You take games too seriously.

iPhone’s TKO


Wedbush Morgan’s game analyst, Michael Pachter, expressed my feelings on the ‘iPhone as gaming messiah’ in a simple point.

I don’t see it as a viable gaming platform, due to the cost of owning one. The iPhone costs $400 plus an AT&T wireless subscription for voice and data, I’m guessing this is $80 a month, so the addressable market doesn’t really fit the core gamer demographic.”

My issues with the touch screen, Apple’s inexperience, and bland game releases, all mean nothing compared to the all-mighty dollar.

Will you pay a $400 buy in and $80 a month for portable Spore? Or will you avoid it like the Noid?

Next-Gen.Biz: Pachter: iPhone Gaming Not Commercially Sound
Image: Link



Filed under: Industry, Portable Media, , ,

Chao’s Dead. Long Live Chao!

Did you respond to a single point I made? Your counter-points sound like cut/pastes from flame wars. You don’t like buttons because of the N-Gage? Try out an NES emulator on an iPhone. The lack of physical response undermines the platform.

Sure, the iPhone is not built for old school games. It is suited for games yet designed. But if you’re telling me bread and water indie companies can afford to try out complicated new mechanics—mechanics that feel responsive and finessed—you’re sorely mistaken. Wii games have found success on novelty, but more and more designers dread the time and money required to develop intuitive controls for an exclusive Wii release. Why waste that effort, when casual players will pay the same price for Gingerbread Warrior or any other release equivalent to a flash game? I think better companies might soon head for better pastures (i.e.: Suda 51), and leave smaller studios to publish the vomitware. If not for Nintendo’s own releases, the system would resemble the ill-fated Atari 2600.

Do not be surprised if this novelty issue happens with the iPhone.

As for criticizing the Skate 2 idea and Fable, I figured you would extrapolate the example yourself. Of course, Sam, all portable mini-games won’t be level grinders. There are many different ways to accomplish connectivity, and you named a great one: the VMU Chao from Sonic Adventures.

Like many Sega ideas, the VMU was far ahead of its time, and you can thank it for many iPhone and DS design choices. But let’s focus on the Chao. You ignore the popularity of products like Webkinz. A smart developer would put a Webkinz app on the iPhone that could connect and directly affect the Webkinz on the family iMac or PC. Kids would beg their parents to buy the app, funneling even more cash into the massive Webkinz industry. So I’ll agree the iPhones not so bad, and you’ll agree about the Chao.

Yet, to keep this short (after your long-winded hubbub), I feel you doubt the power of the game medium. It is odd that you seem to believe there’s an impassable gulf between regular gamers and casual gamers: people who will play on the sofa and those who’ll never step out from their safe Minesweeper corner.

I think you do the industry wrong, and have subconsciously propagated the myth that there are gamers and there are normal people. We both know that’s not true. Simply, I believe in the next five years platforms like the Wii and iPhone will spread gaming, but it will flourish on consoles. As I said, casual games are the seed for gaming habits, much like cartoons and newsreels were the seeds that helped launch the film industry from novelty to a respected medium and art form nearly a century ago.

I concede, the iPhone will find success; I assumed that the moment I learned of the SDK. But that wouldn’t make for a good argument, would it?

Yet, I’m not prepared to call the iPhone God’s gift to gamers. I think it will please iPhone owners, and might persuade those on the edge to finally make the switch. I do not believe, though, gamers will pick up the iPhone as a new portable console. While it will find success as a great phone with wonderful options, I do not see players putting away their Zunes or DSs or PSPhones. They especially won’t as the line between gamer and casual player diffuses; as gamers, as a whole, shift from a minority to a majority; and while three of the strongest names in game refuse to share their pie.

Image: NetRaptor

Filed under: Commentary, Industry, Portable Media, , , , , ,

Chris’s N-Gage Brings All The Girls to the Yard


You made a few points, Chris. Some of them are even worth talking about. 

No industry experience. 

Fine by me. The people with industry experience are the game developers, who suddenly have a (supposedly) feature-rich set of APIs, for a platform that fundamentally, they understand. It’s a pretty simple computer-like environment – not a whole new world of deeply confusing chips and Emotion Engines (or whatever they’re calling the PS3 – I skipped the tech demos), but a well-documented world where they have the power to work on the projects they want to.

No portable gaming hardware experience.

Again. It’s not a portable gaming system. Neither is the Zune, which you seem to be pretty pumped about. And Sony didn’t have any portable gaming experience before the PSP, which, if you want, we could argue about how big of a trainwreck that really is. Apple has a well-made device that EVERYONE wants and EVERYONE wants to program for. The games will come.

No games unavailable on superior systems.

Yet. Don’t tell me that people won’t be pushing the iPhone in cool new directions. Accelerometers, multi-touch controls, location-based services in the OS, custom soundtracks – there’s a lot of stuff in here nobody can do anywhere else, and there’s a lot of programmers who are going to be racing to make the hit iPhone game. If there are 10 million iPhones in the wild, and if a hundredth of a percent of those people check out your game, you’re making a lot of money. Quickly. 

No buttons.

Thank god. Notice the N-Gage, above? The must unique, stunning element of the iPhone is the multi-touch and the intuitive, clever design throughout. When my mom sees an iPhone, she wants to touch it, to play with it. That’s never happened with my Nintendo DS or my BlackBerry. Let’s just assume for a minute that game developers can figure out something to do with a hyper-sensitive, super-high-res multi-touch surface.  

Something about Synergy and XNA and playing a mini-game on your Zune to buy a new skateboard in Skate.

