Forget The IPhone 5's New Tech. I'm Switching Back Because I Miss My Friends

On Wednesday, Apple announced the iPhone 5. I'll be ordering one today, even though I've had an Android for two years. I'm not making the switch because of the phone's (kinda) hot new tech. I'm making the switch because I miss my friends.

Apple's whole press conference was a touch anticlimactic, if only because the thing was such a poorly kept secret. We've known about the bigger screen, the faster LTE service, and the faster processor for weeks, even months. This week's presentation just confirmed it. And really, I'm not all that impressed by most of the additions. Sure, the new phone will make mobile gaming a bit better, but it's not all that different from an iPhone 4 or 4s.

The main reason I'm switching back isn't because of anything new that the iPhone 5 offers. It isn't even that I miss having a phone with a decent camera, or a functional map application, or the other bells and whistles offered by Apple's device. I just miss playing games online with my friends. I miss chasing their scores on leaderboards, seeing their avatars on my screen, competing against me or helping me out. I play so many video games alone. I want to play more games with my friends.

Over the past couple of years, Apple has played host to a seriously fun, growing multiplayer gaming scene. I first noticed it when Hero Academy got big. Asynchronous multiplayer had finally moved beyond Words With Friends and into a realm I really understood: Strategy role-playing.

There are only three things I consistently have with me during all of those times, and I can't very well play games on my keys or my wallet.

Everyone I knew was playing Hero Academy. Except me. I was sad. No, really! I was. This was also right around the time the Game centre took root. Suddenly, everyone's mobile games were connected, and everything got that much more interesting. I'd watch my friends engage in Twitter smack-talk over high scores in Gravity Hook and Drop 7, wishing I could join in. It seemed that every time a new game came out, everyone I knew dropped the requisite 99 cents (or whatever) and joined the fray.

I almost never played games on my Android. Not like that, anyway. That said, I wasn't completely out of the loop — this is my job, after all, and I've got an iPad that I use to try out most universal apps. My old 3GS iPhone still works, too, should I need to play an iPhone-only game. But I never felt all that connected to everyone, I still felt like I was playing games in a bubble.

It's been said a hundred times: The power of iPhone gaming is that it fits into the cracks and crevasses of our everyday lives. The games are all designed around this, and game developers are getting pretty good at it. Listen to the folks at EA Mobile or Zynga talk about why their games are successful, and you'll hear some variation of "Because people have room for these games in their lives."

You don't have to take their marketing-speak at face value — if you play these games, you'll see that it's really true. It's not marketing bullshit, (or I should say, it's not just marketing bullshit), it's actually the way things are. And here's the thing: In order for a game to fit into the small moments of your life, it needs to actually be present when those moments occur.

Sitting and waiting to get a haircut. Waiting in line at airport security. Riding the train. Waiting for my girlfriend to meet me for dinner. There are only three things I consistently have with me during all of those times, and I can't very well play games on my keys or my wallet.

Games on the iPhone 5 will, I'm sure, be even more cutting-edge than ever, and the graphics will likely become all but indistinguishable from more hardcore options like the PlayStation Vita. (Though really, without dedicated controls, there's no way an iPhone could ever be my primary gaming device.) But I don't really care about all that. I care about Game centre. I care about the connectivity and ubiquity.

People in the video game industry like to talk about "the power of social." (Blerg.) Players get hooked on massively multiplayer RPGs and Facebook games because they play them with their friends, and their friends need them to make progress. A lot of first-person shooter fans own Xbox 360s because all their friends do — you can play Call of Duty on PlayStation 3 or PC, but if your friends all are playing on Xbox, you'll probably want to play on Xbox, too.

I've been feeling more and more left out over the last couple of years, which is a real testament to Apple's overwhelming success in mobile gaming. In fact, my desire to switch back feels a bit like an admission of defeat. Fine, Apple! You've won! I just want to play Temple Run against everyone, okay? I've been sitting there with my Droid feeling like the only Genesis owner at school, moping in the lunchroom while my Super NES-owning friends guffaw about their Mario Kart matches from the night before.

So yes, the iPhone 5 looks swell. The big screen will be neat. The faster connection will be great. But when it comes down to it, I'm just excited to play with my friends again.


Comments

    Well it was better than I was worried it could be... as in because your friends didn't think you were hip enough to hang with them for not having an iphone... but I still can't see if affecting that many people here.. suppose I could just be out of the loop though, maybe phone multiplayer leaderboard chasing is where it's at : /

    IMHO
    With Windows 8 and WP8 coming i think anyone who would buy an iPhone for the games i think its about to change...

    If Windows kicks off the way everyone is thinking it will., the developers will come as it gives them a much wider market to hit.

