PS3, Xbox, Wii and…iPhone?
“Our love affair with the iPhone began by simply touching it. This was rapidly becoming the most important device I had ever owned, it was an all-encompassing, complete device. And I knew that that device was going to enable incredible things for gaming.”
That breathless and swooning introduction aside, ngmoco co-founder Neil Young’s keynote address at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today was noteworthy in that it really heralds the arrival of the iPhone as a gaming platform. The GDC is the largest annual gathering of professional videogame developers, so the fact that Young, an Electronic Arts (ERTS) alum turned iPhone developer, delivered his remarks from a stage that will soon host Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima says a lot about the esteem in which game developers hold the device–dismissive comments from Sony (SNE) be damned.
Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone is still in its early stages as a gaming platform and make no mistake, it is a viable gaming platform, said Young. And he should know; ngmoco–the developer of popular iPhone game titles like Rolando, Dropship, and Topple–just closed a $10 million second-round of funding after only nine months in business.
“Don’t let the haters tell you it sucks compared to the [Nintendo] DS or the [Sony] PSP,” Young said of the iPhone. “It doesn’t. It’s good. It’s clear that the quality of iPhone games is eclipsing its console counterparts, and that’s even more acute when you compare it against the prior generation.” Why?
Unlike its console rivals, the iPhone is always connected, users always carry it, it offers unique features that can’t be found anywhere else–a touchscreen, an accelerometer, connectivity. In this way, said Young, the iPhone is similar to the Nintendo DS. When that device first launched, many thought it would be beaten into whimpering submission by the far more robust PSP. But that never happened. “Nintendo was able to win that battle by combining great software with hardware that it understood very well,” Young said. “If Nintendo made the iPhone, what would they focus on? I think they would build games that could only be on the iPhone. The designs would be progressive, discontinuous, and would have the user and the user’s context always in mind. They would have great underlying game design with native device functionality at the core.”
His point: Graphics and sound alone don’t necessarily make a great app. As Nintendo has shown us with the DS and the Wii, gaming is all about the platform. And Apple has clearly created one to be reckoned with.