How will a new iPhone impact the video game industry?

Jun 2, 2010
Games

Months of speculation will end this coming Monday when Steve Jobs officially debuts the new iPhone at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. In three short years, the iPhone and the more than 200,000 apps that run on the device have transformed the video game industry forever. So what can we expect when the iPhone 4G gets […]

Months of speculation will end this coming Monday when Steve Jobs officially debuts the new iPhone at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. In three short years, the iPhone and the more than 200,000 apps that run on the device have transformed the video game industry forever. So what can we expect when the iPhone 4G gets into the hands – and thumbs – of consumers later this year?

“If the rumors are true, users will be blown away by the high definition,” said Kevin O’Neil of Candywriter, creator of several popular iPhone games including Dogs Playing Poker and Word Solitaire. “Developers will need to consider investing more in graphics.”

Sharper screen resolution, faster processing power and the ability for users to operate more than one application at a time should all contribute to a greater gaming experience on the iPhone. These expanded features, along with much cheaper prices for iPhone apps, are paving the way for a boom in mobile gaming just as the rest of the industry is in decline. According to a report from research firm NPD Group, overall revenue in the video game industry declined 26 percent year-to-year in April to $766 million.

Industry in transition

The sale of video games on mobile devices, which include smart phones powered by Google’s Android mobile software, are growing at a rate as much as 40 percent,” said Jim Yin, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s Equity Group. While cheaper pricing for iPhone apps is a significant factor – games that cost in excess of $50 on consoles can typically be purchased for less than $10 at Apple’s iTunes App Store – there is a stronger demographic component at play.

“We are talking about a different generation of consumers that is more associated with mobile devices,” Yin explained, adding that while gamers obsessed with consoles including Xbox 360, Wii and Playstation 3 are typically men between the ages of 18 and 35, iPhone game enthusiasts are younger and more diverse.

The ability for consumers of all stripes to easily purchase and tap into a variety of casual games on the fly from the App Store is also a key point of differentiation, Yin said. However, unless the new iPhone comes equipped with a new button, its overall gameplay will never match those of the consoles.

“For games that require critical control, you need a feedback to give your response,” he said.

More smart phone games to come

Because of its open development standards and growing ecosystem of more than 50,000 applications available, Google’s Android Market is far and away the most formidable competitor to the iPhone and App Store. Developers and consumers alike are taking notice.

“I feel like Apple demonstrates a continued and deserved arrogance over its trailblazing path in the mobile arena,” said O’Neil, “but there are inklings of Google and Android gaining ground.”

Nothing however, stimulates the growth of mobile gaming more than a new Apple release.

“People will buy more iPhones,” said Yin. “And people who buy iPhones buy more games than any other platform.”

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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