If you go and do something like found Electronic Arts, which then goes on to be one of the dominant forces in video games worldwide, people tend to take notice of things you say. Yesterday in an interview with Venture Beat’s Dean Takahashi, Trip Hawkins, EA founder and current Digital Chocolate executive, said that Nintendo and Sony are probably “freaking out” over the rampant success of the iPhone as a gaming platform.
The threat of the iPhone to Sony and Nintendo, and their PSP and DS(i) respectively, is not the number or quality of games available for the platform, but rather the value proposition it represents from a business standpoint. According to Hawkins:
The iPhone is by far our most effective platform. We make as much money with these games on one device as we do putting a game on 100 different cell phone platforms. Between the iPod touch and the iPhone, I think the platform is freaking out Sony and Nintendo.
So it comes down to a question of investment vs. return, as does any sound business decision, gaming industry or not. If Apple can tip the scales sufficiently in their favor, the repercussions for the gaming industry could be immense. It could mean smaller dev teams, a quicker turnaround and or/development cycle, and less focus on branding and franchises (casual games succeed based on mechanics, not mascots), all of which could eventually affect not only mobile gaming, but the home console industry as well.
I’m not sure I like where this is going. Yes, I like playing Bejeweled 2 on my iPhone, and I’ve been known to enjoy a number of other games as well, but I just started playing GTA: Chinatown Wars on my DSi, and it reminded just how much catching up the iPhone has to do when it comes to gaming. The iPhone definitely offers a better gaming experience than any phone I’ve ever owned, but for real gaming, nothing beats physical control keys and buttons. I can’t even express the difference in words, but if you’re at all a gamer, you probably know what I’m talking about.
I’m hoping developers and studios don’t lose sight of this with all those dollar signs in their eyes. By all means, continue to develop for the iPhone, and do the most with what the platform offers, but don’t turn to it exclusively. Casual gaming is great, but for it to become the primary focus of the industry would be like all musicians turning their efforts to country because it sells best. I pray neither of these things ever happens.