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Stateside: It's time Apple stopped playing around with gaming

Stateside: It's time Apple stopped playing around with gaming

Right now, Apple runs the most important gaming platform and marketplace. Mobile gaming is on the upswing, growing exponentially, with iOS seemingly at the forefront.

Crucial to all this, of course, is the all-conquering App Store. So, why doesn't Apple care?

Apple barely pays gaming any heed whatsoever at its big press splashes. Talk of games occupied only a small, almost inconsequential, part of the iPad reveal, for instance.

Game off

But look at the App Store: the majority of the top 100 grossing apps, 75 to 80 percent, are games. People are spending time and money on games. They're one of the most important features of an iOS device.

Yet, Apple does little to feature them, and it's arguably doing less and less as time passes. Apple's iOS 7 update reduced the prominence of games features on the App Store, to the level that gamers now have scroll down to see featured games.

This makes it harder for users browsing the store to see the featured games, and decreases the effectiveness of games being featured – which, based on developers I've talked to of late, already felt like it had less and less time for paid releases as it was.

Apple's editorial team has a great eye for what's good every week, but the fact the content they choose is being pushed less prominently on the marketplace risks having a majorly negative impact.

One size does not fit all

In fact, it's forcing the App Store into the current homogeneous business model where the major releases are shifting purely toward that free-to-play model.

It's undoubtedly impressive that an iOS studio with just two free-to-play game under its belt can secure a multi-billion valuation – it shows the power of the App Store – but the future increasingly feels like one dominated by free-to-play.

The fact that the App Store's early days thrived on the idea hat any developer could be a major player makes the suggestion that Apple is turning a blind eye to large portions of its developer base especially hard to take.

Apple remains incredibly inflexible when it comes to business models that don't go directly through the App Store. Crowdfunding an iOS game is practically impossible because it's impossible to deliver games as a backer reward due to the promo code and ad hoc distribution limits.

Fist of Awesome was one of the few Kickstarter games to give away iOS copies, and developer Nicoll Hunt decided to make the game free for a couple of days to allow Kickstarter backers to get the game.

Of course, others discovered the game was out for free, and it caused thousands of people to download the game for free who 'shouldn't have. The promotion ended a day early, because it was potentially haemorrhaging sales for the paid launch.

Go go Google

Of course, Android makes taking to crowdfunding platforms especially easy, since it's possible to distribute games directly. It's not as neat a solution as having Google Play promo codes, which Google still refuses to implement, but at least it's an option.

The same goes for bundles and any other way of distributing games that isn't through the App Store. The one iOS bundle that attempted to work around the system is somewhat 'suspect', but the fact Apple shuts out supplemental sources means it's the only way.

Apple's not even taking advantage of its TV penetration with the Apple TV, and its gamepad protocol has been given little to no public mention at all despite being a potentially-major development for iOS games.

Even Apple's video output adapters have become gaming-unfriendly, instead rendering a high-latency AirPlay output directly through the adapter rather than a direct video output.

TV gaming has been intentionally squandered by Apple, and there's only cursory indicators that it'll take advantage of the opportunities that remain.

Time for change

The thing that makes all this frustrating? The App Store and iOS remain priorities for the mobile gaming industry, from the small to the large developers. But the thing is - Apple's not the only game in town any more.

Android, microconsoles, even Windows Phone's efforts shouldn't be counted out in the coming months and years, particularly if developers find them to be more flexible to the realities of the market.

Apple's isolationism has its advantages, but what possible gain is there to hurting the developers that power its store, that provide the content that itscustomers want?

Apple needs to realise its place and importance in the gaming world, and help to nurture and strengthen the App Store as best it can.

Chicago-based Carter Dotson is a senior writer at 148Apps.com, which was acquired by PocketGamer.biz publisher Steel Media in 2012.


Stateside columnist

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!

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