With more than 29 million Xbox 360s on the market, no one debates whether Microsoft has succeeded in creating a viable video game platform anymore. Developers have flocked to it.
Now Apple has proven that its mobile platform is just as solid. The company announced this morning that it has sold more than 30 million iPhones and iPod Touch products. And there are now more than 25,000 applications available for download on those devices, including over 6,000 games by 50,000 developers.
No one can dispute that Apple has achieved a vibrant platform, with a total of more than 800 million downloads. And it’s rapidly becoming a better system for games. Apple is now adding peer-to-peer connectivity, which is especially useful for games. You can also wirelessly discover other people to play with via Bluetooth connectivity.
It’s amazing to see how rapidly this has happened. Other platforms are strong as well. Facebook has 150 million users and more than 5,000 games. There are 600,000 developers working on Facebook apps. But the growth of the iPhone/iPod Touch game platform is pretty unprecedented.
Back in November, we noted that there were 8,000 applications, including 1,500 games. In September 2008, there were just 900 games. As I said back then, Nintendo better look over its shoulder. The company is launching its answer, the Nintendo DSi, on April 5 in the U.S. But I suspect the competition between the two is going to get much more interesting. The iPhone has the advantage with its accelerometer and 4-inch touch display. The DSi has better game-style controls and will now have two cameras, which the earlier models didn’t have. It will also have better sound and its own version of the AppStore.
But the important developers are paying attention to the iPhone. Electronic Arts’ Travis Boatman went on stage and talked about how EA already has 10 games on the iPhone and how The Sims 3 will make use of iPhone 3.0 features.
[Update: And here's an important update on a much needed feature: Virtual goods. Apple has now enabled a system where you can buy virtual goods inside a game for real money. Boatman showed off how a Sims character could buy a stereo in the game for 99 cents, for example. Virtual goods has been a critical missing element, since it's one of the proven ways to monetize a game that would otherwise just be free or ad-supported. In the Sims game, you can then use your stereo to listen to music from your iTunes library].
[Update 2: Neil Young, chief executive of the iPhone game publisher ngmoco, went up on stage to demonstrate virtual goods sales inside the game Touch Pets. You purchase puppy points that you can use in the game. Young also showed off LiveFire, a shooting game where you can also purchase additional features to make you more menacing in combat.]
Nintendo has sold more than 100 million DS handhelds since 2004. But it’s easy to foresee a point in the future when the iPhone will surpass the number of DS units on the market. Incidentally, Young of ngmoco will speak on a panel about game platforms at our upcoming GamesBeat 09 conference on March 24.