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I guess it’s about time I paid a little attention to the growing games market on these newfangled touch contraptions that we’re carrying with us every day. People say that stuff’s a threat to video games as we know it, and others deny it, and I think both are wrong… sort of.
It’s been announced that Apple will be holding their 2011 conference during E3. As of this typing we don’t know whether that will be intentional, but it definitely could be a move to grab mainstream media attention away from “traditional” gaming and towards iOS gaming.
Let me tell you that E3 isn’t just an enthusiast event. Nintendo figured that out years ago when they started gearing their press conference towards the mass media and as a result got favorable coverage from USA Today and the like before IGN and the forum trolls knew what the hell was going on. Microsoft eventually tried to catch on. The question is: can Apple successfully steal that away?
To deny that mobile gaming is changing the current landscape of the medium by this point I think is just willful ignorance. This was probably true years before iOS even took the stage to be honest. It still kinda baffles me though how those saying 99-cent games are gonna bring down the $60 console experiences – people like the Angry Birds creator looking down on Nintendo, can miss the difference in value.
Right now I don’t think mobile gaming will have much of any effect on the console and core PC market because the two tiers of gaming serve different purposes. Almost all of what I’ve seen on iOS has been timewasters for when I have a pocket of 10 minutes with no other ways to distract myself.
That said, there are some really good timewasters to be found on the App Store. The ones that have actually kept me coming back include Eliss, Edge, and more recently Tiny Wings. My iPad has also gotten me back into Solitaire and much better at it than I ever was. The latest good one I’ve discovered is Mr. Ninja.
Almost none of those games however, fill the time that I want to devote to a TV screen and a couch at home (though I have brought out my iPad during PS3 game installs). I can play Angry Birds for a few minutes while out, and then come home and spend a couple hours on Yakuza 4. Mobile and console gaming can co-exist. Call me back when Apple turns the Apple TV into a console with its own library of 99-cent games that are fun to play on a couch.
The only iOS game I’ve played so far that breaks the trend is Swordbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – which might actually be the iOS killer app. That and a few good LucasArts ports have shown the potential for adventure games on mobile platforms. But beyond that I’m actually seeing a squandered potential.
One iOS game I’m still anticipating is Final Fantasy Tactics – one of the deepest and thickest RPGs ever made for consoles, and it’s a perfect fit for the iOS interface. I’d also like to see Capcom release the iPhone version of Ghost Trick in English along with iOS versions of the rest of the Ace Attorney series. I’d love to have more games on the level of Sworcery, Dragon Quest IX (which you can already play entirely with touch screen), or maybe some oldschool CRPGs, on my phone.
If mobile gaming becomes a threat to anything anytime soon, it’ll be dedicated handhelds. In North America, fewer and fewer people these days have enough time away from their consoles to finish an RPG on the DS or PSP, but they might have 10 minutes to play Plants vs. Zombies. Just like the Xbox 360 stole console gaming away from Japan with games that appeal to western tastes, Apple might steal handheld gaming with games that fit our lifestyle. Where Japanese console publishers simply ignored the western markets until it was too late however, Sony and Nintendo however are already trying to respond.
I actually understand Reggie’s cautious-as-ever dismissal of what he called garage developers. Nintendo wants small, downloadable games on the 3DS, but not a sea of crappy ones with a handful of good games rising to the top. I imagine that whatever iOS games make it big will eventually end up on Nintendo’s eShop. Nintendo’s challenge is probably encouraging and allowing big ideas with little budgets to debut on their platform.
I think the NGP – as expensive and high-end as it will probably be, is already sitting itself in a better position. With PlayStation Suite forming a bridge between it and Android, the NGP could end up with as many as five pricing tiers in its game library – Suite games, PSN games, Minis, PS1 games, PSP1 games, and NGP games.
The big question for the NGP and 3DS is, how are they gonna stay on your person at all times to compete with the iPhone and iPod? There was a time when the PSP could have been a good multimedia device, but I don’t see how Sony’s hardware alone can triumph over the iOS and Android App Stores. Their PlayStation Suite bridge might be the key, perhaps they should encourage non-gaming apps for PlayStation suite on the NGP as well. Nintendo’s 3DS pedometer is a good start (anyone who’s used a Pokéwalker knows what I’m talking about), but it’s gotta have killer apps that will be worthwhile everywhere I go.
I do believe that Apple has created a new tier of gaming. For years I observed the niche that it eventually came to fill. But that’s just it – another tier.