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There's a school of thought that states that microtransactions - small gameplay enhancements bought with real money, otherwise known as in-app purchases - are always bad, a belief that stems from widespread misuse of the feature by both bedroom developers and major companies like Ubisoft and EA.


However, whether you like them or not, apps often rely on a dedicated base of paying ‘whales' (or power users) to keep the lights on. Fallout Shelter, for example, a mobile game that tasks you with leading a group of helpless survivors in the wake of a nuclear war, was earning $364,000 a day earlier this year, despite not charging players a dime to download it.


In-app purchases are a lucrative economic model and they're not going away. With that in mind, here are some examples of microtransactions done right, in games we don't mind spending our money on.


Fallout Shelter


Fallout Shelter's microtransactions are unique in that they aren't purely cosmetic and can make life underground more entertaining. There are frequent promotions and holiday sales too, as well as the occasional money-saving bundle.



The game packs resources, pets (conveying myriad bonuses), new survivors, and crafting tools into blind boxes. There's also the option of buying Nuka-Cola Quantum, which lets players skip the multi-hour journey times to quest locations, and a Mr. Handy robot, who automates resource collection on a single floor. The great thing about Fallout Shelter's in-app purchases is that they're an enhancement to gameplay and not a necessity, as the items can sometimes be found in game for free.


mFortune Slots


Something a little bit different, mFortune, an iGaming company, allows the users of its apps to make slots deposit by phone bill, meaning that players without immediate access to money can simply add it to the tab they hold with their phone company. It's a novel idea that benefits from immediate deposits and the added security of keeping your credit card details offline.


The website, which also offers bingo and classic casino games like blackjack and poker, gives new players a sign-up bonus as an incentive to play.


Pokémon Go


Pokémon Go needs no introduction. Niantic's mobile monster hunter earned $200m in its first month in a textbook demonstration of how to monetize an app. The game's currency, Pokécoins, can be bought with real money and traded for Poké Balls, lucky eggs, which grant extra experience points, and incense, an item that lures Pokémon to your location.


It's nothing you can't find in the regular game but an extra lucky egg (for example) means you won't have to catch quite so many Weedle and Rattata to ascend the game's levels.


Hearthstone


"Hearthstone Beta" (CC BY 2.0) by mrwynd


A ‘card battle' game from Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft and Diablo, Hearthstone's in-app purchases are straightforward - you can use real money to buy packs of five cards to improve your deck. The popularity of the app's microtransactions is perhaps best demonstrated by one US writer's $639 spending spree on Hearthstone's market.


Much like Pokémon Go's in app-purchases, Hearthstone's card packs can be harvested for free in game, albeit at a rate of about one a day. Also like Pokémon, it's the urge to complete a whole set of something (in this case, cards) that makes the in-app purchases so appealing.


Dungeon Keeper


Just kidding. As a final point, it's worth noting that well thought-out mobile economics is something of a rarity on the Play Store and the App Store. Microtransactions are often blatant cash grabs from clueless suits, the reason children continue to rack up massive bills buying coins, crystals, gems, and many other make-believe currencies.


A perfect example is Dungeon Keeper, a recent remake of Peter Molyneux's 1997 PC game. With in-app purchases costing up to $100, a sum that makes the term ‘microtransactions' seem more than a little ironic, EA's update was panned for slowing progress to zero if the player didn't feed the money machine its favorite dollars.

 



There was a time when all the main gaming you did was played out on a console or a PC, but how times have changed. In line with virtually everything technological, people are now generally looking for a "one device does everything" approach to play in order to enjoy everything from movies and social media to bingo online. This, along with ever more available wireless go-anywhere connectivity, means that smartphones are now becoming many people's first choice for gaming.


The manufacturers are well aware of this fact and are incorporating more and more gamer-friendly features into each new generation of phones. So here are five to get your fingers twitching in anticipation of their 2017 launches.


Apple iPhone 7S



Hard to believe it, but 2017 sees the 10th anniversary of the iPhone and what a long way it's come since its launch. Traditionally Apple make all their big product launches in September and there's no reason why next year should be any different, Rumours are already rife that the 7S may have an OLED screen giving extra-sharp picture quality as well as the phone featuring wireless charging. What will definitely be included are the revolutionary wireless headphones that are great for gaming.


Xiaomi Mi Mix



Due out from January the Xiaomi Mi Mix is proof, as if it was needed, that some of the lesser-known manufacturers have some big surprises up their sleeves. Most notable on this phone will be the big, edgeless screen which comprised over 93% of the total phone size and which promises crystal-clear images. This is married to a super-fast processer and up to 6GB of RAM. For fantastic sound there's also going to be the very technical sounding "cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology".


