Opinion: Why a growing disquiet stalks the corridors of WWDC 2010

It's a Jobsian Hobbesian world

Opinion: Why a growing disquiet stalks the corridors of WWDC 2010

A lot has changed in the world of mobile games in the past 10 years and that's something we're considering as we repost PocketGamer.biz articles from the past decade.

This week, we consider the start of Apple's increasingly tight grip over its ecosystem. 


[June 11th, 2010] Sensibly, very few people want to go on the record as attacking Apple.

Even the likes of Adobe and AdMob had to be pushed to the extent of having their business on iPhone effectively curtailed before they reacted.

Yet talking to game developers, tools companies, ad networks and other companies operating on the App Store during WWDC 2010, it's fair to say there's a growing undercurrent of disquiet.

Of course, no one is prepared to go on the record - Apple's just too powerful and capricious. But across a growing range of issues - from advertising to analytics, development tools to social networks - attitudes range from uncertainty to genuine concern.

Hey, what's going on?

In fact, the theme of the week is that WWDC has created many more questions than answers.

One of the most interesting issues is analytics.

I was talking to a high profile developer who's just switched to using Flurry analytics, which looks like it's going to be banned as part of the iOS4 release.

The developer loves the data the service provides which enables him to see how many daily users are playing his game, and how events such as updates change that activity.

"Developers need to have analytics," he says. "If I can't use Flurry, is Apple going to provide its own service?"

It's a similar situation when it comes to iAd - analytics and advertising being interlinked.

All developers I've spoken to are very enthusiastic for iAd, but that's because they're the sort of developers who are making high quality games.

"What about the guys making iFart apps?" one bizdev guy asked. "Do you think Apple is going to allow them to use iAd?"

It's a legitimate concern.

For all Steve Jobs' focus on the best user experience, the fact is many developers of free iPhone apps are generating millions of downloads of quirky, odd and downright juvenile apps.

And guess what? Their users love those juvenile experiences. Heck, some of the most famous names on the App Store have done commercial work they're now not that keen on talking about.

Playing nice together?

Game Center is another difficult issue.

Before Apple announced it would provide its own social platform for games - revealed this week as providing real-time multiplayer gaming including voice chat, but not asynchronous player to player challenges and the like - the market was vibrant with four major competitors plus various specialist and proprietary technologies vying for attention.

Now developers don't know what to do. Clearly everyone will use Game Center when it launches - no one knows when. Everyone will use its features, but again no one knows exactly what these will be.

Indeed, with thirdparty social services struggling to react to a competitor as yet undefined, all anyone can offer is that in future, most developers will be using Game Center and A.N.Other solution, because for all the features Game Center will launch with, there are some it won't, and some it may never include.

Really, is that helping developers provide the best experience to consumers?

Of course, the bottomline is that when it comes to iPhone, it's Apple's party and it will pick a fight with whoever it chooses.

"I think Apple would like there to be Apple and consumers and no one else with any power inbetween," one developer told me. "As soon as a company seems to have any power within that relationship, then Apple reacts."

To be honest, it's hard to find anyone who's a fan of mobile Flash, but when a second, third, fourth... company find themselves falling foul of what increasingly appears to be Apple's megalomaniacal desire to control its own technical and commercial ecosystem at a monopolistic level, is it any surprise people are asking Who's next?

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.