This is worth responding to on its own. Peter Molyneux made a big stink at GDC by talking about how his new project, Fable 2, was going to integrate itself with an Xbox Live Arcade gambling title he would also design. Money earned in the gambling game would be transferred over into Fable 2. The idea is that players who want to earn money in the game should earn it through gambling, or paid quests, because there’s no logical reason a demon skeleton in a dungeon would be carrying a bag of gold. 

(Molyneux is one of those people who wants to simulate real economies and real family dynamics in his games, but still have the real point of the game to be fighting demon skeletons in a dungeon. He probably has the whole of the Silmarillion committed to memory) 

So anyway. Chris is clearly ripping that idea off and talking about Skate 2, where he will apparently have a mini-game where he… works in a skate shop? On his cell phone, until the thrilling result of scraping together enough money to buy a new deck (or trucks. or whatever you call it). Therefore, the future of gaming is that every game will not just expect you to waste precious couch-hours on it, but that if you really want to succeed, you’d better spend your subway time on level-grinding your characters? Will the money I make in the Fable 2 mini-game convert over to the Skate 2 mini-game? Will it destroy the beautifully real sensations that Peter Molyneux wants me to feel?

Come on. Do we trust game companies not to turn this into a painful gimmick? Like, say, another groundbreaking piece of synergy we all remember and love…


The VMU. Because carrying your Sonic Adventure Chao with you everywhere really changed the way you play the game. Fable 2 has a cool idea, but it’s not going to change the games industry. Neither would a PSPhone. 

Sure. The PlayStation 3 looks like it’s going to have a great year. I can’t say anything but Little Big Planet has me excited (and I can’t say you’re doing anything but deluding yourself if you don’t think that Home is a ridiculous idea), but I can see how some people are going to get pretty pumped about it.But the thing is, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not saying that people who play casual games necessarily will go home and unplug themselves, that they won’t be logging couch-hours along with the rest of us. I think that’s going to be the case for a fairly large group of people, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

What I am saying, though, is that you can’t win new gamers – or the casual set – with something that looks and feels like a game console. That has a dozen buttons, and that doesn’t do non-game things well. Maybe Sony can pull it off – but Sony first has to learn that the most important thing is to create something intuitive and beautiful, something that people from all demographics want to use. And so far, I can’t think of that ever having been their target market.

A PSPhone would sell well. The iPhone will change portable gaming. The end. 

Filed under: Commentary, Portable Media, , , , , , , ,

My Girlfriend Has a Better Game System Than Me, pt. 2: Portable Gaming’s Real Future

Kool-Aid Man

I see the positives of this wacky iPhone Kool-Aid, but what about the negatives:

  • No industry experience.
  • No portable gaming hardware experience.
  • No games unavailable on superior systems.
  • No buttons.

First, you were right to bring up my love for the XNA platform, but you ignored its best feature: synergy. No, I’m not just spouting a word I learned from “In Good Company,” I’m talking about a console and a portable working together like never before. Say I wanted to make a couple virtual dollars to buy a new board in Skate 2. I play my portable Skate 2 mini-game on the subway, which offers that opportunity to make in-game money on the go. I get home, plug in, and buy my board. Suddenly, my portable game play feels put to good use.Zune game play affects 360 game play and likewise. What will the iPhone do? You connect it to your Powerbook and what? Maybe you could make a sweet Marathod mod. Err.Come on, Sam, we have seen Apple’s pony show before. Remember, when Halo was a Mac exclusive? Or what about last year, when EA and id promised same day software releases on PC and Mac? Sure, Spore’s a big name, but don’t tell me you would ever play Spore on the iPhone over a PC. Need I only remind you of The Sims DS.Now, I am going to take a step from reality, and calmly enter La La Land.Sam, the PSPhone is the way of the future. No, seriously, listen. Sure, it’s not out. Sure, I would be embarrassed to use it—at first. Yet, it is so perfect. You have the sleek style of the iPhone, the connectivity of the Zune, and a system that plays rich, deep games. Buttons, Sam, it has buttons!Don’t feed me shit about Playstation’s sudden decay. This year just might end in their favor with Metal Gear Solid 3, Little Big Planet, Home, and Killzone 2 on the way. Imagine a portable phone that allowed full interactivity with all those games on the go, or, even better, remote play.No gamer would play Bubble Bobble when Little Big Planet’s remote play rests at their eager fingertips. And that’s coming from a recovering Bubble Bobble addict.But maybe, just maybe, I missed the point. Maybe the iPhone isn’t aimed at these gamers. Maybe it expects the player to go home and live a life without games, one where they don’t need to plug in on the couch. Then maybe you’re right.Nah. Casual games are a gateway drug, leading players to pick up 360s or PS3s and commit time to a real gaming habit. My dad finally dropped some cash for his first game system since the Commodore 64 last year, a Wii. Now, he’s beat Mario Galaxy and pre-ordered Smash Bros. Brawl. He’s not ‘hardcore,’ but he’s definitely not casual. Game’s are the medium of our generation, and as more people become gamers—parents, co-workers, long hated rivals—they’ll want connectivity. They’ll want their game play to mean something as a whole, or at least, they’ll want it to appear to mean something.Seriously though, in lazy metaphorical terms, Peggle (like most casual games) is a one-night stand. Gamers, nay, people need something to which they can commit, both on the go and at home.And whatever it may be, they won’t be playing it on an iMac. Not yet.NOTE: Maybe we’re both wrong. Word on the street is the Gizmomdo’s heading straight to the top, see.

Filed under: Portable Media, , , , , ,

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