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Think iPhone and other mobile devices aren't relevant to videogames? You’re wrong

There’s a mutiny afoot. A revolt among the proletariat, who refuse to swallow the propaganda of their oppressive masses. Basically, people are sick of hearing about mobile gaming. Be it the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Android or even the newly unleashed Windows Phone 7, many gamers cannot understand why their favorite gaming news sources are chatting so much about expensive novelty items that aren’t “real” gaming consoles. They simply don't understand why these products are relevant to videogames.

It's a common complaint witnessed on many top gaming websites. And while many writers are jumping on this rising wave early, a fair few readers remain slow on the uptake. Well, that's why I'm here, to tell you that if you truly believe mobile gaming stories do not represent game news, you're astonishingly ignorant. Don't worry though. I'll see you straight.


Above: Angry Birds has sold 10 million copies on iPhone alone. Don’t you owe it to yourself to see what this is all about? 

First of all, a big part of the backlash against recent news stories naturally stems from general animosity towards Apple – which, let’s face it, made portable gaming the juggernaut that it is with the iPhone app store – and its cultish, sheep-like following itself. That's cool.  It's fine to hate Apple. Apple's not the world's most lovable company, with its shady business practices and smarmy commercials full of impossibly beautiful people who think you're stupid for not owning everything with an "i" in the name. And some of us obviously have several hardware generations of animosity between PC gamers and Mac enthusiasts to work through as well.

However, Apple and its gaming efforts are not made irrelevant just because you don't like the company. Like it or not, Apple's a part of gaming now, and you have to deal with that. Or, alternatively, you can ignore it, since we have the option as free human beings to pick and choose what news items we wish to read. And hey – if you don’t like Apple, more and more games are appearing on Android-powered phones as well, not to mention Windows Phone 7.

Above: Street Fighter IV has come to iPhone, and tosses in free downloadable roster updates. It’s way better than you’d imagine 

In any case, the "i" family of products is becoming increasingly important as a force in our industry. I personally have an iPod Touch knocking about, which I purchased specifically for interactive entertainment and use almost exclusively as a portable games console. I'm not the only one, either, as the simple law of averages dictates that nobody is so unique a snowflake that they are doing something nobody else has thought to do. My iPod is a game platform first, a music and movie player second. [Ed note: The same goes for at least half the GR crew. We also have iPads and Androids kicking around – do you really think I’m taking notes during budget presentations and not playing Cut the Rope?]

Some of you may find this silly, but you underestimate just how much gaming there is to be had from the App Store. Be it pick-up-and-play titles like Doodle Jump, Superstar Chefs and Bird Strike, or full-fledged retail-quality games like N.O.V.A, Zenonia or Chaos Rings, the iPod/iPhone/iPad makes for a surprisingly versatile system with a range of games that matches anything offered by the Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable. Some of the ways in which developers like GameLoft are bringing console experiences to the iPhone continue to impress, while games designed specifically to appeal to the system's touch screen, tilt-sensitive interface can be thoroughly sublime. And Android isn’t far behind. It’s too soon to tell what kind of splash Windows Phone 7 will make, but considering it has achievements that feed right into your existing Xbox 360 Gamerscore, we’re thinking it’s got a strong shot.

Above: NOVA looks better than most PlayStation 2 games, and plays a lot like the first Halo 

We must also not forget that Apps are now raking in more money than PSP games, making it a more attractive, viable, profitable and generally relevant machine than Sony's "more newsworthy" handheld. NPD data indicates that the iPhone is responsible for 19% of revenue generated by the handheld market, as of 2009. Meanwhile, the PSP is bringing home 11% of the cash. Obviously, Nintendo dominates with 70%, but Apple's growth in the sector is alarming.

This is exemplified when you look at the company's overall stake in the games industry. In 2008, iPhone gaming generated a mere 1% of the game industry's revenue, a figure that jumped to 5% in 2009. Doesn't sound like much, but that's some pretty solid growth. The overall message is that, whether you want to accept it or not, Apple is slowly chipping a significant dent in this business, and it's a dent that could become a gaping hole if the iPod creator decides to capitalize. And if portable gaming doesn’t gain more ground when 2010’s numbers are tallied, we’ll quit our jobs and become full-time aluminum can recyclers.


Above: Infinity Blade is coming from Epic – that’s right, the guys who do Gears of War. If they think iPhone gaming is legit, shouldn’t you too? 

Apps are cheap, Apps are easy, Apps are capable of reaching an absurdly massive audience. As I write this, the iPod, iPhone and iPad are just as much about gaming as they are any other form of entertainment. You yourself may disregard the majority of games available on iTunes, but there are millions upon millions of consumers who do not, and they find Apple news relevant from a gaming perspective.

What happens to mobile game-enabled product affects an increasing amount of gamers. This is why, when we talk about the iPad, we are talking about it on gaming blogs. This is why, when a new generation iPhone is revealed, gamers like yourself find out about it pretty quickly. This is why Microsoft is charging into the phone OS business with renewed purpose and urgency. We're heading toward a generation where Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will not make up a "big three" anymore. We're looking at a future where Apple will be considered part of a "big four" instead. And it’s increasingly possible that Google will make five.

