Analyze And Discuss – iOS To Conquer Mobile Gaming?

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There is no doubt about it, iOS has become a major gaming platform. It’s hard to believe how sophisticated and diverse  mobile games have become in such a short amount of time. And it’s all thanks to the hardware capabilities and market created by Apple, which allows developers the ability to create the games that they want without requiring the resources of a major studio. The walled garden of game development long maintained by the big league companies is no longer the end of the road for tiny studios who aren’t necessarily producing blockbuster titles. Indie gaming seems to have truly flourished across Android and Apple’s devices but what does the future hold for mobile games and these two very different markets?

These days mobile gaming exists in two very distinct platforms, a pair of long and successful lines of purebred handheld videogame systems and an ever expanding line up of smartphones and tablets. Now variety is good but many of the differences between these two camps are based in conflicting principles when it comes to how gaming should work. At the end of the day developers want as many gamers to buy their games and enjoy them enough to buy their next title, but how wide does the market need be in order for a game to find success and what is the dev capable of publishing? This seems to be the question that divides developers when choosing where to release their games.

A major advantage of mobile gaming is that players are much more likely to have their phone with them, making gaming on the go more convenient than having to carry a separate device. And perhaps there is something more socially acceptable about iOS gaming since it appeals to a wider audience. Do you feel more comfortable playing on a 3DS or iPhone in a public place?

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The Binding of Isaac was denied a listing on Nintendo’s eShop due to its religious subject matter. It’s okay Indies, you can still deal drugs on your DS with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars…

At the heart of the matter is of course, digital distribution. Where consoles are only just beginning to align their retail and digital releases, iOS games have no physical counterpart making them far less risky to publish. Being able to safely publish more games means more opportunities for developers and a much lower cost of entry. On the other side of the handheld spectrum, the download only PSP Go is widely considered a flop and Nintendo’s eShop hasn’t offered any hugely successful original games. When it comes to digital, iOS and Android are definitely leading the way.

It can be argued that iOS games and handheld console games offer different experiences and the price of each type of game should be proportionate to the amount of time you spend enjoying the game. iOS games are generally speaking simple and can be played in short bursts, while 3DS and Vita games have more content. Despite this, gamers will play the games they like however they choose, so it is all a matter of getting the games you want on the system you want, so what do all those indie iOS games need to do? Expand their territory.

Nintendo and Sony need a real App Store alternative. Their current digital offerings just don’t cut it. iOS and Android are capable of pushing the technical limits of their games through their annual hardware upgrades while expanding their marketplaces with both multiplatform games and niche hits that can currently only find a home on iOS and Android. If the 3DS and Playstation Vita are truly dedicated gaming platforms, shouldn’t they offer a independent developers the same chance to publish games and distribute them digitally?

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On the left is the iOS version of Plants vs. Zombies, on the right is the DSi edition. Guess which one costs more?

In the last few years, independently developed games have shown us new ways to play, broken sales records and brought real gaming into the hands of nearly everyone. The smartphone and tablet market is constantly improving its hardware and redefining the types of games possible on mobile devices. By the time the next Nintendo and Sony handhelds launch Apple will have released an iPhone capable of much more development potential. As indie games continue to show increasingly high rates of critical acclaim and commercial success, they will either be accepted into the mainstream handheld console market as it steadily improves its own digital storefront, or it will continue to thrive through its own means such as steam and via iOS and Android devices. Either way, the raise of the smartphone and tablet has finally given a voice to so many developers and as a result we have many praiseworthy games that could not have been released otherwise.

Whether or not Sony and Nintendo acknowledges the indie market and the iOS platform, it still has to compete with it and there isn’t much to show how they plan on doing so. But there’s no doubt about it, indie games have a home on iOS where developers have built their own major gaming platform.

iOS devices are already the most popular gaming systems to ever exist.

At any rate, this is Analyze and Discuss, so let us know what you think! Will you be exchanging a DS for an iPad any time soon? Or can a multipurpose device that just happens to play games never surpass a dedicated platform? Chime in on the discussion in the comments below.




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    • Jake B

      As well constructed as your argument is, I think smartphones and tablets in general make a fair case for themselves. I’ve already held off getting any of the billions of versions of the DS just because I get the same amount of entertainment out of my phone — that and I’m running out of pockets. iOS has the iPhone/Pod and the iPad, which if you think of it as a basic and premium type of system, gives it great flexibility from a developer standpoint. Then when you throw in all of the peripherals out there for either device and the increasingly powerful hardware as well, I think it’s only a matter of time really.

  1. UltimateOwnage

    iOS and Android already have won in revenue. And lets face it, whether you debate about quality comparisons or the types of games being better on traditional platforms over iOS/Android, at the end of the day Developers will go where the money is.

    Wherever developers flock, so goes the creativity, innovation and consumers. Eventually it will bring over even the hardest to convince “gamers” who want to continue writing off Tablet/Phone gaming even if it never becomes their primary means of mobile gaming.

    The types and quality of games available on these devices are beginning to mature nicely, and along with it the price for those console quality titles is beginning to reach a higher average pricing model of $9-15 which is opening doors to the bigger studios that could not otherwise justify marketing full-scale development titles at .99c. Once the tide turns and the heavy hitting titles are coming out on iOS/Android and Vita/3DS at the same time (or earlier on iOS thanks to digital distribution), for even just 30% lower pricing, the current will shift heavily for the majority of the mobile games market towards these new mobile platforms.

    “IF” (and a big one, but patents are pointing to this) Apple releases a standardized gamepad format for iOS platforms to make “traditional” gaming easier for the so called “core gamers”, there’s almost no reason not to have a Tablet, iPod, or Android device for mobile gaming. The devices are (in many or most cases) smaller, faster, offer better screens and build quality, and highly competitive pricing on hardware and extremely competitive software pricing.

    With all these pros and very few cons, what’s not to love? I see it as only a matter of time.


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