It's impossible to read a Kotaku comment thread about iPhone or iPad games without wading through a bevy of grumpy dissenters — disgruntled gamers who say things like "iPad games aren't real games!" and "lol iPhone".
This isn't exactly surprising. A few weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed about how Apple's ubiquitous devices won't win over the living rooms of hardcore gamers. They just don't have the controls.
But what gamers don't seem to get is that the iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices don't need to replace our consoles. They're separate entities. And they're good enough on their own.
Look, I totally understand where the dissenters are coming from. Just a few years ago, I was one of them. I'd grumble whenever Japanese developers like Square Enix created games like Final Fantasy IV: The After Years for mobile platforms. I'd sigh at the thought of kids playing games on phones and tablets while riding the bus to school. Why weren't they gaming on DSs and PSPs?
Then I got an iPhone. And slowly but surely, I started to realise how much gaming potential it really had.
Sure, many of its cheap games are mindless timewasters. Games like Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride have found success with the "pick up and play for 30 seconds or two hours" model. And it can be hard to sort through the junk ripoffs and clones and other nonsense on Apple's iTunes Store.
But it's becoming clear that the iOS library goes way deeper than that. Deep, original games like Chaos Rings and Sword & Poker 2 have stolen quite a few hours of my time. Ports like Final Fantasy Tactics and Secret of Mana prove that even the classics can work well on touch screens. And the upcoming iPad remakes of Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II are two of my most-anticipated games of the year.
What's better, iPhones and iPads are now a playground for independent developers. The iOS model does not resemble console or handheld gaming — it resembles PC gaming. Developers have the flexibility to experiment with form, mechanics, and price. And although I've heard some not-so-great things about the iTunes Store's review process, it certainly beats catering to the whims of a deep-pocketed, bureaucratic publisher. At the way-too-reasonable asking point of $0.99 a pop, games can find a level of tremendous financial success they'd never see on the Xbox or PlayStation.
While console makers struggle to find ways to eliminate used games and usher their customers into the digital age, iOS is already there. Mobile developers don't have to worry that GameStop is running its own garage sale with their products. Every iTunes purchase is a new purchase.
As for the iTunes Store's biggest advantage over GameStop? Shopping there won't make you feel like you need a shower.
It's important to note that iOS games aren't going to kill consoles anytime soon (and that it's silly to even have that conversation). But as gamers, we'd be remiss to ignore mobile and tablet gaming as an alternative to our standard consoles. And if you're not playing games on a mobile or tablet device, you're missing out on some wonderful experiences. So please, stop pretending iPhone and iPad games aren't real games. You're only fooling yourself.