If you build it, they will come. For years, it seemed didn’t really embrace the game developers who flocked to the iPhone and filled the App Store with games that consumers downloaded by the billions. After all, Apple’s aim was to get all consumers, not just gamers.
But during this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple wanted to make it clear that it cares. Games are a lifeblood on any platform.
In 2017, games made up a larger share of Google Play’s consumer spending compared to iOS, but consumers spent nearly two times more on iOS games than on Google Play games, according to a year-end report by market researcher App Annie. Games represented nearly 80 percent of total worldwide consumer spending for the combined iOS and Google Play app stores in 2017, but games only accounted for 35 percent of total worldwide downloads. That means that gamers spend a lot more money than non-gamers.
Greg Joswiak, vice president of iOS, iPad, iPhone product marketing at Apple, reinforced the importance of games in a rare interview with GamesBeat. He also recently talked about games at a recent Pokemon Go augmented reality event with Niantic Labs.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview. We also interviewed three key iOS developers.
GamesBeat: It looks like your game platform is as strong as ever.
Joswiak: Stronger than ever, really. It’s gone from incredible to super incredible. It’s blowing us away, looking forward to what’s happening soon. We’ve done our best to support developers some pretty amazing technology, on both the hardware and software side. We have some pretty amazing services with the App Store. It doesn’t hurt to be able to bring a billion customers or so. All together it’s created some fertile ground to take advantage of, and they’re doing a great job.
GamesBeat: I talked to some developers here earlier. It seems like as far as the superficial analysis, it’s a no-brainer to make games for Android and iOS at the same time, so you reach a bigger market. But they pointed out this task they get saddled with, because of Android fragmentation. That seems like it’s turned into an advantage for you guys.
Joswiak: It is. It really has been one from the beginning. We’ve heard that from developers in all categories, and certainly games. iOS makes the most sense for primary development. It’s easier development and it has a bigger payoff. We have a more homogenous software situation. About 90 percent of our customers are running the latest version of iOS. They can get a much bigger bang for the buck on iOS with more compelling technology.
The latest version of iOS means the latest APIs. [The other guys], as you mentioned, are very fragmented. They have to pick the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t monetize as well. It’s a lot more work. Typically that’s the lower priority, or they farm it out to someone else. It’s a reverse situation compared to gaming on Windows back in the day, where people focused on Windows and then maybe brought their games to the Mac. This is the hot gaming platform. The others, maybe they’ll get it, maybe it’s a half-hearted effort.
GamesBeat: How have you been working to add features for developers?
Joswiak: We work very closely with our developers to understand what they need. We have people on our App Store team and our worldwide developer team that have incredible relationships. That’s one thing, if you talk to developers—they’ll value the way they have a relationship with us, more so than some of the other platforms.
We’re also continuing to push both the OS and hardware forward. We have the great advantage of not just great APIs – ARKit is a great example of that – but also bringing our installed base along with those updates. When we launched ARKit with iOS 11, overnight we became the largest AR platform in the world. We could enable hundreds of millions of devices to use AR. That can’t happen on the other platforms.
Because we do the hardware and software together, we can create an integrated experience. To make great AR you need great cameras and great sensors, gyroscopes and accelerometers. We not only have all those in our devices, but we calibrate them at the factory. We can build our software to work seamlessly with those. That allows us to go back multiple generations with products that can enable these things. That couldn’t even be contemplated on the other platforms.
We bring a lot of customers forward with us. It leaves our competitors trying to draft as closely behind us they can, copying what we’re doing and trying to figure out how to get even a fraction of devices capable of what we’re doing with hundreds of millions of devices.
GamesBeat: What’s your prediction for how the smartphone hangs on to this audience, compared to other devices coming in the future?
Joswiak: The smartphone’s not going away. I can assure you of that. We sell quite a few every year. We have more than a billion active devices. We sell a couple hundred million iPhones a year. It continues to be the biggest product in consumer electronics, and we continue to make them so much more capable. You look at the iPhone X, not only is it that large OLED display with incredible resolution, but it’s all the other technology around it, including the A11 Bionic.
That’s a huge advantage, doing our own chips. Our last year’s chips are typically faster than the next guy’s chips from next year. That’s a huge advantage for a game developer. You need as much performance as possible. That’s why, for the first time, people are creating full-fledged console-quality games and gameplay on the iPhone. This isn’t cut-down. It’s the real thing, current, today. The powerhouse that is our A chips is a huge part of that.