Opinion piece by Keith Boesky (ex-Eidos president) over on Gamasutra poses the question "Will Apple reinvent the mobile games space?" While he doesn't mention N-Gage or Google Android OS, he raises some interesting points re: the financial implications/business opportunity for publishers, and the possibility for a "new age of gaming" where developers can build apps in their garage for love and for cheap again.
- 2.5 billion mobile "non-iPhones" globally, ~2% of them have downloaded ANY applications = install base ~50 million. iPhone to top 10MM (est.) units sold this year, most will download apps (or sideload them through iTunes). Arguably iPhone = 16% of the GLOBAL market for downloadable mobile apps. (note: To enhance Nokia Game selling possibilities, Nokia is pre-loading N-Gage software on many of their devices.)
- Too often, Boesky notes, "Mobile games are developed to lowest tech specs" to allow maximal porting (the ability to redeploy a game on another device or form factor relatively cheaply), but apps built to lowest common denominator don't "cater to any unique attributes of any phone"...making for some pretty weak apps. Or "Cr-apps".
- Not mentioned in the article, but relevant as well, is US Venture Capitalist Firm KPCB's $100MM "iFund", a pool of cash they've set aside to invest in companies that make iPhone and iTouch applications
The complete article here: http://tinyurl.com/5ywycy
I've been gaming since the early 80's (coding on my Tandy Corp Model I, level II) and in my experience, the mobile gaming experience on communications devices has sucked for years. Most games were either crap or bad ports or both. There are some promising publishers (THQ? Glu? Jamdat - oh wait...EA mobile) out there, but no-one's created the "must-have" mobile game.
Big name publishers have looked at mobile as a hedge/defensive move/portfolio asset - not a serious focus. console/PC titles earn bank, not mobile. And unfortunately, investing for the future is hard when you've got quarterly numbers to make.
Carriers cripple the process with their soup of devices and form factors, tech and non-transparent dev/QA "testing" environments. Want a game on their system? Dumb it down to work on the devices with broadest penetration. Or better, create a version that works on whatever latest device they're selling. Which by definition won't have a big audience. Minimizing revenue. Oh - and they like exclusive windows. Or they won't promote it. No promotion = bad deck placement. You see where this goes.
Independent developers didn't have the resources or portfolios to weather this crap. So they've been doing web stuff. Java, Flash. Facebook Apps.
Which brings us back to the Apple iPhone SDK release. And Google Android OS. And Nokia's new-look N-Gage. Apple's advantage out of the gate is homogenous devices and an iTunes delivery system, but...Nokia is working to open up its game dev systems (SDK's and API's), and devices should begin shipping soon with Google's Android OS.
What form will the mobile Tetris, Pong or GTA take? TBD...