iPhones five-year gaming revolution

"This changes everything". Apple's ads and slogans have always tended towards the preposterously earnest and high-minded. But the influence of the iPhone, which turns five this week, is inarguable: it changed everything.

And that's as much true in gaming as anything else the all-conquering smartphone does. Want to know why Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are all terrified of Apple? It's not just about how many iOS devices there are in the wild (over 315 million) and how many apps have been downloaded (over 25 billion, with games the most popular type).

No, the real reason these titans of the video games world quiver like jelly at the mere suggestion Apple might be making a TV is that all of this success has come without the Cupertino company even trying. Apple made a platform. Everyone else made the games. Imagine, in other words, what would happen if they really started taking gaming seriously.

iPhone is at the centre of this revolution in interactive entertainment, a device that didn't exist when Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 3 launched, but which has fundamentally altered the way we play, when we play, what we play and – critically - how much we're prepared to pay to play, turning a 40 year-old industry upside-down in the process.

For decades we accepted that new games cost around £40. We'd buy as many as we could afford, trade-in and go second-hand for those we couldn't. That's just the way things were. What happens, though, when your new favourite game costs just 69p? Or nothing at all?

Smartphones are challenging, and in several cases, outright damaging the businesses of traditional games outfits. But that doesn't mean smartphone games are killing the console titles hardcore gamers know and love. Call of Duty is more popular than ever, and a touch screen will never replicate the feel and flexibility of a proper controller. People aren't quitting Xbox for iPhone: more people are playing games of all types.

But whatever threat Apple's devices represent to the grand old gaming firms is for them to worry about. For us lot, the App Store and iOS devices have proved revelatory, inspiring a new generation of game makers to go it alone, experiment, take a punt, and fail, fail, fail without falling into oblivion. Never forget that Angry Birds – the Super Mario of the 21st century – was Rovio's 52nd game. Can you name any of the previous 51?

From Cut the Rope to Crush the Castle, Rolando to Robot Unicorn Attack, Nightjar to New Star Soccer, and Quiz Climber to Quarrel, such oddball inventiveness could not have been more of a contrast with the play-it-safe, ain't-broke-don't-fix-it philosophy of blockbuster console development. When you're spending multiple years and tens of millions of dollars on a project, you don't get to try stuff out just for laughs.

The streets are no longer – if they ever were – paved with gold for the new wave of bedroom programmers and micro studios, though. There are over 100 games added to the App Store every day, flung into an unimaginably large crowd. Only the lucky few will rise to the top; and having a great game is no guarantee of anything, however much you spend on it. Just ask Whale Trail maker ustwo. How to get noticed is every iPhone developer's major concern.

Above all, though, iPhone has ensured playing great games has never been simpler. Whether Nintendo and Sony like it or not, your phone is the only essential gadget you carry with you at all times. Gaming is wherever you are, whether you've got one hand free or both, swaying drunkenly in front of a urinal, or contemplating suicide in the queue at Asda. It's just so easy to jump in, have fun, and jump back out again.

The uncertainty for Apple – if the widespread rumours of its TV set, which would then presumably bring apps into the living room, are correct – is whether these games belong on a telly. But then, we're just as likely to see entirely new experiences arrive, where your iPhone and iPad become the controllers. Why else do you think Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are desperately pushing their own visions for the 'second screen'? They fear what they think is coming.

The future, as ever, will attend to itself and predicting it is a mug's game anyway. After all, who would have said, five years ago, that in 2012 Apple - Apple - would be the dominant new force in gaming? Yet look what happened.

Happy birthday, iPhone.


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