HTC 11



Their preceding model, the HTC 10, was widely agreed to be the model that really put the maker back on the map and the 11 is likely to be an improvement even on this model, due out in April. Sound is likely to include the successful Boomsound speakers and a fast Snapdragon 830 processor will be able to deal with all the gaming action that you need. They're also likely to increase the screen size from 5.2" up to 5.5" and up the battery power which will mean less frequent need for e-charging.


LG G6



The end of February should see the launch of the G6. It's expected to have a glass front and rear. Of particular interest to gamers are the plans to improve the processor to prepare it for Virtual Reality applications. Wireless charging is also likely to feature as well as an innovative iris-scanning technology to help keep the phone safe from unauthorised use.


Samsung Galaxy 8



Following the disastrous and costly launch of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung have a lot riding on the 8. They've got till August to get it right and when it is launched we're expecting to have a phone with a large 5.7" screen and a powerful processor ready for VR gaming. Waterproofing is almost certain too - ideal if you're a fan of gaming in the bath.


So of all the phones it's inevitable that the most noise will be made about Apple's - but that doesn't mean it's necessarily the only one for gaming. So maybe look to the Xiaomi if you want the biggest, and best, surprises. 

14 November, 2016 Gaming

"Samsung Galaxy S7 edge" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Răzvan Băltărețu


The popular image of mobile gaming is one of commuters playing Candy Crush and similar throwaway titles but developers like Apple, Samsung, and Google are engaged in a perpetual game of one-upmanship, meaning that devices are getting faster with every new iteration of the iPhone or S-series Galaxy.


The mobile arena in 2016 isn't too dissimilar to the one occupied by consoles and PCs - specs are everything and arguing about them is a viable hobby in select corners of the internet. It's perhaps no surprise that AAA games like Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, Dead Space, XCOM, and FIFA have all made their way to mobile in recent years.


However, mobile gaming is much more than console ports and match-three titles. The iGaming sector in particular has long had a foothold on Android and Apple devices, inclusive of games like bingo, poker, blackjack, and slot machines. It's not hard to see why; iGaming is growing by 11% a year worldwide and ad-revenue on casino apps outstrips that of apps in other genres.


With that in mind, mobile devices can be a paradise of pick-up-and-play action. The variety of different William Hill Bingo casino games are a good example, with 75, 80 and 90 ball games on a range of different themes. Playing bingo on the go can also net players incentives like jackpots and loyalty points.


With 2016 winding down, and most of the year's new devices already on the market, here are some of the best mobile devices for playing bingo on the bus:


Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge


Let's get straight to the point. Samsung's flagship smartphone is (probably) the best device you can buy right now. It boasts 4GB of RAM, a Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU, and the Snapdragon 820 processor. The Edge also has 64GB of storage, a 5.5-inch AMOLED screen, and a Game Launcher app to optimize your device for games.


As you might expect, it also supports the Samsung Gear Virtual Reality headset. It's not the sharpest device in the world (and the current game library leaves a lot to be desired) but it's an order of magnitude cheaper than the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. At $650-750 for both Samsung devices though, it's a big investment.



"Huawei Nexus 6P" (CC BY 2.0) by Janitors


Nexus 6P


Forget about Google's Pixel XL, the older Nexus 6P is still a fantastic device. It's also about $125 less expensive than the S7 Edge yet features comparable hardware, like the Snapdragon 810 processor. It falls down a little on the graphics-processing unit (Adreno 430) and RAM (3GB) but it has a larger 5.7-inch AMOLED screen.


The Nexus 6P also has VR capabilities through Google Daydream, the successor to Google Cardboard and arguably the one device in the VR market that bridges the gap between functionality and affordability. However, the 6P is on the large side of things and, while that might make it great for gaming, it's not the most comfortable thing to have in your pocket.


OnePlus X


If price is your chief concern when buying a smartphone, the OnePlusX is a budget device that doesn't compromise too heavily on hardware. It's just over a year old now and offers a quad-core Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.3GHz, an Adreno 330 GPU, and 3GB of RAM. It's also available for less than $250.



As a ‘mini' alternative to the OnePlus 2, it has a smaller AMOLED screen than the Nexus, Edge, and the more expensive OnePlus models. It's also the least powerful device on this list but, at more than half the price of the Edge, it's definitely worth checking out if you're a gamer on a budget.


If you're still not convinced, there's also the HTC 10 and Moto Z Play, both of which offer a good experience for Android gamers.


It's time to start writing that Christmas list.

1 November, 2016 Gaming


Poker is one of the simplest games to play. As long as you've got a pack of cards, a couple of other players and something to use as poker chips, there are few games as easy and quick to learn. But there are going to be occasions when you don't have any of those three essential things, and that's where mobile poker steps in to save the day. While the social aspect of live poker games is undoubtedly fun, the truth is there is a host of benefits to playing poker online rather than live. And with smartphones now better equipped than ever for gaming and allowing us to access all sorts of games from wherever we are, if you're a poker fan who hasn't explored the mobile world, you're really missing out. 


Here are some of the biggest benefits of playing poker on the go.


