Game Changer - iPhone Revolution (Part 2)

8/16/2012 3:27:54 PM

Smartphone gaming is now an essential part of daily life and it all happens on the only device essential to daily living. The major publishers know this, sparking a race to implement the most effective mobile strategy. EA has been one of the most aggressive, acquiring PopCap, Firemint and Chillingo in 2011 as part of the EA Mobile label. Others, such as Activision, have taken a different approach and partnered with independents to fund and assist new projects.

Description: Smartphone gaming

Smartphone gaming

This could be one of the reasons why handheld consoles from Nintendo and Sony have largely failed to have the impact initially projected by both companies. Poor third party support was cited as one of the reasons behind the 3DS failing to meet expectations. While the PlayStation Vita has generally fared better in terms of publishers willing to develop titles, the system itself has struggled at the registers.

The iPhone has effectively killed off handheld gaming in the traditional sense. In theory, the very same games on iPhone should be playable with an unparalleled level of depth on current generation handhelds. Intriguingly, it is not always a question of hardware capabilities as for all the design excellence and potential the Vita or 3DS offer, both systems struggle to justify their very existence.

Who wants to pay over $200-$300 dollars for a large, bulky handheld with limited connectivity and $30-$40 per game when they can have a sleek, powerful iPhone or iPod Touch on an attractive plan that offers unprecedented functionality, multimedia and gaming at a reasonable price? Speaking in pure video game terms, it seems consumers are willing to sacrifice a little quality for the convenience, price point and extracurricular benefits an iPhone provides.

Description: Digital vs. physical sales

Digital vs. physical sales

In a post-GFC world where money is still very tight, price point remains on everyone's mind. When the App Store debuted, iPhone users couldn't believe they were able to download an entire game for 99c, the same amount for an iTunes track. Or better yet, free! And one of the tactics proliferated on the iPhone that has shaken the entire gaming industry to its core is the free content model.

The gaming industry is steadily pondering its future. Next generation consoles, cloud gaming and the free content model are three of the big issues developers and publishers are facing. But that is for the industry to worry about. As consumers, we are free to enjoy the giant playground and wide world of possibility where games are free or available at low cost in the palm of our hand.

It's evident that, after five years old, the impact has been immense and all this has occurred without Apple even trying to become a major player in the gaming industry. Rather than make games, they just provided the right platform, eco-system and economics. The consumers and publishers did the rest. And you can just imagine what another five years down the road has in store.

Increasingly the difference in quality is becoming barely noticeable as iPhone has grown to become a retina displaying, high powered juggernaut with console ­like presentation. Admittedly there are still some stpes that need to be taken, but as consoles are locked into long cycles, the iPhone continues to evolve technologically while growing it' s stable of apps to more than half a million.

Most exciting of all is how the iPod Touch, iPhone and its bigger brother, iPad, will integrate into Apple's new Smart TV's. The potential for another giant evolution in home entertainment might just have Nintendo and Microsoft feeling a little nervous as the Wii U and Microsoft's recently announced SmartGlass, that will "turn any TV into a Smart TV," try to get the jump on Apple.

Description: the iPod Touch

the iPod Touch

As detailed in the second infographic, the number of people using smartphones to play games is projected to reach over 150 million by 2016 in the US alone. That number could be even more if we see the debut of a new Apple Smart TV within the next 18 months alongside new iterations of its smartphone.

Description: But video game sales are still driven by core games

But video game sales are still driven by core games

Rumors abound about the iPhone 5 and the technical make up of Apple Smart TV's, but what we can all count on is the iPhone will have a large say in the way we play and consume games for a very long time. The iPhone 4S, with it's A5 processor, put it's display output on a par with the Nintendo 3DS and if the rumors are to be believed, iPhone 5 will include a quad-core processor that will bump the device up to around the level of a PlayStation Vita.

For developers such as Epic Games who own the studio that created the critically acclaimed Infinity Blade, it allows for exploration of even more powerful titles using the Unreal Engine, or in EA's case, the Frostbite 2 engine developed by Battlefield creators, DICE.

Epic said in 2010 that a franchise such as Gears of War (currently an Xbox 360 exclusive) could debut on the iPhone in two year time suggesting the device is slowly reaching the capacity to port full, current generation console titles as long as control and copyright issues can be resolved.

Whether that happens on the iPhone 5 remains to be seen but the general idea of most developers is to create a console in your pocket. In just five short years, the iPhone has come a very long way and almost singlehandedly killed off traditional handheld gaming. In another five years, who's to say it won't be our entire gaming console?

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