It's been suspected, and Apple itself hasn't missed the marketing opportunity, but it looks like the iPhone and iPod Touch are turning into serious gaming systems. The latest confirmation of this? EA's releasing a bunch of big-franchise games.
EA's upcoming games are Need For Speed Shift, Spore Creatures, and The Simpsons Game—titles that are among the company's upper-tier offerings on other gaming systems. As noted over at VentureBeat, these are titles that could be called second-generation iPhone games, coming after the initial wave of simple, casual games that were quickly written (or were classics that ported across from other platforms) in order to make the most of the App Store gold rush.
Those first iPhone games were by no means a bad thing—they quickly established how powerful the iPhone really was, and demonstrated the prodigious power of the App Store. And that then attracted the bigger names in game writing. Which is where EA enters the scene. The notion that these three new big titles are "second generation" comes from the time and investment EA has made in optimizing the games' software to squeeze even more out of the iPhone's processing and graphical powers, and in adjusting the game play to suit the touchscreen and accelerometer systems in the device.
Hence Need For Speed Shift has much better graphics than an earlier Shift title, with shadows and lighting effects made possible by the OpenGL 2.0 ES capabilities of the phone, and has tilt-control steering. And the cash investment EA has made is demonstrated by the 20 car options licensed from real car makers. Spore Creatures is a prequel to the successful Spore, with simpler 2-D graphics than Shift, but with the same sort of complex creature editing that makes the full Spore title so clever. The Simpsons Game speaks for itself, and is a neat tie-up of the iPhone's touchscreen, purported e-comic powers and a highly prominent title.
What's the bigger picture though? It's an interesting one: The App Store has seen an explosive growth, and the biggest slice of the app pie consists of games. So far the titles have mainly been new, or simple classics with the odd big-name game thrown in. But with EA spending the kind of money they seem to be on the new games, it's an undeniable sign that the App Store is maturing, and turning into a big enough market that the billion dollar gaming industry is sensing opportunities. If more and more big-name games make their way onto the platform, that's going to radically change the landscape—it'll be harder for mom and pop games to get noticed, for one. And it'll really highlight the iPhone/iPod as the future for portable gaming...especially when the next iPhone comes out in mid-2010 with even more impressive graphics and processing powers.
I have just one complaint: These three games may be sweet, but where the heck is my iPhone version of SSX. Surely the accelerometer and touchscreen are just built for this sort of fast-paced snowboarding title, hey EA Sports?