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Is iPhone The New Gaming Platform?

Last July, at the time of the launch of the new iPhone, we asked the question, where are the iPhone games? Looks like we have an answer: they are coming, and in a big way. Of course, you can already buy Tetris and grab Tap Tap Revenge, the No. 1 free app, for, well, free, but the big commercial games are going to be hitting the iTunes App store soon, according to news coming out of the E3 game conference down in LA.

As BusinessWeek points out, Apple made a big splashdown at E3 without even clocking in a presence. That reminds me of its looming presence at the CES trade show every year without setting a foot in Las Vegas. Electronic Arts executives said they’re going to be making Spore, Tiger Woods & Need For Speed for the iPhone platform. SEGA America president Simon Jeffery pointed out that iPhone was as powerful as the Dreamcast player. SEGA has released Sega Super Monkey Ball and plans on releasing more games.

We aren’t surprised, and we have consistently said that iPhone could cause a major tremor in the mobile gaming market. According to data collected by Cellufun, AOL’s designated mobile game portal, “iPhone gamers are generating four times the number of page views” or about “an average of 21 minutes of game play and 65 page views per iPhone player session, compared to 11 minutes and 15 page views for sessions on other phones.” Wagner had predicted that the Nintendo DS and iPhone are most certainly on a collision course, and looks like he is right on track. I think iPhone is going to eat into handheld console revenues, at the same time reignite interest in mobile games.

Bonus Link: Our pick of iPhone’s Most Wanted Games.

26 Responses to “Is iPhone The New Gaming Platform?”

  1. Maybe it has a chance of meeting the hype within the phone realm for game sales but I can’t see it reaching anything near the 20 million sales of the DS (US since launch). Why? I’m not sure 12 year olds and iPhones are exactly in competition nor will they want to pay up for another rush back the 8 bit console age to play the “latest” thing that’s their parents grew up with. Every two months the subscription to the iPhone would pay for a new DS or several games to keep one going. Then there’s the power issues which alone should kill off the Iphone as a serious flight/ road trip candidate. ( sans a mess of adapters)

    Really seems like a case of comparing Apples to … :)

  2. Where Apple have been smart is in how people can buy games. Mobile games to date have been most successful on platforms like BREW where it’s easy to buy and install a game. On Java, it’s a pain, and on Symbian it usually involves downloading to a PC first. Both put off buyers and lead to unfinished transactions. Because it’s so easy to get games for the iPhone and because development is a breeze compared to other platforms, I can see a lot of games appearing. Whether it’s good business or not is another matter.

    Even though the iPhone ships in millions, it’s still small beer compared to the billion other handsets that ship each year, so will it provide a big enough ecosystem for many players? It’s pretty tough making money from mobile games, so although the hit rate is good at the moment on the iPhone, is this just new device euphoria where people buy a new game to go with their phone, or will it maintain momentum and provide a fertile enough ground for the bug guys to get a decent return?

    Also, the price you can charge for a game depends on the public perception of the platform. The iPhone is a phone, so people don’t expect to pay more than a few dollars for a game, or probably expect it to be free. The DS and PSP are dedicated game devices, so gamers expect to pay a lot more. So, whilst we might see a ton of games arriving and being installed, whether that equates to a longer term good platform for monetizing game IP is another matter.

    The big impact as far as I can see is that other manufacturers will start to include 3D in higher end phones more often. As a longer terms speculation, we might even see ARM, who supply the processor design, will emulate what Intel did on the PC and just bundle in graphics, making it a commodity, not a special feature.

  3. iPhone is a great platform for a certain type of casual game, but to say that it will kill the DS seems a bit of a stretch.

    Without a stylus, control buttons, voice activation there are a lot of games that would be much harder to do well.. eg- Nintendogs, Brain Training, Ninja Gaiden.

    @Dan, I tried a couple of FPS on the first gen jail-broken iPhone and found them near impossible to control. As a proof of concept great, but as a workable game..not really. Any new ones that have managed to solve this problem?

  4. Dan Templin

    @ben; The iPhone is hardly limited to accelerometer only games, that’s just what most of the games made so far are utlitizing, much like Wii games tend to utilize the motion sensors over the normal buttons-only approach. It can be very much the same with the DS… and as far as precision goes, the accelerometer is actually quite responsive in the games i’ve played. Another thing going for Apple is the fact the iPhone has a rumble pak basically, which could make for soem awesome FPS games.

    @michaelportent; It’s possible that the game development might not be relegated to casual gamers. I’m curious to see how Bioshock works out, that might end up being what helps to decide how feasible the iPhone is for serious gaming. What people are failing to factor in is that the SDK is free, making it quite a bit easier to obtain than the dev kits for the other two handhelds.

  5. Joseph

    Ben, the iPhone is the best browsing experience. And I disagree, the i{hone may be top Mobile Internet Browser, Digital Media Player, gaming… for MOBILE. Don’t forget, we’re talking in the mobile domain.

  6. As a gamer, I don’t see the iphone as a gaming platform. It’s very limited, the controls for most games depend on tilting the thing, which is really ineffective and imprecise.

    At most, it will become the best cellphone for casual gamers, but the “hardcore” still would prefer a PSP, or a DS (depending on genre preferences) for their needs.

    The whole iPhone fad and such is making people talk about it as if it was the one gadget to rule them all: PDA, Phone, Mobile Internet Browser, Digital Media Player, etc… But it’s not the best at all (or any) of them… It’s just has all of them in one package.

    It’s not the best PDA, not the best phone and not the best audio player because of lack of essential features… As well, it will not be a gaming platform to be taken seriously imo.

    But then again, it wasn’t meant to be the best at any of those things. And its versatility/style is what sells.