Neil Young, founder of iPhone gaming guru ngmoco:), kicked off GDC's iPhone gaming panels with a talk on how Apple's little monster has revolutionised the game-making and game-playing process.
Of course most of what he said was a summary or reference to announcements made last week at Appel's 3.0 firmware summit. But in case you missed out, here's what the iPhone is doing to games:
1) It's expanding the market. Young said that there are 165 new apps per day on the iPhone, being downloaded by more than 30 million people.
2) It's opening up mobile gaming to all kinds of gaming. Before, handheld consoles were limited by what their hardware could handle and what their publisher's fanbase demanded (think Phantom Hourglass and Need for Speed PSP ports). But the iPhone caters to everyone — not just fanboys by publisher — and features an interface that has a lot of flexibility for interaction so developers don't have to tack on stylus controls and stuff.
3) It's changing the way people make games. "There's never been a better time to be an independent developer," Young said, juxtaposing images of Bob Pelloni's futile struggle to get a Nintendo DS development kit with the 99$ price tag Apple has on it's dev tools.
4) It's forcing publishers to modify their tactics. Young talked about the need for companies like his to form long-term relationships with partners ("Combining superpowers," he called it) so that together they can form long-term relationships with the people that play their games.
Those are the four big ones. Young also touched (lol, pun) on a series of smaller changes to the iPhone via 3.0 that will have a big impact on the way we game. For example, push notification — like call waiting on your iPhone, but for apps — in 3.0 will make it easier for devs to make multiplayer online modes. It's a pain to run a game in the background (the battery dies, like, 80% faster just running a passive IM app), but by letting an external server send a notification to your phone that someone wants you to play LifeFire with them, the iPhone can work around its battery handicap.
But with the good comes the bad: because the bar of entry is so low and the rate of new games is so high, a lot of good games are getting lost in the clutter. Would-be indie devs find themselves facing pricing pressure just to get noticed and bigger devs — like ngmoco:) — are "combining superpowers" which could lead to supervillain-hood.
For example, Young said his company teamed up with Apptism to gather market info on the people who play their games. This helps the developer tailor their games to the players and gives them a platform service to advertise new games. This could lead to ngmoco:) selling the service to
a soulless, massive publisher Sony and thereby create annoying marketing campaigns.
But whatever could happen is way less important that what is already happening. The iPhone is changing the way we game, whether we like it or not.
"This is the new everything," said Young. "And the iPhone is the centre of the new everything. And it's just the beginning."