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Super Mario Run on mobile: big for fans

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The first Nintendo game on iOS, Super Mario Run, has now made its way to Android. TIANA CLINE sacrifices beach time to give it a … walkthrough?

Nintendo’s first non-Nintendo Mario game is here. Now available on iOS and Android, this Mushroom Kingdom-themed runner is everything you would expect from the moustached plumber series – a kidnapped princess, golden coins, bonus levels.

But there’s more to Super Mario Run, besides the fact that Mario, well, just keeps on running. At the same time, it’s not really a quintessential endless runner. There’s a Farmville-esque home screen (called Kingdom Builder) to restore the castle and place decorations, buildings and special items as you level up. Fast-paced online rallies through levels you’ve already completed to pick up colourful toads.

There’s actually quite a bit to do, over and above the World Tour mode which consists of six worlds, each containing four side-scrolling levels.

Each level is familiar which stays true to all the Mario games. You start in a world of pipes and blocks, continue under ground, fly through the air bouncing on giant mushrooms, escape spiky sand-dwellers and battle it out in the castle, fire included. There are ghost mansions and pirate ships, the only scene that’s missing is a flying fish-filled underwater level and I’m actually fine with that because those were always the toughest to master.

There are coins to gather, but these (from what I’ve seen) are primarily used for buying stuff to rebuild the castle. In each level, there are five pink coins to collect. Collect them all and there will more five (more difficult) purple coins to work towards. Got all five? They’re now black. This adds a lot of replayability to the levels because you not only get rewarded for hunting down all the coins (hello rally tickets!), you get to know the ins and outs which really comes in hand when competing in an online rally. And if you connect with friends, you’ll also be able to see how well they did on the different world levels.

A new update to the app means you can even play a friendly-run through with them.

Unlike other mobile runners (Temple Run is the first which pops into my head) where the speed increases in conjunction with the difficulty of the game, Mario sprints along at the same reliable, carefully thought-out pace. He does die, but Nintendo have included two back-to-life bubbles where Mario magically reappears from the ether like Glinda the Good Witch and you can pop him down where you want so he can get back to the race. Time will stand still, just don’t let him fly to the beginning of the map as you’ll definitely run out of time. You can also use these bubbles as and when you want to go back and take a different path or try for a special coin, just tap the on-screen icon.

The only movement you control is jumping. Mario can do high leaps if you press the screen a bit longer, backwards jumps with a slight swipe and wall jumps to. And you’ll have to conquer all of his acrobatic moves if you want to get through the last of the World Tour levels.

I’m really enjoyed Super Mario Run, but do I miss the secrets that you get to uncover in other Mario platformers. The mysterious pipes, magic beanstalks, being able to stop and breathe… if anything I’m still nostalgic for the innovations last seen in Super Mario Bros. 3. (Is a raccoon suit really that hard to add to a game?)

But that said, Super Mario Run does have its quirks. Connect to your Nintendo profile, for example, and you’ll be able to change the player character and download other items. And because you’re forever online (something Mario fans are not happy with) there are continuous and seasonal surprises. I had a Christmas Tree in my Kingdom and am sure more exclusives will come up with time.

And in true Nintendo-style, the Animal Crossing guilt trip which popped up when I closed a rally by mistake was almost expected. (Really Nintendo? One mistake in Toad Rally and my toads are feeling sad and don’t want to stay in my kingdom anymore? Did the 35 odd tickets I spent yesterday on rallies instead of going to the beach mean nothing to you?)

Each mode of Super Mario Run works together – you’ll need to complete the levels to earn rally tickets. If you don’t compete in rallies, you won’t pick up toads. No toads and you won’t be able to level up or place certain items. And you’ll also want the bonus toad houses and whatnot because they replenish and give you more chances at getting rally tickets.

Even when you’ve finished the worlds, something you can probably do in half a day if you just run through each one, you’ll want to go back to learn them and earn tickets. I just wish there was something more you could do with your gold coins because they build up quickly.

The only low-point with Super Mario Run is the price, R150/$10 is expensive for a mobile game. And the fact that you need to be online ALL THE TIME to play it? That also sucks. Goodbye data. I also find myself wondering if this sort of game would have been more successful if Nintendo went the micro-transactions route because, quite frankly, some of the best iOS and Android mobile games come in cheaper than Super Mario Run’s price point. And once you’ve bought the whole game, it can be over pretty quickly if you’re not competitive or collecting everything obsessed.

That said, Super Mario Run is nothing new, but it is a lot of fun. The graphics are crisp, Mario is as you would expect and the level design is brilliant, intricate and planned with the platform in mind. It’s truly exhilarating to speed through certain levels (World 4-2: Slope to Success was my favourite) while others can be tricky at times.

Overall, Super Mario Run is a good (but expensive) add-on to a franchise we know and love. Don’t love Mario? Don’t pay for the game. Rather just download the intro levels and see how you go. But if you’re a fan, you’ll really enjoy Super Mario run. Playing with one hand is only a bonus.

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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