That may dismay you. That may irritate you. It may even worry you. That's what's happening though, and that's why, when you see a mobile gaming story on Games Radar or anywhere else, it's relevant gaming news.

I hope everybody can get over that. Because there’s some really fine gaming to be had for those who are willing to give it a try.

Nov 20, 2010

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54 comments

  • Ravenbom - November 24, 2010 9:17 a.m.

    Haters = 14 year olds who either can't get convince their parents to buy them an iPhone or convinced their parents to buy them an iPhone and went 2,500 texts over their 200-texts a month plan and got their phone taken away. I hate how people mention that half the games are based on flash games that you can play online for free or that most of the games are games you wouldn't play for more than 10 minutes at a time. Those people are missing the point of mobile gaming. If they're fine with staring at the wall at the DMV then that's fine. As for me, every time I'm in line at the free clinic I thank god I had my iPhone at don't have to make eye contact with the hooker that gave me crabs. Seriously though, there's plenty of times during the day I could be doing nothing or playing an iPhone game.
  • Valcrist - November 23, 2010 4:08 a.m.

    And if you still are against it, there is an old saying that goes "If the rape is inminent, you might as well try to enjoy it" And I dont know about you, ubt perhaps its time to get some lubricant....
  • Valcrist - November 23, 2010 4:04 a.m.

    There is something important to consider why the mobile gaming iscausing controversy. For far too long we have thought that games and phones just dont mix, and some of us get scared at the prospect of the developing teams starting to invest more on small fun but not so spectacularly long or action packed games like bayonetta or (once again) ookami. But regardless of our stance on this, it is indeed going to happen. TV did not destroy the movie industry, the radio did not destroy the newspaper, the old trusty cassetes did not destroy the music industry, the internet did not destroy any of those 3 either. We need to come to terms to the fact that mobile gaming will not place consoles on a second plane, its just gonna be a different option. Take my case for exapmle: I wake up at 5:30 every day, and start classes at 7, then go to work, then go back to college, and im reaching home at 9 PM just in time to do homework and stuff, then go to sleep at midnight if im lucky, what does this mean? that if you tell me I had won either a ps3/xbox 360/wii or to a nintendo ds/psp/Iphone, as foolish as it may sound I would take one of the second options, because I just dont have enough time in my day to justify a big investment on a console that I wont use more than 5 hours a week if I get lucky With the average persone getting more and more busy, they have less time to spend at their homes, and thats why the Iphone games have so much appeal: Got 20 mins left from your lunch break? pop up nova, waiting for your next class? how about some resi 4? waiting for the bus? angry birds will keep you entertained, your movie does not start yet? Mirror´s edge 2d will keep you company. Perhaps sme of us will stick to consoles and pc, and thats fine: nintendo microsoft and sony will still be here, in the meantime phone games will aim at a different demography and who knows... perahps the day will come when wether yuo have a console or you hve a phone, everyone will be a gamer
  • yasmarc - November 22, 2010 7:50 p.m.

    The only time I use my phone to play games is when I'm taking a dump at work. All that technology amounts to poop distractions! Also, now everyone just buries their face in their phone rather than talk to others or actually look at what's going on. I think I could rob 1/2 the people on the bus without them knowing it.
  • mrandydixon - November 22, 2010 7:14 p.m.

    Bias.
  • justinbanda - November 22, 2010 6:40 p.m.

    The fact that we're even debating this is proof enough that Apple and Google are ready to take on the big three. In 2007, I wouldn't have believed it if someone told me that in the short space of three years my iPhone would be considered a legitimate gaming platform. But now it's becoming hard to deny. Seriously, when Square-Enix, Epic, Sega, Ubisoft, Warner Bros, and a hundred other game devs start funneling billions into App-games, you know something's up. Don't even try telling me that Apps are five-minute distractions. I'll just point you to Chaos Rings, Infinity Blade, Street Fighter, NOVA, Zenonia, and GTA. And even a lot of the '5 minute' games are worthwhile distractions that even the DSi Store can't compete with. Spider? Doodle Jump? Angry Birds? Trainyard? Archetype? Come on! You can't have instant, portable, FPS-battles with a 360!
  • One-FISH- - November 22, 2010 3:42 p.m.

    They might be fine games, and that's great-- but i'm not going to buy a game for them regardless of the price. I don't own a smart-phone, but i'm not going to pay more than what a PS3 costs (Include price of iphone+plan+monthly fees etc), to play mobile, decent-quality games when I could just finally suck it up and buy a PS3, and play AMAZING games. I don't doubt it's a force in the industry, and don't mind seeing the "mobile" tab, but like many other people, I just don't care.
  • CancerMan - November 22, 2010 2:45 a.m.

