Game developers move to iPhone, ignore Wii

Game developers are shifting their attention to the iPhone and starting to ignore the Nintendo Wii, according to Game Developer Research.

Developers creating games for mobile phones increased to 25 percent, up from 12 percent a year ago. Of those mobile developers, 75 percent are targeting iPhone and iPod Touch games. The total number of iPhone developers is more than twice the number making games for the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable.

That could represent a kind of crisis of Nintendo and Sony that will show up in a dearth of games in the future. Developers are like the canaries in a coal mine (meant to smell poison gas). Once they start leaving a platform, games become scarce and the users eventually follow.

The data is based on a survey of 800 game developers in North America and is included in a 100-page report on the State of Game Development. About 70 percent of respondents said they were making at least one game for the PC or Mac (including browser and social games), up slightly from a year ago. [photo credit: Kottkegae]

About 41 percent said they were making console games. Within that group, 69 percent are making games for the Xbox 360. About 61 percent are making games for the PlayStation 3. Both of those figures are within a few percent of last year’s results. But the Wii support softened, dropping from 42 percent to 30 percent. Electronic Arts chief executive John Riccitiello exemplified this sentiment last fall when he said EA’s efforts on the Wii had yielded disappointing results; Nintendo still essentially dominates that platform.

The report shows that the recession took its toll on game developers. As jobs disappeared at big game studios, many developers started smaller studios or began developing games on their own. There was a 7 percent uptick in the number of developers employed by companies with 50 or fewer people. The number of developers at companies with 500 employees dropped by 2 percent.

The developers said that their choice of platform depended most on ease of development and market penetration. Other considerations included the skills of their team members, how portable code is from one platform to another, and the costs of development kits and other materials.

The survey selected participants from those who read Gamasutra, subscribe to Game Developer magazine, or attend the Game Developers Conference.

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