    I think the major switch will happen over the next 6 months so it will be an interesting time coming into next year

    Thats my idea anyway :)

      One can only hope Brent... but as a WP7 user for the past 2 years, and watching Microsofts snail pace at being the next big thing in Mobile gaming (especially with the xbox live name behind it, I mean come on) I am not holding my breath.

      Hopefully its because they were focusing all their time on WP8 that WP7 was so disappointing games wise...

        I'm not sure about Windows Phone, but I'm more intereted in getting a Surface than getting an iPad

    "If Windows kicks off the way everyone is thinking it will., the developers will come as it gives them a much wider market to hit."

    Sorry but people have been saying this for years now, I really don't see windows phone going anywhere anytime soon which is a shame because winpho is a great OS =

    Convince your friends to buy Android phones instead...I have convinced 3 work mates to buy Galaxy S3s, and 1 to buy a Galaxy Notes 10.1 (one of those 3 convinced me to get the Note 10.1 myself)

    Some of your reasoning seems a little childish, reminds me of when a teacher or parent said "if your friends jumped of a cliff would you too?".

      +1

      I carry a samsung phone (sgs2) and an ipad3 around on a daily basis. How do I keep in touch with my friends? I catch up with them in *real life*...

      Actually I'm going Base Jumping with my friends right now, right this second
      so yeah... actually I'm not that exciting :(

    One thing I've been scratching my head over is if the new iPhone's screen is taller, how will old games handle playing on a different (longer) aspect ratio? On the Gizmodo Smartphone comparison article, the iPhone 4S and 5 have the same width in pixels but different lengths. Will this stretch games?
    I'm really wondering how it'll affect games since the larger screen is a major point in this article...

      Letterboxes. That's what Apple have said will happen.

    "It is not that I missed having a great camera" - well, no, you wouldn't. iPhone cameras are abysmal next to most main Android makers.

      Phone cameras are shit altogether regardless of OS or manufacturer, there's nothing else to it. Point'n'click cameras & DSLRs are the only types of cameras I can actually deem a 'camera', phone cameras are an abomination in comparison.

    Have you thought that switching platforms means that you're creating less of an incentive for manufacturers to:
    a) port games to Android
    b) make those games on Android have cross-platform leaderboards, play, etc?

    Developers are lazy enough as it is, and saying that in order to play with your friends you have to use the same *phone* is an extremely negative impression to have...

    "I miss having a phone with a decent camera, or a functional map application, or the other bells and whistles offered by Apple’s device"

    Not sure what you've been smoking but Google Maps (especially on Android) craps all over the the one Apple's switched to now. Free Nav for years, public transport options, street view, offline saving. I think the One X, S III and now Lumia 920 all have superior cameras to the iPhone 4S.

    I can understand the desire to play games on iOS but the ones I've played multiplayer (Words, Draw Something) are all cross-platform anyway. There are maybe half a dozen good iOS games that I have on my iPad, but I'm not going to trade my current Android mobile for Apple's golden handcuffs. The iPhone 4 was the last one I owned, I was 50/50 on whether to get the 5 prior to its reveal but seeing as there's almost no improvement important to me, I'll probably just wait a month or 2 to see what the next Nexus will be.

    Solution: get new friends
    Jk
    I have best of both worlds. A iPod Touch and an Android. Works for me

      Yeah I've been definitely considering an iPod touch purely for games/music damn Square Enix making so many good games for iOS :c

    windows phone is jumping in too late to the party, theyd have better luck trying to get android users to switch to them than compete in a meaningful way to the well established IOS platform

    After the ridiculous hype and ultimate mild let-down of the launch, the media really needs to stop for a minute and reconsider how much focus it is giving the iPhone relative to other equally valid mobile devices.

    (IMHO one of the few consumer innovations released in the last few months - the wireless charging of the Nokia - was far more interesting than the evolutionary advances of the iPhone 5. Consider how much publicity that got relative to the end interminable iPhone 5 pore--launch speculation and launch reporting.)

    this makes no sense why not just get a Iphone 4 or 4S if the only reason you want a Iphone is to "play" more with your friends?

    Wow, people sure are raging in the comments. It's like politics, just more petty and kind of pathetic.

    tbqh i have fairly similar feelings as well. i love my droid, but really, no one can deny that android are a steaming pile of shit compared to their i-counterparts. with my contract up in december i'm seriously considering also switching back to the motherland.

    Can someone remind me why iPhone's are shit?

    It really doesn't matter what camp you sit in Android, WP, or Apple, smart phone gaming sucks....period

    Sounds like you need to make some new friends...

    what a silly reason

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