Gaming on the go

iPhone spore gameFollowing Apple’s recent announcement that it plans to compete with the PSP and DS by opening up the iPhone to quality games, I read an interesting post from Jonathan Weinberg on TechDigest stating his view that mobile phones will never be portable games consoles.

I’m not sure I agree though. Convergence is rife and if the big players want it to happen then they generally succeed.

While Jonathan’s right that in the past the likes of Nokia with the N-Gage have tried and failed to marry the mobile phone and games console – that was then, when technology was a constraint. Nowadays the processing power, audio quality and screen technology is there to deliver a compelling experience, if designed and marketed in the right way.

Perhaps the key will be to position these devices more as portable games consoles with a phone instead of a phone that plays games. However, the biggest barrier in doing that will be the credibility of the big mobile phone brands in the gaming sector. Consumers are comfortable with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo but there’s something not quite right if it’s Nokia et al.
PSP phoneAnother argument is that if ‘proper’ gaming and mobile phones are to successfully merge into one device then some, or all, of the big gaming companies will have to get involved. Word is that Sony is already working on a PSP phone so it’ll be interesting to see how consumers respond when that’s launched.

Strangely, given that it has neither a long history in mobile or in gaming, Apple is probably best placed to be successful and it’ll be interesting to see just what quality games start to appear on the iPhone and how they go down with consumers.

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3 Responses to Gaming on the go

  1. putsimply says:

    I think you’re right that Apple stand to do well in this space, much though it pains me to say it (as the perrenial PC fan – PC’s are like Land Rovers; simple to use, easy to run, and even if they break down often they’re quick and easy to fix, and they can do just about anything).

    I also agree with your assessment that it’s got to be a console (with an additional phone) rather than a phone with gaming. I also think that the one thing the N-Gage got mostly-right was designing the look-and-feel of the handset with gaming in mind, not phone functionality. Ultimately if someone is going to buy one of these devices they’re probably thinking about games at least as much as the phone.

    Bottom-line, if it looks like a phone, it probably won’t sell to mobile gamers. That said, the N-Gage’s side-on phone functionality was a bit silly. All I’m saying is make it *look* like a games console (rather than have two huge buttons on the front for ‘dial’ and ‘hang up’.

    The biggest problem companies such as Apple, Nokia, et al are going to face when creating a viable games platform is size. The PSP is more or less the ideal size for a gaming platform in terms of being able to twiddle the various controllers with both hands at once, while still being able to see the screen. But for a phone it’s way too big.

    For this reason I honestly think a large conducting (not pressure-based) touchscreen such as Apple’s is going to be the future for these kind of games platforms. Capacitance screens would let OEMs provide a reasonably-sized screen and two-hand control, without having to provide a device the size of the PSP.

    However whether or not this will translate to Apple becoming the top of the mobile gaming pile or not is uncertain. Apple does not have an amazing history of game-porting. Are their games going to be Java-based (which would be unfortunate in terms of performance), or written in a native code?

    I think Sony or Nintendo both have the opportunity to squash the iPhone, but only if they hop on the capacitance sceen bandwagon very soon. Otherwise Apple will gain enough momentum to own this market.

    Alex Perryman

  2. putsimply says:

    Hi Chris, I’m fully expecting Apple to wipe the floor with the other mobile phone companies when it comes to gaming, as they seem to be a company that comes at consumer challenges/desires/demands from a different angle to most companies out there at the moment (no I don’t have an iphone, but one day, it shall be mine, oh yes… it shall be mine).

    That said, I also think that the second Sony or Nintendo et al get behind a mobile company, the mobile gaming experience will really take off in a big way, with proper adverts and everything…

    You’re right though. Whilst the best mobile phones can offer me is ‘snakes’ and naff puzzles, I’m not going to spend my hard earned EML wages on downloads of games that will hold my attention for 5 minutes at a time at most!

    If I were more of a geek and had more time, I’d explore who was behind Warcraft and SecondLife as I would think those both have a lot of potential on the right mobile platform. But I’m not a geek (honest) and I need to go and earn those wages so that I can not spend them on mobile gaming.

  3. putsimply says:

    Here’s an interesting update on the mobile gaming market from Gartner:

    They may be predicting growth, but I still think there’s a long way for mobile games to go before I bother spending my hard earned cash on them.

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