Interview

iOS 5's AirPlay Mirroring will be the beginning of the end for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, reckons Mobile Pie's Will Luton

iOS 5's AirPlay Mirroring will be the beginning of the end for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, reckons Mobile Pie's Will Luton
It's going to take a long time, but Apple's move to implement AirPlay Mirroring in iOS 5 will result in the firm taking over your living room.

That's according to Mobile Pie's creative director Will Luton, who believes the new feature, which will allow users to play iPhone games on their television sets via Apple TV, signifies Apple's intention to take on Xbox 360 and PlayStation - and that's a battle it's set to win.

We caught up with Will to ask why he think AirPlay Mirroring is one of the most significant features Apple has unveiled for iOS to date.

Pocket Gamer: The update to Game Center looks set to import more Xbox Live-style features. How do you think this will increase user engagement?

Will Luton: It's good to see that they're making these improvements.

They're not massive stand-out, killer features, but nice incremental steps toward where other games platforms and third-party already are.

I don't think Game Center has had a huge impact on the market or player engagement to date. I'll look forward to chucking achievements in to our next title - we have an objectives system which has been really popular.

How do you think its game recommendations will change the promotional opportunities open to you?

I'm dubious about this and any recommendation engine or startup in games. Discovery is not a user problem, it's a publisher problem.

Players don't want recommendations based on what they've played, they want it based on what is good and new. Top 25 and featured placement do that brilliantly.

We've had Genius for a while and it doesn't really work in generating a long tail. Will moving it from a tab on the first App Store page to the Game Center app improve things? No it won't. Ditto if it's editorially chosen as 'featured' currently is.

Given AirPlay Mirroring requires Apple TV to function, do you see it playing a major role in releases on iOS 5, or is it a first step towards acclimatising iOS users to TV-based play?

AirPlay Mirroring is the biggest feature iOS has and a feature that will start a chain of events that will change the games industry completely, with mobile devices replacing the console.

That might sound like hyperbole and, to take it at face value now, you'd be right Take up of Apple TV is worse than poor.

In the future, however, I fully expect to see AirPlay certified TVs, and when that becomes ubiquitous, it'll kill Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Gamers will play with the closest, most convenient and capable device they already own. That will be a mobile device connected wirelessly to their TV.

Do you plan to work support for iCloud into past releases, and more generally, how do you think it will impact game?

We probably won't revisit the games we've released as we've built a lot of the iCloud functionality we need in already. iCloud doesn't make anything possible that wasn't before, it just makes it easier and cheaper for developers and more convenient for users.

The asynchronous play features are big because they create high-retention games thanks to strong social commitment contracts between players.

Me setting a word for you to guess in Words with Friends is a much more powerful reason to return to the game and continue to play than because some virtual strawberries are grown. So, expect an explosion in that form of mechanic in iOS games.

Is there anything missing from iOS 5 from a game development perspective?

I'd like to see better support for some of the older devices. They're big hand-me-downs so certain games have big demographics in old iPod touches.

Next big leap for Apple is getting AirPlay Mirroring on lots of TVs. Beyond that cloud rendered, high-end gaming once solid 4G is here and, of course, HTML5 and webGL improvements.

Oh, and I'd love them to provide us with a solid analytics package with live data. If they don't like Flurry, offer us an alternative.

On a related note, I'd like to say that the management team did a great job on the 4S reveal, seemingly with knowledge of Jobs' illness worsening, if reports are to be believed. That's a testament to them. I have total faith that Apple has many very strong years ahead of it.
Thanks to Will for his time.

You can find out more about Mobile Pie on the firm's website.
Contributing Editor

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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