Accessibility


Perhaps the most obvious benefit of mobile gaming as a whole is accessibility. This is certainly the case when it comes to mobile poker. While some will be fans of the number of games on offer from mobile poker sites and apps or the expert poker strategy tips available, being able to pick up a phone and access a number of tables within seconds is what really sets mobile poker apart from the way people have traditionally played the game. And if you want to change games or move to another table, this can be done almost instantly, as can accessing your winnings and making a withdrawal - no more waiting to cash in your chips and then having to pay them into your bank.


"poker" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by dangoodwin


Options


We all like options, whether it comes to consumer items such as phones and cars or entertainment like TV series and games. This is the same with mobile poker: from the cost to buy into a game to the type of poker being played, gambling on the go gives you plenty of options. Whether you're looking to enter into a tournament or just join a sit-and-go table, play Texas Hold'em or Omaha, with mobile poker you can take your pick from the same range of games as you'd get on your desktop. There is also the option of playing with real money or practising with play money, which allows you to get confident with a game before committing real cash to it.

via GIPHY


Security


While in the early days of mobile poker, some may have questioned the safety and security involved, making a transaction with the most established mobile poker sites is now viewed as being more secure than ordering a pizza or paying for petrol. Utilising sophisticated RSA public/private key encryption technology helps ensure sensitive data is transferred securely over the internet, with all card details stored on the cloud by the most cutting-edge firewall system. From making deposits to placing bets and ultimately withdrawing winnings, the whole process is both simple and secure with mobile poker - giving you peace of mind when playing a hand while waiting for the bus.


"System Lock" (CC BY 2.0) by Yu. Samoilov

 



If you are looking to experiment with the hundreds of thousands of great video games that are available on the Google Play Store, you'll need a device to access them. The great thing about android is that they have a different group of manufacturers, meaning they also a vast range of phones and other devices to choose from. This means that you don't need to purchase the top of the range devices as some other phones, further down the pricing scale, offer a truly exceptional gaming experience.


But which Android mobile phone or portable handheld Android game console is right for you?


Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge



With the latest Snapdragon 820 processor, the Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB of RAM, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is one of the most powerful smartphones on the market. It is more than capable of not just playing the most up to date games, but plays them like a breeze too. Released in 2016, it looks fab, especially with the curved edge, which doesn't add a great deal to be honest, but gives it a classy finish. The games run as smoothly as needed, without lagging, and is what they call, future-proof, guaranteeing two years of top-level performance. This means that this awesome Samsung will be able to cope with any of the top games due for release in the future.


NVIDIA SHIELD Portable and Tablet



The NVIDIA SHIELD Portable is the best purpose built handheld Android game console on the market right now. It looks and feels great on the outside, while on the inside, it is powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor which helps power the stunning 5-inch HD LCD display. On this device, you will be able to stream PC games and play the Android games of your choosing. Running on Android KitKat, it is a fantastic machine and was only a matter of time before the market demanded it.


HTC 10



HTC's new flagship phone, the 10, is something of a return to form for the Taiwanese brand, who went unnecessarily quiet in 2015, following weirdly low sales for what was actually a very good phone, the M9. Anyway, here they are again and the 10 is worth the wait. It's a beautiful phone, and contains specs allowing it to compete with the Galaxy S7 range. Powered by Snapdragon 820 and Adreno 530 GPU, the phone kindly gives up 4 GB of RAM (as does the Galaxy). Visually, the games will look the part thanks to the LCD 5 technology and is a wise, but pricey, choice.


Nexus 6P



While we have listed the S7 Edge as the best on the market, this number represents the best value. The powerful hardware in the Nexus 6P, machinery like Snapdragon 810 processor and Adreno 430 GPU, shouldn't be available at this price but, hey, that's android for you. This brilliant little gem is capable of competing with the Samsung and HTC flagships for almost half the price. The Nexus 6P looks stunning and, with 3 GB of RAM and a 5.7-inch AMOLED screen, gives a performance fit enough for even the most discerning consumer.


Why Android is Best


We wholeheartedly commit to the idea that Android devices are superior to iOS devices not just because of their ability, but also because of the little extras you get with the Google system. Extras like freemium games and range of manufacturers which leads to greater, competitive market place. This is especially effective for games and gamers.


If you do like real money online casinos, then you will have to navigate over to the homepage of the site you wish to use before downloading the app directly from them, as opposed to downloading straight from the Play Market. This minor convenience aside, you can enjoy all your favourites like blackjack and slots. These, and others, are available at all casinos for Android users. Slots are the most popular of all online and live casino games, beating off competition from games like poker, roulette and others.


There are so many games, most of which are free to play, and range from all manner of different genres. These could be tower games, strategy games, life sims, action games, racing titles, just about anything you fancy. If real money gambling is more your thing, then any of the devices listed here will suit your needs. Even most of the Android machines not listed, should do the trick.

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