the latest E3, the floor was awash
with iPhone 3Gs. Most developers either had games they were playing or
game projects they were working on writing/designing. Perennial titles
like Sega's Monkeyball had already made the jump to the platform. However,
there seemed to be a common
skepticism amid the excitement. Many industry professional indicated
they just weren't feeling the gaming love from Apple.
Joseph Olin, the president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, a
major stirrer in the gaming industry commented, "In terms of the
accelerometer, nice screen, decent computer power... yeah, you could make games
on it if Steve Jobs wanted to encourage more games to be made. It will be
interesting to see how that evolves."
But when Mr. Olin was asked if Apple CEO Steve Jobs was working with developers
to make the iPhone a gaming haven he replied smartly, "Not in the
He then went into an old story, almost as classic and iconic as Mr. Jobs
encounters with Microsoft CEO Bill Gates in their younger days -- the story of
Mr. Jobs and Trip Hawkins. The year was 1982 and Apple had just become a
household name with the Apple II. Mr. Hawkins was Apple's Director of
Strategy and Marketing -- and he loved games.
Mr. Jobs did not share his love, according to stories. He constantly shot
down Mr. Hawkins efforts to cultivate a game ecosystem on Apple
computers. In the end, a frustrated Mr. Hawkins left to found his own
company, a modest venture a few people might have heard of... Electronic Arts
(EA). The rest was history as they say, and Apple's sentiments birthed
what would become the largest gaming company in the world. Says Mr. Olin,
"If it wasn't for Steve Jobs basically saying 'don't waste my time with
games' we would not have Electronic Arts."
And he's convinced that Mr. Jobs is back to his old ways. Further, he's
rather unimpressed by the installed base of iPhones. He states,
"They sold a million [iPhones] first week, 12 million sold supposedly in
the first generation, there are a 100 million plus DSes... I don't think we're
quite there yet."
Carmack, founder of id software and gaming guru/genius, agreed that Apple
is just not showing love to the game developers. He states, "The
truth is Steve Jobs doesn't care about games. This is going to be one of those
things that I say something in an interview and it gets fed back to him and I'm
on his shithead (sic) list for a while on that, until he needs me to do
something else there. But I think that that's my general opinion. He's not a
He continued, "It's difficult to ask somebody to get behind something they
don't really believe in. I mean obviously he believes in the music and the
iTunes and that whole side of things, and the media side of things, and he gets
it and he pushes it and they do wonderful things with that, but he's not a
gamer. That's just the bottom line about it."
Some argue that the iPhone gaming business doesn't need Mr. Jobs'
support. With the allure of money, ready installed base, and decent
graphical programming platform, it seems logical that some developers won't
need any encouragement to market gaming products for the phone.
However, some developers resent that Apple controls all the revenue and gets to
decide its non-negotiable cut of the revenue. Also, developers have no
way of sharing their games with reviewers as Apple doesn't give away stuff on
iTunes -- ever. Some developers have resorted to sending iTunes gift
cards to reviewers to allow them to buy the games. Lastly, patching, a
critical component of many modern games is very poorly supported on the iPhone.
Still some developers are taking the bad with the good and turning a tidy
profit. MotionX Poker is one of the popular titles and is one of
the best reviewed poker games on the market. Labrynth a puzzle
game, which makes use of Apple's ultra-accurate accelerometer, is another
popular title. Its unique hardware driven play mechanics remind a lot of
people of another
electronics giant's products. Other popular titles include Bubble
Bash and Diamond Twister from Gameloft.
Big gaming powers are hesitantly putting their weight behind the platform as
is coming to the iPhone and EA is also bringing a Madden title to
the table. Also working on iPhone games is id games, despite Mr.
Carmack's concern about Mr. Jobs. Perhaps the question is not whether
there will be gaming on the iPhone, but whether it will ever develop into as
much of a dedicated industry as Nintendo's GameBoy/DS line. The verdict's
still wide open on that.
As for Mr. Olin, he's an optimist, stating, "What actually resonates,
having spent earlier parts of my life doing cell phone entertainment and voice
entertainment... there are very few examples of entertaining games that play to
what the device is actually designed to do, which is to promote voice, personal
communication of live emotion. Someone will figure that out."