually changed very much in 10 years.
Now look at another entertainment industry over the last ten years. Look at the video below – if you can, try to watch it in HD.
Morten’s point here is that 10 years ago these kinds of graphics and sound effects were considered motion picture quality. Now they are considered the acceptable standard of computer games – this year’s Battlefield 3 (the video above), FIFA 12 and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 are good examples.
The video games industry has recognised a number of times that it needs to push the boundaries of user interfaces, presentation and design – think of an Xbox 360, the revolutionary Wii controller, then the revolutionary Kinect controller. To put that into perspective, the Xbox and Wii were launched within the last 6 years.
His final point was about comparing printed content to digital content. If you read paper magazines, the photography is usually outstanding – full, double page and high quality. That same image will be shown as a 2 inch square on the web, and won’t get a second glance.
The iPad is encouraging publisher’s to think more creatively, by designing beautiful interfaces. In truth there’s no reason the iPad can encourage creativity and a web browser can’t. However the iPad has been disruptive enough in digital terms to make editors want to push the boundaries.
So, on to the future, Morten encouraged the audience to start pushing the boundaries, to stop doing things the same way because that’s how they’d always been done. The functionality has moved on enormously, yet the editors aren’t using the new features, yet.
This Sunday, that’s the 9th October, don’t go to Oxford Street because the road will be shut. It will be shut because the Christmas lights are going to be hung up. It feels strange that last week in London the temperature was over 30 degrees and next weekend Christmas lights are being hung up.
Fifteen years ago, even five years ago, the Western world was buying discs and tapes of films, music and computer games.
At least the retailers on Oxford Street could sell something because yes you can still buy a physical DVD or BluRay, but it’s now easier to download an ‘on demand’ movie via Sky, cable or BT Vision.
Music CDs? In our house we use Spotify (Premium – so that we can use the iPhone app in the car) to listen to music. I haven’t bought a music CD for years.
The one physical format that has stood the test of time is computer console games. Although you can download demos for the Wii, PS3 and XBox, most consumers still need to buy a physical disk for the latest releases.
Perhaps the main reason for still needing a physical disk is the price point. A music ‘album’ (how much longer before no one understands what that word means?) costs under £10 on Amazon. Watching a film on BT Vision and Sky is under £5. Compare those costs to the latest football game, FIFA 12, which is £43 on the PS3 and Xbox. Perhaps buying a product for over forty quid is too much for a virtual object.
There’s also a school of thought that because most games are bought as presents, you need to be able to wrap and hand it over. I don’t necessarily agree with this because a console such as an Xbox has a much higher age group and the gift element doesn’t apply so much. And personally I’d welcome downloadable full games because my kids wouldn’t be able to scratch the disks without any possibility of exchanging the useless £45 circular plastic.
Back to FIFA 12 for a moment… at the time of writing this post:
· Xbox and PS3 versions both cost £42.89
· Wii version costs £32.99
· PC version costs £27.51.
(All those prices are from Amazon).
Now hop over to the iTunes store to buy FIFA 12 on an iPad. It’s £5.99. Why such a huge price difference? I wonder if the iPad version cannibalises the other formats, or whether it helps market the other formats (i.e. iPad users try the iPad version and think it’s so good that they want it on their Xbox).
At least if you do visit Oxford Street this weekend, you can download FIFA 12 to play on your iOS device while the lights are being put up.
Photo courtesy of dark delicious on Flickr
Although I love the outdoors, I haven’t been stung by stinging nettles for years. Until this weekend, when I went actively looking for small boxes in stinging nettles around the parks near to my home.
It’s all been part of an activity called geocaching. I’d heard about it from my niece whose Scout troop look for geocaches whenever they go camping or on a day out.
Geocaching is a simple concept – it’s a real world treasure hunt game. There are over 1.5 million caches around the world. You can go to the main website, geocaching.com, or use one of the iPhone/ Android apps and look for a cache near you. The site runs a ‘freemium’ model – you can play for free or for advanced features you need to pay a small charge.
I live in North West London and there is at least one geocache in every park near my house. There was even a cache at the end of my road – the one photographed above. Caches range from ‘micro’ size – the size of a 35mm film canister, all the way to a ‘large’ box. Inside the cache is some paper to write your name and a short message, and in the larger containers there are other objects. The rules are that you can remove an object if you replace it with an object of more value.
I’m always in favour of any activity that gets children away from the television, and part of geocaching’s success is that because there are so many places to find, it’s easy to have a spare hour on the weekend to pop out and find a cache.
There’s no policing or moderation of the system – so there’s nothing to stop you going to the website and claiming you’ve found all 1.5 million caches. But that’s missing the point – it’s a game, and the fun is really in finding the boxes more than the website components.
We found five geocaches this weekend (and couldn’t find a sixth, in the closest park to my house). It felt quite addictive and fun for all the family – including the dog who I don’t think we’ve ever walked so far. Just be careful of the stinging nettles.