Tag Archives: XBox

The FIFA 14 “Free Coins” scam

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.

One of these accounts asked for my email username and password to get free FIFA coins
One of these accounts asked for my email username and password to get free FIFA coins

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The ‘Free coins’ account now DMs the gamer, dangles the carrot of ‘Thanks for following, do you want 100K or 500K coins?’
  3. The gamer responds
  4. 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.”
  5. The gamer replies.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Why didn’t Microsoft win the Premiership rights for the new Xbox?

Microsoft Xbox One
The Microsoft Xbox One. Lovely console. Silly name.

The new Microsoft Xbox console looks like it will be an amazing piece of kit, with voice activation and what looks to be (no pun intended) some impressive image recognition too.

Microsoft is firmly focussing on the TV market. The current Xbox allows users to watch video on demand, but the new one will support live TV as well, with a fully integrated EPG (Electronic Programme Guide).

Many people have questioned whether the world needs another generation of games consoles, and many people have been suggesting Apple will release an Apple television or a decent version of their Apple TV product, which is currently too ring fenced to appeal to a mass market. Microsoft has answer both questions admirably, by providing a cutting edge games machine as well as a highly interactive STB (Set Top Box).

There had also been rumours that the new Xbox might not have an optical drive at all, that all games will be downloaded in a similar model to iOS devices. Microsoft has answered both end users who want a second hand games market, and the games developers’ business models by not making the console backwards compatible. So if you enjoy playing a specific game, you’ll need to either keep your existing Xbox console for that game, or buy a new version when it’s released for the new console.

Microsoft also announced a $400 million deal with the NFL to provide interactive TV experiences during matches. I question whether users want this level of interactivity during sport, but Microsoft (and the NFL) clearly believe many users do want it.

The surprise is that Microsoft didn’t win the rights from the Premiership football rights during the recent bidding with BT. BT want the Premiership to boost their BT Vision product. Winning the Premiership would have similarly boosted the adoption rates for the new Xbox. Perhaps Microsoft doesn’t want to go head to head with broadcasters, but this is probably inevitable (and underway) by supplying the de facto platform for Netflix.

The craziest part of the new Xbox is the name. During the announcement I saw a friend’s tweet which asked “Why is it called the Xbox one when it’s the third one? – asked by my son who’s seven year’s old” And apparently the Xbox one is what eBay sellers refer to the original Xbox in listings!

On Google Glasses, Xbox IllumiRoom and Windows 8

Here are some favourite links that I’ve been sharing over the last week:

Yes, that's a bookshelf on the left and a plant on the right
Yes, that’s a bookshelf on the left and a plant on the right

LittleOutliner.com is a super simple editor with autosave. Come to think of it, why doesn’t the Windows 8 notepad auto save? In fact, why isn’t Windows 8 notepad a full/ trimmed down version of OneNote?

Windows 8 shortcuts (Windows + I is the most useful)

Microsoft IllumiRoom demo video – the next generation of Xbox Kinect?

Review of Google Glasses, particularly interesting are the comments the author receives about the glasses.

How we’ll buy TV channels in the future

Img_00681

I’ve had Sky TV at home for six months now, so Sky sent me a questionnaire asking for some feedback.

I said that the ordering and installation process was superb. Flawless. Within a month I had all the services installed, working perfectly.

Originally we bought Sky because we want to watch more sport, specifically football, on the telly, and it was getting frustrating not being able to watch it live without Sky. We’d used BT Vision for a few years, but to ‘upgrade’ to just being able to watch Sky Sports was a ridiculous process of upgrading (and paying to upgrade) our set top box.

Over the Christmas holidays I got a free trial to Netflix. My wife and I haven’t watched some of the more popular TV shows such as 24, so for a small monthly subscription, it seemed good value.

We now watch mainly Netflix during the week, with sport on weekends.

It’s amazing to see how far TV has changed from being limited to a handful of channels ten years ago, to multiple subscriptions and hundreds of channels now. And this is on top of our Spotify and Xbox Gold subscription!

I can’t see this model being sustainable. I think the future will see a standardisation across platforms and consumers won’t be forced into multiple subscriptions. A little like you can currently buy various additional channels through Sky.

Maybe we’ll do it through an Xbox style device, maybe through the TV itself (once Smart TVs become smarter).

2013 Digital Media predictions

In 2010, 2011 and 2012, I made some predictions about Digital Media in the following year, and in late December of each year I reviewed and scored them (here’s the results from 20102011 and 2012 Digital Media predictions).

Last year some work colleagues accused me of playing the predictions safe. Interestingly one of the predictions was about the share price of Akamai, yet they didn’t invest in the company despite my prediction about the price increasing…

So here are my 2013 Digital Media predictions:

1. Many, many new devices will be launched

We’re so used to hearing about Apple launching new devices that it’s easy to forget there are other vendors out there. In late 2013 we’ll see the new Xbox and Playstation arrive, and I expect they will be amazing. Remember how revolutionary the Wii controllers were? And then Kinect moved the game (no pun intended) on to show controller-less games. I expect the next consoles from Microsoft and Sony will improve upon Kinect – fasters response times and more playability.

