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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