Leading developers discuss the state of play on iPhone, and how iPhone 3GS and the 3.0 upgrade can improve the business
Apple's iPhone has managed to single-handedly reinvent the market for mobile games, a market that had promised a lot but delivered very little. As quickly as publishers flocked to mobile with its promise of a massive installed base, they soon backed off when fumbled commerce, multiple SKUs and horrible interfaces left many consumers laughing at the format.
So when the iPhone launched, larger publishers were wary, allowing smaller, younger and experimental developers to take advantage of a cheap SDK and a relaxed approval process to create titles that reached a wide audience. Established gaming franchises and licenses mean very little to the format so long as titles are designed specifically for the iPhone, and with constant support from Apple such as the forthcoming release of the 3.0 upgrade, the format is evolving alongside the talent creating for it.
"The 3.0 upgrade is very significant for games producers," offers Paul Farley, managing director of Tag Games, creators of New Jack Streets. "It's our belief that subscription and micro-transaction business models will change the way we all pay for our games in future and so Apple is certainly ahead of the curve here.
"In a market that has seen a rapid shift to the bottom in terms of retail price this will help the creators of the better quality games increase the return on their often sizeable investments. It's not rocket science to see the relationship between profitable developers and greater innovation and quality in the marketplace."
iPhone developers are already able to upgrade and tweak their games once on the market, a function that has endeared the format to many gamers as everything from bug-fixing to difficulty spikes are assessed on a regular basis. It's a great feature, says David Hamilton of Bloons team Digital Goldfish - but for small teams its not financially viable in the long-term, and he believes that in-App commerce and upgrades will help address that problem.
"I think the micro-transactions will add longevity to the lifespan of games and drive developers to keep on improving their products. Right now it's good to listen to the feedback of your customers and do one or two free updates for them but at the end of the day developers are losing money doing this unless the free updates increase sales of the game."
"As much as we would love to keep on giving our customers more and more value for money and make our games as feature rich as possible, it's just not feasible without any more revenue coming back in."
Hamilton is also looking forward to added multiplayer functionality from the 3.0 upgrade. "I also think the peer-to-peer functionality will be a big hit in terms of improving games. Allowing multi-player is really exciting not just for the user, but also for us developers,” he says.
Brian McNicoll of Dynamo Games – the team responsible for the recently released Championship Manager 2009 Express – is ready to get his hands on GPS functionality, and the possibilities that can add when incorporated into titles.
"The GPS Navigation features which have been added that allow your position to be accurately tracked even as far as direction using the compass opens up a lot of gaming possibilities so I'm looking forward to seeing what unique games and applications will start appearing that use this functionality," he says.