Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The current problem with iPhone gaming

Taking a look at the current state of iPhone gaming, there's a lot you can be happy about. Plenty of games available, most at a low price, and so easily available. I, myself, am guilty of more than the occasional impulse-buy.

The quailty of games, too, has been steadily rising, as the bar is raised in graphics, sound and overall presentation. More and more, you'll see games arrive on the scene with online highscore systems and acheivements built in - something that was rare a year ago.

The problem with the gaming on this platform is evident when you compare iPhone games to games on the PSP and DS.

The problem stems back to the beginning of the just over two years of history of iPhone gaming. The first few developers who put out games on the device priced those games quite aggressively. With the void in quality games during the early days, people bought whatever they could and those developers became independently wealthy overnight. Most of us have read the stories in the news about the few guys who were able to quit their day jobs on the back of particularly simple games back then. To be honest, it's not unlike the original developers of old 8-bit games back when those systems became popular, only it's easier now than it was then.

Ever since then, two phenomena have prevailed. The first is a buying trend - people are used to 99 cent games. People often impulse-buy 99 cent games. Everything else pretty much requires a little online research to see if the game is worth buying. Moreso, the higher the price rises. The upper limit for games seems to be between 10 and 15 dollars, although there are only a handful of games in this category. For most iPhone owners, this price is already excessive, especially since a high-priced game occasionally will become free for a day or
two - every now and then.

The second phenomenon is the selling trend. Game companies make a good profit from simple "flash-style" games which fit the low-depth, low-replayability category. They are unwilling to invest more time into games that are not of the "impulse-buy" category, since this is the category that makes the most profit. The higher-priced games tend to involve a lot more development work, especially on the content creation side. Often when you see a game with depth, it's a port from a game on another system, so most of the actual content was reused.

The fact that a lot of games are being developed by hobbyists in very small teams means they don't have the resources to create games with a lot of content, and they make good money from games that look like everything else, anyway.

What needs to happen is for some of the larger games companies to raise the bar on this platform and actually develop proper titles as they would do for the PSP (for example). They should also not be afraid to charge higher prices for these sort of games. If enough larger developers start a trend towards developing proper games for the iDevices, the customers will get used to expecting better games and paying for them. A few companies have already started, but these have been few and far between. Again, a lot of these have been made with re-used content from an existing system, such as the DS.

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