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iPhone opportunities are being abused - Braben

By Kath Brice

Wed 16 Sep 2009 2:55pm GMT / 10:55am EDT / 7:55am PDT

Apple hardware suffering from same problems experienced in the '80s - flooding the format with poor quality titles - says veteran developer

While the iPhone is offering new opportunities to developers, allowing freedom of creativity and the ability to build games using small teams, those opportunities are being widely abused with the release of poor games, Frontier founder David Braben has said.

Speaking at BAFTA event A Life in Videogames, organised by, Braben praised the iPhone format for enabling developers to be creative and test out ideas without having to first sell them to a publisher.

But this opportunity gets abused, he pointed out, comparing the current situation with iPhone games to his experiences in the Eighties.

"We saw this in the eighties, we saw a lot of games that were just plain rubbish and they were relying on fancy packaging or whatever to be sold. The beauty with the iPhone is that often the games are often very quick impulse buys because they're so cheap."

The problem is that the good games are being diluted by the poor, said Braben. A problem which is more prevalent on iPhone than through avenues such as WiiWare because the cost of development kits for the latter acts as a filter.

"Now I think there are also a lot of games on these formats that are a bit poor, which is a shame, not so much WiiWare but particularly iPhone, because it's so easy. They see big numbers for other games and think 'I'll have some of that'. But the sad thing is that it dilutes some of the good games."

Some iPhone games are "genius", he continued, but there are also those that are the complete opposite. What the iPhone offers to developers is the chance to create games on a different scale to epic console projects, he said.

He compares the format to YouTube - "It's like comparing a TV programme to an epic film, and below that perhaps YouTube which would compare with some iPhone games. I think there's a place for all of them... It's lovely to see a lot of the home grown stuff that crops up on YouTube. But YouTube is a different thing to the other opportunities that are around."

In advice to students on which of the current formats they should choose to develop on, Braben suggests they think carefully about what they want to achieve.

"Do you want to make money or do you want to work with brand new platforms or do you want to see your name in lights?"

The obvious first choice might be iPhone, he said. "At least with iPhone your name will be up there. But it's so crowded now the chances of getting anywhere are very very small."

These days, with game development team sizes often exceeding 100 people, formats such as iPhone and WiiWare offer a different route to market for developers, said the veteran programmer. However, "the art in some ways is staying small," he added. "A company - you've got salaries and things."

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