Time yesterday published Matt Peckham’s piece For iOS 7, Apple Needs More Than Game Controllers to Win Gaming. Within, he mentions the third-party controller API alluded to at WWDC 2013, but then makes claims about iOS gaming that don’t sit right with me. He makes all the usual arguments:
- Apple barely cares about gaming and treats games like any other apps that happen to be on the App Store (inferring this is a bad thing);
- iOS has interface issues that stop “major gaming franchises [being] ported over unaltered”;
- Most people “don’t buy iPhones, iPads or the iPod Touch to game foremost”;
- Apple should be more serious about gaming, notably in making it easier to “connect your iOS devices to a larger display”
Not doing these things, he argues, is a missed opportunity, and he reckons iOS games
feel stuck in 2007 with chart leaders like Angry Birds, Temple Run, Plants vs. Zombies, Fruit Ninja, Tetris, Cut the Rope, Doodle Jump and Bejeweled—not exactly arguments for design vibrancy
It’s a shame, in 2013, that a company known for leading in so many other ways seems content to follow here, at best dabbling in the most lucrative segment of the entertainment industry.
Regular readers will know I fundamentally disagree with this view of gaming. To take Peckham’s points in turn:
- Apple barely caring about gaming is one of the main reasons why iOS has flourished as a gaming ecosystem, especially when it comes to indies, which have crafted wildly creative, original fare for the platform;
- Not everyone wants the same titles ported over yet again, and instead hanker for a bit of innovation, even if said innovation sometimes centres around existing IP;
- Most people don’t buy iOS devices to game foremost, but that doesn’t mean iOS isn’t their primary gaming platform;
- Apple enabling you to connect your device to a TV turns it into an entirely different system, one that has a traditional controller/abstraction/screen mechanic rather than one of direct touch manipulation. It turns something intuitive, innovative and new into Yet Another Console.
My latest article for Stuff.tv explores these things. iWin: how Apple became the accidental king of mobile gaming interviews a number of leading developers, from the likes of Ste Pickford through to Sega’s European CTO, to get their take on the current state of the games industry. For the most part, the developers I spoke to also reckon Apple really opened things up, especially for indies, and that the very worst thing for Apple in this space would have been to ape Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft.
That’s not to say Apple has no problems in gaming. There are clear issues with discoverability and developers who fight hard but get nowhere. There’s also an argument Apple should care at least a bit rather than barely a jot, to create a healthier ecosystem for the indies that made it so great in the first place. However, no-one was clamouring for the Apple TV to become some kind of television console, nor for Brown And Grey Army Shooter XIV to come across in identical fashion from another format.