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A, B, Up, B, Select: Are Gamers Poised to Press Reset on the Gaming Paradigm?

Yes, PLEASE Capcom! Please make a iPhone version! Because that’s what everyone demanded! NO ONE asked for a PSP, DS, or godforbid, a WII version of the game! Thanks a lot! I don’t care if you worked on the control scheme alot, I’ve tested iPhone games for months, and they all control horrendously. I especially love how your thumbs would cover half the screen! Awesome!”

Here started my journey to become a well versed, knowledgeable “gamer girl.” The purpose? To determine the hype around Street Fighter IV hitting the iPhone, as well as determining whether or not the iPhone was attempting to position itself to be the next big portable gaming system, and finally to assess what gaming consumers thought of all this hoopla. And, of course, to also play some badass games along the way!

Can play against others in SF via Bluetooth

Can play against others in Street Fighter via Bluetooth on iPhone

My adventure started after hearing that Capcom was to be releasing their highly acclaimed Street Fighter IV to the iPhone. Being a newbie to the gaming world, my initial thoughts were, “well that’s interesting- is this the first time a more traditional game is making its way to the iPhone?” After some research, I discovered that while Street Fighter is not to be the first full-fledged iPhone game, it is the first one to be built from the ground, up specifically for Apple’s device; the game was not ported over from another gaming system (Gaming Dictionary 101: “Port” (n.; pôrt) 1.When a game is rewritten to be compatible with another operating system/console).

While I’ve played Street Fighter in my younger years, I did not know enough about it to fully assess what this game coming to the iPhone meant without doing some thorough investigating. After talking to gamers and visiting forums, I quickly learned that the game using virtual controls (as opposed to the traditional physical control pad) was a big deal, as for the more advanced players, the game is heavily dependent on controls. This nonetheless left many questions for gamers: Would the virtual controls be “good” enough? Would the player be able to operate the character to the extent that physical controls allow? To my surprise (and probably also to the surprise of many hardcore gamers), Charles Onyett, a writer for IGN,  mentioned that he was impressed with the game, noting that it is, “pretty, functional, and coming out in March.” As of now, the game has yet to be released.

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This wasn’t the only big portable gaming news to be released during my past two weeks as a gamer girl, though. Some important highlights included: Sony to release a PSP phone and tablet, a representative from Nintendo comments that the company isn’t worried about Apple, and  Resident Evil 4: for Beginners & Final Fantasy I & II were released on the iPhone.

So, the corporate gaming companies seem to be accepting the iPhone as a viable gaming device, and Apple is making a demonstrable effort to penetrate this gaming community. That’s nice. But, what about the actual gamers? Will they buy into this? The gaming community tends to be very brand loyal. Will Apple be accepted in this Sony and Nintendo dominated community? My adventure continued to Level 2: Realm of the Forums, with my “stages” of choice including: IGN, NewGrounds, G4TV, and Capcom-Unity.

The battles were rough, and unexpected to my initial thoughts, no clear winner emerged. What the results essentially came down to were 3 categories: the believers, non-believers, and agnostics.

the iphone is the stupidest system there is, its more of a little novelty system than a gaming system so how can you want a portable sf4 iphone game as compared to psp, or wii which’s motion controls would make for a good game if done correctly…iphone is not a console…”

While the above quote is a little more straight forward than the one mentioned in the beginning of this article, they both say the same thing: the iPhone is no more than a phone; it is not meant to be a portable gaming system. This was the standard stance of the non-believer. This thought process usually wasn’t based on concrete evidence of any sort, though. It simply seemed that the non-believer was steadfast to their loyalty to the “traditional” gaming companies of Nintendo and Sony. To them, the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP were the equivalent of portable gaming; Apple was the equivalent of phones and computers; there could be no overlap.

I think it is great news that it’s [Street Fighter] going to be the iPhone, think about it. How long do you think it will be before your portable gaming device is your phone, mp3 player, web browser, etc. I know this is true for some people already, but I’m talking about HD graphics, smooth online play, and AAA titles, all on your phone. Imagine if SSFIV was coming to iPhone, fully functional, with new bluetooth Fight Sticks with 0 Latency, and your new iPhone6G has the standard HD projector on it. We’re talking about SSFIV, big scree, with fight stick, anywhere you want to go. You could throw a tournament at the beach with a bonfire, get a bunch of white screens, set up your phones and play. This is why I’m glad it’s on iPhone, it’s a great big step in the right direction.”

On the other hand, those who were excited about playing more traditional games on the iPhone seemed to better understand the phone’s potential; they knew the raw power (in the sense of RAM) that the phone had, even stating that it was more powerful than the Wii home console system.  Because of this, they knew that the device could support detailed graphics, and with the right programming and design, could successfully mimic the traditional physical control in virtual form. Hence, those of the “believer” seemed to be more educated on the actual device of the iPhone.

I love my iPhone. I think it CAN do games, but the on-screen control thing is annoying. Get me a game dock and it’s on.”

The agnostics were skeptical, but within reason. They thought the iPhone had potential, but just didn’t feel like the device was quite there yet. As stated in the quote above, the idea of a physical control pad add-on was a significant selling point for many agnostics. It seemed like they were just waiting for a more direct, observable push to make Apple a viable gaming system.

PSP Phone?

After interacting with gamers about the iPhone as a gaming system, I was particularly interested in seeing what gamers thought of Sony coming out with a phone version of their PSP. I thought this could very well be the answer gamers were looking for. For the most part, this seemed true! After looking through comments on articles from a variety of sites, there was an general overall consensus of excitement.

Finally a true all in one gaming phone with PSP graphics. Now thats worth my dollars, why have multiple devices in your pocket. CANT WAITE…. happy

It will be interesting to see how quickly Sony tries to release their PSP Phone and PSPad. Will the phone be released before Apple’s next iPhone update? Will the PSPad come out soon after Apple’s release of their iPad (which is to be released on April 3rd)?

When it comes to an all-in-one device, it seems to be that the gaming portion of the device is the most important aspect for the avid gamer (and that “gaming” = a specific device made for the activity, vs. a phone that can also play games). Hence, since the average gamer tends to be very brand loyal, I am sure they will be waiting for the PSP Phone with open arms (granted that it matches, or surpasses, the standards the iPhone set). But, for the average consumer that likes to play games every once in a while, Apple’s iPhone looks like it will be providing some entertaining opportunities in the future.

Only time will tell who and what the consumer will choose; the decision is ultimately in their hands. In the meantime, I’ll personally be waiting to see when/if Nintendo will be more distinctly joining the fight!