I’ve been promoting 3D printers since 2010 http://blog.bradbox.com/the-real-3d and predicting that every year will be the year it becomes mainstream. In 2013 I really really really expect people will be buying them! You’ll be printing disposable cutlery, kids toys and anything else you can think of – all at home. Sites such as shapeways http://www.shapeways.com/ are already appearing with designs to download and print.

2. Yahoo! Makes! A! Comeback!|

Competition is always healthy, and the dominance of Facebook has been unhealthy in the last couple of years. The top photo sharing library, Instagram, was acquired up by Facebook and its charm of degrading photo quality all but disappeared in six months.

Step forward Marissa Mayer of Google fame (…how the world had underestimated how good a job she made of Google Maps until Apple tried it!). Yahoo!’s share price has increased 30% from $15 when she joined to almost $20. She’s spotted the power of Flickr (which I have always preferred for my personal photos and as a creative commons library for this blog).

I reckon Yahoo!’s share price will be at least $30 by the end of 2013 and we’ll see some quality innovation appearing from the company.

3. Microsoft to return

Messenging tools – Yammer, Skype, MSN Messenger, Lync. Office 2013. Windows 8. Surface. The new Xbox. Bing. Exchange 2013. Sharepoint 2013. Office 365. Skydrive. Azure. We think Facebook is ubiquitous, but it doesn’t come close to Microsoft. There is no other technology company that we use so many of its products across our personal and professional lives.

Anecdotally I’ve spoken to many people who have moved to iMacs in the last 12 months and are either disenchanted (“It still slows down over time like a PC”) or use Microsoft Windows on their iMac anyway!

2013 will be an amazing year for Microsoft in terms of value and brand positioning.

4. Indoor GPS

Shopping malls seem to be growing. We’re so used to using our smartphones as GPS devices in the outdoors, that it seems obvious to start using them for indoor navigation too.

Macy’s have used indoor GPS (http://mashable.com/2012/11/08/macys-indoor-gps/) as part of their app. Expect to see shopping malls and retailers add similar functionality to their apps. It will also be interesting to see if Google/ Bing/ Apple will add indoor navigation to their map products.

5. Learning to switch off

Have you been to a campsite recently? They’re packed. Mud has become fun again, not considered a biohazard any longer. Escaping technological comforts has never been better.

One of the most welcome releases of the iOS 6 in 2012 was ‘Do Not Disturb’. We want to gain control back from mobile and electronic interruptions. When I write documents and presentations, I now switch Outlook off. Interruptions are annoying and lower our productivity. My laptop has alerts popping up from Outlook, Gmail, Tweetdeck, Skype and Dropbox.

Expect to see more ‘Quiet modes’. Windows 8 has brought back full screen experiences rather than multiple windows – we’ll get a lot more work done this way.

6. Context sensitive

Google results have felt relevant to us because if I type in a search term, it will present me with relevant information. If I type in ‘Indian’ it lists local Indian restaurants, followed by Indian motorcycles (because Google knows I’m interested in bikes).

In 2013 we’ll be using websites that will take a number of factors into account – from the weather, to profiles of ‘similar’ customers, our previous interactions, social media feeds, whether we’re on a mobile or desktop and so on. I don’t think wider society is ready for noticeable personalisation, which I feel is a shame, so we’ll see much more subtle changes to user interfaces and results in the next 12 months.

7. The end of the QR code

QR codes annoy me – how can an illegible symbol be better than a human readable web address? The answer is that QR codes were supposed to be a trackable or more complicated link that we lazy humans wouldn’t use if we can read it.

QR codes should have been the first step to one click impulse purchasing, so that a consumer could select a specific product at the bus stop, and pay within seconds. Instead, marketing companies have dumbed them down to illegible web site addresses.

At the end of 2013 I’ll report on the last time I saw a QR code – it will have been several months.

8. Healthcare apps

My GP surgery started a website booking system (that’s completely unusable – I tried registering twice). In 2013 we’ll start using Facetime and other apps to communicate with healthcare professionals and companies.

Healthcare companies will start using social media to help us improve our lifestyle in innovative ways.

9. Drones buzzing in the sky

Robocop had it all wrong with ED209 (http://www.omnicorp.com/). Why would you have a security robot in the future when you can have a flying drone. You can already buy drones with cameras that provide real time video streaming.

In the future, if you’re at home and hear a noise downstairs in the middle of the night, you won’t go downstairs trembling, you’ll send a small drone downstairs to have a look around.

Back to 2013 though, we’ll start seeing security companies using drones to patrol the outside of buildings. There are some interesting social questions that will be raised though – do you own the airspace in your home? If you send a drone to the next door neighbour’s garden, who do you complain to? Can you shoot it down? Will we start having surface to air missile units on our roofs? Is it really science fiction?

 

Steve Ballmer showcasing Kinect

One of my favourite pieces of technology is Kinect. Until you’ve used it, it’s difficult to believe that this level of technology exists, let alone for under $200.

My preferred BBC iPlayer device is the XBox – it’s voice controlled, easily the nicest menu structure to use, and has HD – but most importantly, it works on my TV and I still don’t like watching long formats on my laptop or desktop.

