Summary:

With the GDC ’09 well under way, there are heaps of announcements being made about video games by pretty much everyone in the biz. Now that the iPhone and iPod touch have become genuine contenders in the mobile gaming world, they’re getting some high-profile game revelations […]

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With the GDC ’09 well under way, there are heaps of announcements being made about video games by pretty much everyone in the biz.

Now that the iPhone and iPod touch have become genuine contenders in the mobile gaming world, they’re getting some high-profile game revelations as well. EA, for instance, who’ve already brought a lot of big titles to the platform, including Spore Origins and Sim City, will be bringing a slew of new games to the table this year.

In the pipeline for 2009 are a number of ports of some of their most popular titles for consoles and the PC, a hefty percentage of which are sports games, traditionally one of EA’s strong suits. Among the games announced at EA’s GDC keynote are Madden NFL, FIFA, NBA Live, and SSX, which join the previously announced Need for Speed and Tiger Words games.

The arrival of key franchises like NFL, FIFA, and NBA Live means that EA is taking iPhone gaming at least as seriously as the DS and PSP. Sales numbers on the iPhone platform are handily beating those of both Nintendo’s and Sony’s mobile platforms at the same time in their life cycle. The volume has to be tempting for industry-leading publishers, but the price points required to stay relevant in the App Store probably have them hesitant as well. In the end, profit margins will decide everything,

Besides the many sports games arriving on the iPhone in 2009, there are also many other offerings coming from EA, including Sims 3, which was previewed at Apple’s official announcement of iPhone OS 3.0. Sims 3 will feature an in-game purchasing system, as well as the ability to listen to your own music stored on the iPod through in-game objects, like a stereo system. Other games announced include Command & Conquer, Spore Creatures, American Idol and Wolfenstein RPG. A number of board game titles will also be released, including Connect 4, Battleship, Risk and Clue.

I think this upcoming year represents a significant make-or-break point for the iPhone as a gaming device, at least insofar as the continued support of major publishers is concerned. Last year things were probably rushed, and dealing with a brand-new control interface was a hit-or-miss learning experience. This year, they’ve had time to plan, and to come to terms with the iPhone’s advantages and limitations, and the novelty of the iPhone has somewhat worn off, so success should be due more to quality and less to a fleeting interest in new things.

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