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A New Opportunity for Gaming

As a member of the cult that is Apple, I waited with giddy anticipation to see what sorts of goodies Apple had in storewhen they announced the release of the iPhone Software Developers Kit. The thing that surprised me most, was the focus yesterday’s presentation had on Gaming.

Mobile gaming is a curious beast that has been forever dominated by Nintendo. Many have tried to approach the market, Sega with the Game Gear and Nomad, Atari with the Lynx, Nokia with the N-Gage, and most recently, Sony with the PSP (to some success). What does Apple bring to the table?

For years before Apple’s entry into the portable mp3 player market, Creative had marketed their own portable hard-drive based mp3 players. But, it never took. Then Apple released the iPod. Here was a product, more or less with the same functionality, but it took it to a different level. Was marketing or actual functionality the reason behind Creative’s lack of sales? Apple sold the iPod not only as a great technology, but as a borderline fashion accessory. I remember turning my head when I saw the oh-so-familiar white earbuds zig-zagging out of someone’s pocket (this is now occurs for when I happen to see a portable CD player).When the iPhone was released, it was criticized for its short comings, it was a good iPod, but what about its smartphone functionalities. How would this device compete against the Blackberry? With yesterdays announcement, not only should RIM (Blackberry) be nervous, but so should video game hardware developers. Unlike other cell phones on the market, the Apple iPhone is a much more powerful device, with better capabilities. The developers of Sega’s Super Monkey Ball announced that their iPhone version of the game is no “cell-phone game” but a full console game. “We had to fly in a developer to upscale the art for the iPhone.”

Apple is doing what Nokia tried and failed miserably at, its merging phones and games. We aren’t just talking traditional controls either, we’re talking Wii like accelerometer controls, and full resolution games. The mobile gaming market is still uncharted territory, but, millions of dollars are made off of crappy cellphone games that you use the number keys for. Apple is changing the definition of cell phone game completely.

Will these games compete with the likes of the Nintendo DS and the PSP? Of course not, there’s only so much you can do on a device like the iPhone. But if I were Nokia, who recently announced a 2nd Generation N-Gage, I’d be fairly worried.

Is Apple entering Video Game market that already has the fierce competition of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo? They’ve tried it before with a failure (see the Apple Pippin), but then again, they did try to make a PDA before (the Apple Newton), and they’ve done damn well on their second try with the iPhone. Whatever the case, the iPhone update that’ll bring these new exciting applications can’t come soon enough.

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