Windows 8 has been released, and I’m suspicious of it’s heavy reliance on touch screens. My monitors at work and home are already dirty enough, and I try not to touch the screens already.

If I had to swipe a web page with my fingers after eating a sandwich and bag of crisps, it would be revolting!

I don’t know how I originally missed this video of Steve Ballmer and the Kinect team demonstrating features which are already live, but it gives some further insight into the future of entertainment, whether it’s video games or television or work devices – the term PC doesn’t seem correct in this context.

Why do age restrictions fail?

Battlefield-3-front-cover-67197

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…

Why Publishers and Broadcasters need to change

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.

Bbc_news_2001

Bbc_news_2011

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.

Windows 8 review


So, the covers have started to be lifted from Windows 8. Take 5 minutes to watch the video to see a glimpse of Microsoft’s new operating system.

Some immediate feedback:

  1. “We’re watching Google”. Google believe the [Chrome] browser is the future, so Microsoft are looking to pull as many Internet services out of the browser into small apps.
  2. “Touch my screen”. I hate fingermarks on my screen. Walk up to someone else’s screen at work today and touch their screen – you’ll get a reaction as if you invaded their privacy! No one likes fingermarks on their screen. Windows 8 will be all about touch screens though. We recently bought a new PC at home and I decided not to get a touch screen because I was concerned the kids would have wrecked it within weeks. And a keyboard on the screen? A vertical keyboard? No thanks.
  3. “It looks so beautiful until you want to do anything productive”. All the screens in the video look really nice – it’s like ‘Windows 7 mobile meets XBox‘. And then the video shows Excel and Word, which are straight back to square one.
  4. “Multiple windows – hmmmm”. I get the slider to show multiple windows, but the sad thing is that this is a world away from how people really multi-task with many smaller windows. Have a vertical slider is very inefficient with wasted space.
  5. “Files haven’t changed”. Whilst Microsoft should be commended from abstracting the C: hierarchy to users folders (it started in Windows Vista and Windows 7 makes it even easier), the abstraction should continue. Why do we still care about files? The only point of a file it to email it to someone else, and Google Docs has solved this already (by sharing it from a central place).
  6. “Why no Kinnect?”. After using Kinnect over the weekend with the family, you start wondering why objects in the rest of the world need you to touch them! Kinnect (aka waving at things) is the future and a smaller one to one style interface would be much better than touch (see #2).

However the OS does look lovely. It’s like a ‘Windows 7 meets XBox‘ interface (and both are good). I’m just concerned they’re fine on a 5″ screen or when you sit 5″ away from it. Sitting a foot away from it at a desk for 8 hours a day requires a different style of UI.

Amazing technology in the living room

Xbox360-kinect1

Last weekend we bought an Xbox Kinect at home. I have a personality trait whereby I get really excited about technology only for it to rapidly degrade after a few days. So I decided not to write this review any sooner for fear of it being written with a bit too much passion and not enough objectivity.

A week after plugging in the Kinect controller, I can report that’s it’s still AMAZING. The technology still feels futuristic. Picking up an iPhone with it’s two year old pinching and stretch controls feels ancient. Using a mouse or a keyboard feels archaic.

Gesturing is the way forward.

The kids (ranging from 4 to 9 years old) love it and find it intuitive. Adults find it intuitive, although I’ve yet to see an adult that doesn’t sit (or for that matter, stand) with their jaws open finding it difficult to appreciate that the television is responding to body movements.

Many reviewers compare the Kinect to the Wii, because they are the two consoles where players need to be active or stand up to play most games. The comparison is ridiculous. The graphics and playability on the Xbox Kinect games are as polished, clear and fast as the rest of the Xbox titles compared to the Wii which feels like it’s still using the graphics chips from an 1980s Atari console.

However the part that most of our visitors like the most about the Kinect is being able to control the main Xbox menu, by sweeping icons to the left and right and selecting them on the screen just like in Minority Report.

To select a menu, the user puts your left arm at 45 degrees down becomes second nature in much the same way as a right mouse click on a PC felt odd a decade ago but is now automatic.

If a different user stands up Kinect will recognise them if they have a profile on the box using face recognition.

Microsoft have got the Kinect completely right. Installing it on my old Xbox (the original white one) was painfree. I’ve never opened a manual for it. The kids got it. Adults get it. Gestures are the way of the future.

I also bought a new family PC for the home as well after the last one died. For a while, we considered getting a Dell with a touch screen for two reasons. One is that it looks nice without complex wires, and the second is that its a large touch screen. However I’ve never seen the point of a touch screen on a PC – why do you want to press the X to close a window and get a fingerprint on the screen when it’s quicker and cleaner to press Alt+F4 (and you still think the 45 degree arm salute is unobvious?!) or move and then press the mouse.

I don’t get PCs with touch screens, but if you could gesture with your hand to quickly close a window, or click your fingers to open a favourite application, that is the future.

The Kinect is an amazing piece of technology, and the fact it costs about £150 and sits in your living room is testament to consumer power forcing companies to create such viable mass consumer devices. I just can’t wait until I’m controlling everything in the house with gestures.