Grant Crime Auto: Ice City shows the ups and downs of the open Android based platform
After having an iPhone what seems like years, and enjoying the plethora of amazing apps and games that are exclusive to the OS, I've made the switch to an Android phone. Apple fanboys cry traitor while Android users welcome me with open arms. It's certainly been a transition, getting used to the various intricacies of the platform.
However if there was one thing I noticed right from the start, it was Android's completely open structure to its operating system. No longer was I tied down to an App store if I wanted to install something on my phone. Even what I did find on Google Play was already much more varied than what I could find on the App store. Everything from emulators to programs that only run while the phone is rooted (essentially Jailbroken). There didn't seem to be a limit on what I could find.
While I was out of the office, I received an email with a client file for an MMO that was available through a torrent. I wondered if a torrent client was even available on a smartphone device. Low and behold, a quick search on Google Play, I was able to find uTorrent which allowed me to download the client directly to my phone. Necessary? Not really, since I couldn't do much with it outside of downloading it. However the fact that I had that option was pretty mind blowing to me.
Of course there are a ton of other benefits from having the operating system so open to users. MP3s can become ringtones, animated wallpapers can adorn your background, and even installing completely different interfaces (granted your phone is rooted) is something that can easily be done without much technological prowess or knowhow.
There is a downside however. Apple's App store has some fairly strict guidelines as to what can or can't be displayed. This means that apps generally have to go through an evaluation of sorts, to determine whether they're allowed to be placed in the app store. This doesn't seem to be the case for Google Play.
This means that every time I log on to the App store, I get software for my iPhone that has been under review, and I can (generally) feel safe downloading it, and expect it to work. What I can also expect (most of the time) is that the software available is genuine and doesn't try to rip me off through falsely worded descriptions and fake screenshots. This is apparently a problem with the Google Play store.
A recent game listing, Grant Crime Auto: Ice City, surfaced on the store. Not only is the title an egregious rip off of Vice City, the description for the game is almost word for word identical to it as well, with a few keywords changed. So what does the game look like? If you take a look at some of the included screenshots, you might think, "well at least the game looks good, despite it being a rip-off." The problem here is that those screenshots belong to Gameloft's title, Gangstar: Miami Vindication. According to a few sources that wrote about the game, it doesn't resemble anything like that, and is instead a grand-prix style game. The 'developers' biggest crime is actually charging $3.99 for the game. Imagine buying Max Payne 3 only to crack open the case and find a burned disc with the words Max Payne 3 scribbled on it with a permanent marker.
This might be a bit dated, but I can recall an instance of when this happened to me in real life. Growing up in Europe, Czech Republic specifically, access to official licensed products wasn't as easy as it was here in the States. I remember on one occasion seeing a console for sale which, on the outside, looked exactly like a PlayStation 1. What was worse is that the box had a bunch of screenshots which looked like PS1 games. However when asked to please hook it up to their TV, the CD flip cover revealed a cartridge housing for standard Famicom games. Talk about extremely false advertising. The unit wasn't cheap either.
The question is whether Google needs to have some sort of filter, or review policy in place, before apps like these can make their way on there, and eventually make money off of poor people who don't know any better. The argument here could be that gamers would and do know better, but think about how many smartphones are in millions of people's hands. Out of those millions, there are bound to be thousands of people who might browse the store for something new, or something that looks remotely cool, and might make that commitment to something that's ultimately a scam.
It's a double edged sword really, because then unofficial apps like emulators and torrent downloaders could easily be flagged as illegal content. It wouldn't be long until Android's market would soon resemble that of the App store.
Though it is unlikely it would ever go that far, I think the lesson here is to be aware of what you're putting your money towards when purchasing even a $.99 cent game. These scammers don't deserve your money and support, so it's important to stay vigilant and maybe do a little research on a game before commiting.