    Best case scenario, a mobile game retains my attention for about a minute. In this current generation of home consoles the games are so great I have stopped playing with my PSP never mind my phone. When I tried playing Angry Birds I was actually a little excited because of all the hype I was hearing. I played it for 30 min wondering when the fun part was supposed to start. It never did. At the moment mobile gaming IS irrelevant IMO.
  • ultimatepunchrod - November 22, 2010 2:31 a.m.

    i just dont want to lay my hand over half of what i have to see in order to control the character/car/whatever. it doesnt matter to me and the only reason that publishers put stuff like rage and sonic 4 and the like on them is because they will sell, not b/c it is a good platform for games.
  • FFSamurai - November 22, 2010 1:48 a.m.

    Wow, well first off I'd like to say how sorry I am for whatever Mr. Sterling had to suffer through. It must've been pretty aweful to warrant such an opinion piece as that and, in this respect, you have my sympathies. In a less angry fashion I'd have to agree though, to those of you who have mentioned an idea of a "mobile gaming world" I'd have to say such an alienation doesn't really exist. With Steam having been as much of a success as it is and with gaming going to a more download-based economic model these mobile devices are just the harbingers of a future where mobile and console gaming are more one entity than a separate beast. I mean yes, graphics will be better on the consoles, but we're starting to see titles like Chaos Rings or Street Fighter IV which, in many respects, do outshine their "big brother" copies. Whether you like Apple or not, or for the matter whether you have a positive or negative stance on mobile gaming as a viable platform, devices like the iPhone are the future. Like the NES, TV, etc before it this innovative merging of creativity and convenience is what you'll be playing on, whether in front of a TV or not. Might as well enjoy it.
  • n00b - November 22, 2010 1:44 a.m.

    i just wanted buttons ;_;
  • ThePigHostage - November 22, 2010 12:57 a.m.

    @TheLefty Google makes Android, which is a major player in the mobile market. Anyway, I'm personally uninterested in mobile games, simply because I don't like to game on the go - doesn't matter if it's a DS, a PSP, or an iPhone. That said, I don't mind it being covered. I just ignore it like I do with any coverage of other platforms I don't play.
  • oryandymackie - November 21, 2010 10:02 p.m.

    'Yes, Apple can create a bigger version of the *iPod* which could be utilised to replace laptops.' Red faces abound.
  • oryandymackie - November 21, 2010 10 p.m.

    I'm going to start and finish with the iPad - you don't want to hear my opinions on the other mobile 'gaming' platforms with a side of Apple hate. The iPad, fundamentally, is a shiny toy - a tech demo, if you're being kind. I've tested Apple's latest creation on a few occasions, and I've found it to be an over-priced, underpowered, useless plaything. Yes, Apple can create a bigger version of the iPad which could be utilised to replace laptops. But for that to happen, someone else has to take over the job of coming up with a better version of the iPad. As with the iPhone, other technological companies will take the ideas of Steve Jobs and his associates and improve the iPad, making it more functional, more able, and when that happens I will consider investing in 'mobile' gaming.
  • keefster - November 21, 2010 9:58 p.m.

    I don't hate it, its just I couldn't care less. Really
  • FinderKeeper - November 21, 2010 7:20 p.m.

    The PSP is getting pwned by Nintendo DS from one side and Apple's iPhone apps from the other side. Hence the imminent development of the Sony handheld phone. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em... Example: for those complaining about shovelware and casual gaming, what just happened to Xbox 360 with Kinect and PS3 with Move?
  • TheLefty - November 21, 2010 7:08 p.m.

    Good article, and I agree for the most part...but where did Google come from? All I've seen from google is a search engine and an email service, is there more or was that a prediction?
  • smloveskittycats - November 21, 2010 7:07 p.m.

    @reg42: I think the game you mean is Crush the Castle, or something like that. It's quite an old idea, it's like if they made some sort of Zelda ripoff and gave it some generic name like "3D Dot Game Heroes" (unnecessary reference) and praised its success as the next big thing (even though it was quite a subtle appearance). I don't think this article has the right approach. As people have said before me, it's like the Wii shovelware thing. The masses are generally stupid and submissive to whatever the media or "that one friend" throws at them, and with today's technology it's easier to do whatever people tell you. Whether it's the popular music, war, slavery, the holocaust, or mobile gaming, you can get a large group of people up for anything! I do believe it has potential, but I like the experience of a deep game. I would rather read on a bus then play a tedious game with no value.
  • MattoMcFly - November 21, 2010 6:41 p.m.

    And holy crap did I say 'gaming' a lot in my previous post. Drinking game anyone?
  • MattoMcFly - November 21, 2010 6:40 p.m.

    True, iPad and iPhone developers have taken a bit of a shotgun approach to game development - but the size, scope and complexity of these mobile games are increasing at an incredible rate - and many of them offer much more at $2.99 than a lot of PSP or DS games offer at $39.99. It just doesn't make sense that those who would consider themselves a gamer - or ever remotely passionate about gaming - passionate would flippantly dismiss these innovations. You don't have to like them each and every one, sure, but to disregard an entire form of gaming because of some vague idea of what constitutes 'real games' is a slap in the face to a ton of talented developers who are really trying to bring us better gaming. So yes, mobile gaming is news if not because these are a form of gaming, but because they are part of the gaming industry. The more we embrace that as gamers, the better these games will becomes and I really see absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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