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Apple vs. Nintendo & Sony: Round 1- FIGHT!

GPS, MP3s, Telecommunication…can Apple integrate yet another market into it’s iPhone? Nobody knows for sure as of yet, but it certainly seems that a new trend has slowly been emerging on the iPhone – video games.  It started innocuously enough with simple pick-up-and-play type games made by small companies and indie developers. And, if iPhone users did want to tap into more in-depth gaming, many times they had to “jailbreak” their iPhone. But, over the past few months, well-known developers have slowly been revealing plans for and releasing bigger budgeted  games on par with those traditionally seen on dedicated gaming handhelds produced by companies with established video game market share- namely, Nintendo and Sony with their DS and PSP, respectively. Furthermore, Apple has been allegedly bringing gaming experts into the company. The implications were there in the past, but this week seemed to have more concretely defined where the iPhone might go next.

This past week, big game developer Capcom proved to up the ante for the gaming industry with its game Street Fighter IV set to be released for the iPhone this coming March. What makes this release different from past big game releases on the iPhone, such as Resident Evil: Degeneration, is the fact that Street Figher IV was “no quickie, banged-out port” (port = when a manufacturer simply rewrites a game’s code for a different operating system). Rather, it was specifically made for the iPhone from the ground, up, with visually stimulating graphics and an iPhone specific virtual pad. Furthermore, Capcom completely avoided developing this game for the more traditional, well-known systems (Nintendo DS and PSP); Street Fighter IV was first released on the home consoles Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 a year ago, and is now going straight to the iPhone for the portable version.

Street Fighter IV for iPhone

There are many implications that come with such a well-known gaming manufacturer so clearly and strategically investing in the iPhone as a new operating system. Will Capcom be the only gaming company that sees iPhone as a viable new gaming portal? Or, will others soon follow their lead? Furthermore, do avid gamers see the iPhone as an operating system they are willing to invest in themselves? For instance, a positive gaming experience can very much be a result of the system’s control pad. Will gamers enjoy this virtual game pad and look to see it recreated in other iPhone games, or will they reject it as not up to par with the traditional physical version?

While I might not be able to report back on how well Street Fighter IV for iPhone sells and is or is not accepted by the gaming community (since it’s not coming out until some time in March), I would like to research and explore how the gaming community, from both the producer and consumer side, reacts to this said course of action. I’d like to explore the questions above, as well as the following: How open is Apple to established gaming manufacturers making such in-depth games? What does this mean for the indie developers? Will Capcom follow up with announcing more games specifically made for the iPhone in due time (ie, does the company already have other games in the works that it will soon release, as well)? Or, will they wait and see how Street Figher IV does in the App Store before investing more money? If iPhone catches on as a viable gaming device, what does this mean for the future of traditional gaming systems?

While I do not anticipate answering all of these questions, these are topics I will keep in mind and explore while I travel through the gaming sphere. I plan on researching the questions through a number of different means: news articles, forum discussion boards on well-known gaming sites (www.ign.com, www.gamespot.com, & http://g4tv.com), talking to gamers, and trying out some current iPhone games, myself. I’m also open to any ideas you guys might have!

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  1. HoniehLayla 20:59, Feb 22nd, 10

    I read a lot about this topic in Media Week – If i can find the article I will definitely pass it on to you.

    I wonder if the iPad may be a better platform or device to use for these gaming systems.

    For all of you who possess an iPhone – would you be willing to pay and download a game?

    I think this will pick up and die very quickly because the iPhone screen is too small, and the controls would be limiting, personally being a street fighter love, I like to feel the controls in my grip.

    I would probably jail break my phone or find an illegal download to this. Just as other purchase a MOD chip for their gaming systems.

    I am interested to see what you find and if other gaming companies will jump on the bandwagon. Usually if their is an Apple stamp, everyone seems to flock to the cash cow.

  2. Leslie 11:25, Feb 23rd, 10

    @Honieh- I’ll def go looking for that Media Week article- Thanks!

    There are a lot of potential positives/negatives to the iPhone as a gaming platform. But, I actually think the size works quite well as a portable gaming platform. It’s right in line with the PSP and Nintendo DS. Here’s an article comparing the size of the more popular portable gaming platforms: http://www.gamesradar.com/f/ipad-size-comparison-ds-psp-kindle-and-more/a-2010012712272486087. The comments are really interesting in the article too- a lot of people commenting that they don’t see the iPad as a viable portable gaming platform at all. And, I can see that- the iPad is a little bulky for portable gaming. Probably better as a portable reader.

    The virtual controls is a big concern, though, especially with a game like Street Fighter. I’m sure you know, as a fan of Street Fighter, how intricate the moves are and how precise the button movements must be to truly master the game. So, it will be interested to see what the avid gamers think of this virtual button platform. I definitely think there could be some problems. But, at the same time, would Capcom, being the big gaming company it is, just release a game without it being something it thinks will succeed? I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

  3. Harris 12:28, Feb 23rd, 10

    This is really really interesting!
    Here’s a video I came across a while ago, comparing DSi and iPod Touch:

    Gotgame compares the three platforms here:

    Coming to Street Fighter, I totally agree with your point about how precise and intricate the button movements need to be and if an iPod will be able to handle that – that’s the first thing I thought of when I heard about this. Do you think they’ll change the button/joystick sequences for all those moves to suit iPod?

  4. Leslie 14:33, Feb 23rd, 10

    Thanks for the video & article, Harris! That last point in the video is actually what I think is changing right now. They were correct in mentioning that the iPod touch (and iPhone) is a mini computer that just *happens* to play games. But, I think Apple is trying to change that as of recently. I think they’re trying to make a strong push for people to see Apple as a portable gaming unit on par with the big players, like Nintendo DS and Sony’s PSP.

    It looks like, as of now, the joystick/button movements will be the same, or at least very similar…but just in ‘virtual’ button form. But, I’m wondering if maybe Apple/Nintendo/Sony will come out with an external controller attachment that can be physically connected to the iPhone/iPod. I feel like that could be the move to make the iPhone a viable portable gaming unit. I know there’s a few indie developers out there who have made these physical controllers. But, we’ll see what happens with bringing this to the mass market!

  5. DanJee 15:30, Feb 23rd, 10

    Interesting. While a lot of people are not always interested or engaged in gaming, I think gamers are often the early-adopters who force technology to advance and challenge itself. It would be very interesting to see what the game world is doing with Apple and how they are “fighting” or “cooperating”. It definitely is a topic that we have not had a chance to look a lot into in class.