Stateside

Stateside: When it comes to E3 versus WWDC, only one show matters

Stateside: When it comes to E3 versus WWDC, only one show matters
Chicago-based Carter Dotson is a senior writer at 148Apps.com, which was acquired by PocketGamer.biz publisher Steel Media in 2012.

Right now, there's two big events happening in California: E3 and WWDC.

Common logic says that E3 is the more important gaming event because, well, it's all about gaming, right?

For most developers in 2013, however, E3 is well worth ignoring. WWDC has quickly become the important event for the gaming industry.

It might not be the sexiest show, but what Apple says and the little things they say and announce this week could well have a bigger impact on the mobile gaming space than anything at what E3 does.

A matter of control

Consider that possibly the most interesting gaming news this week made only the briefest of appearances during Apple's iOS 7 keynote – the MFi game controller protocol.

Based on the info that's come out so far, this is essentially Apple moving to support a system-wide standard for game controllers.

Apple has yet to make a move in this space, and while it has previously seemed content to let third parties carry the burden on its own shoulders, this is a nonetheless important market.

This move potentially opens the door to more 'traditional' games hitting iOS – games that can take advantage of physical controls to enjoy a better fit on mobile. Indeed, the recently unveiled Deus Ex: Tha Fall might have been better received by the ourtaged masses had they known controllers could be a possibility in the future.

But most important is the implication that TV-based gaming from Apple is a more viable option. With support for features like multiple controllers with their own LED identity on them, and for controllers with their own touchscreens in the style of Wii U, new avenues are opening down the road.

Apple may well be looking to let the controller market get established first, with a new Apple TV likely to play a big role in the future. Mark my words – this is the foundation for something big.

What makes this more remarkable is that its reveal was then lost amongst the focus on iOS 7's new flat look, including a radically-changed Game Center design that could impact how users take advantage of it.

So, for developers, it's worth paying close attention to the videos Apple releases, the tidbits that make their way out, and even what other developers are working on. These will likely have a far bigger say in where mobile gaming, and even the gaming market in general, goes in the future.

No contest

Contrast all this with what happened at all the big briefings down the road at E3 on Monday - it's like the last five years of gaming barely even happened.

Free-to-play made maybe a couple of appearances. Microsoft barely pretended that indies existed (despite them radically reshaping gaming in the last few years) tossing out the idea of self-publishing.

Sony came away the blowout winner of E3's briefings with a press conference that was notable if only because it showed hints of awareness to the advances in gaming.

The Japanese giant trotted out indies and gave them a moment in the spotlight. It's hard to get more indie-focused than to spotlight a Chicago-based collective who are producing a commercial sequel to their well-received freeware college project about a cephalopod masquerading as a father.

But while Sony pushed self-publshing, the firm isn't necessarily open to indies to be 'self-starting' - developing titles from off-the-shelf hardware like mobile devs can, and releasing them without any input from the platform holder until they're up for approval. That's not the PS4 way.

As such, Sony may be shipping out more dev kits, but PS4 is still not open like mobile.

Admittedly, Sony does have a self-starting program in the form of PlayStation Mobile, which is also open to PS Vita, but Sony's handheld was given short shrift during the conference (though their top Vita evangelist said the show was about PS4 primarily).

PlayStation Mobile is also something of a second class citizen on Vita – just try searching for game. Titles have to be found manually in the dedicated PlayStation Mobile section at the moment, blocking them from being discovered aside standard PSN titles.

Indeed, looking at all the big names who had their shows on Monday, that's all mobile was in general: a lesser citizen. If mobile was mentioned, it was always in the context of being a secondary experience: SmartGlass integration as a complement to Xbox One games, or Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs letting mobile players assist console players in a small way.

Even one of the few true mobile titles shown on Monday - Ubisoft's Trials Frontier - still connects to its console version, taking on the role of a distraction when players can't take on the 'true' version of the game.

Junior partner

But why does mobile continue to play second fiddle to console?

Sure, the games are often smaller in scope, but they're drawing players' attention in an important way. They're different, but that doesn't stop them being true experiences - and they're providing creative new avenues for game concepts and business models.

Yet, flashy full-price games still dominated all of the E3 briefings – games that, as hardware costs ramp up and developer costs soar accordingly, increasingly aren't really viable for the developers who make them.

As a result, why should mobile developers even care about E3? Why should they waste time on an event that barely acknowledges their existence?

E3 is a show. Literally. It's all about bright lights and what looks sexy, and not about reality. The reality is that the gaming market is changing. That's going to be the talk at WWDC, and what comes out of that show.

Pay attention to that. The world of E3 has become so warped that the most exciting announcement on Monday was that people could play used games offline on PS4.

For the mobile developer, E3 is not reality, and it likely never will be. So pay no mind to it. The real important happenings are a ways up the coast at WWDC.





Carter is a senior writer over at recent Steel Media acquisition 148Apps.com.

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