It’s groovy to start the day with a bit of Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner’s classic 1984 “Rockumentary.” Whether it’s playing “Tonight I’m Going to Rock You Tonight” on Guitar Hero 2 or grooving to “Sex Farm” on your iPod, the ‘Tap are still relevant in our post-modern era.
The classic Spinal Tap moment is when Lead Guitarist Nigel Tufnel explains that his custom-made amp is better than all others because the volume “goes to 11”:
“Eleven” is clearly better than “ten,” so let’s crank up the top 11 reasons why the iPhone is the future of gaming!
1. It’s not a phone, it’s a platform.
The iPhone is not a solitary device, but part of an integrated software/hardware package that grows in functionality over time through updates. It’s a full-fledged mobile computer masquerading as a cell phone or advanced iPod.
2. The iPhone defines the “fourth wave” of personal computing.
There have been three distinct waves of computer innovation that re-defined the user experience, created new markets, and kickstarted virtuous circles of growth and innovation. The Apple II/IBM PC/Commodore 64 were the first truly mass market computers and allowed “one user – one machine” type of interaction using a text-based interface. The second wave was the GUI (graphical user interface) pioneered by Xerox and made popular first by Apple’s Macintosh, then later became the world-standard in Windows 95. Netscape’s Navigator defined the third wave of user interaction, allowing users easy access to the internet, and gave rise to Google, Amazon, Facebook and a host of other companies which have changed our lives.
In my view, the iPhone defines the “fourth wave” — the age of true “anywhere, anytime” computing at the touch of a finger, with a unique and valuable combination of information services. In the very near future, iPhones and other similar smart phones will be necessities that replace regular cell phones. Two billion people worldwide have cellphones, so this wave of computing promises to be a tsunami that dwarfs the other three waves.
(sure, About.com says this image is a fake … but, damn, look at it!)
3. The install base is massively growing
Currently, the install base for the iPhone/iPod Touch is somewhere north of 30 million units, with 6.9 million iphones alone sold in Apple’s last quarter. By the end of 2009, this number will swell (conservatively) to 60 million users and could conceivably go much higher with the addition of Walmart to the retail channel.
4. iTunes and the App Store
According to Apple, there are over 65 million active accounts on iTunes and it is now the number one retailer of music in the United States. The App Store, which opened five months ago, now offers over 10,000 applications, approximately a third of which are games. As of December, Apple announced that the App store had surpassed over 300 million downloads.
5. Direct “anytime, anywhere” distribution
Users don’t have to connect to a computer or go to a store to buy the applications they want — they just have to browse and push a button. This aspect of instant gratification coupled with low price points and ease of use takes the pain out of trying something new, allowing game developers to experiment and create original and interesting experiences rather than have to rely solely on sequels or established franchises.
6. Pricing flexibility
Because the App Store allows game developers to more directly address their audience, developers have more control over the price of the Apps they produce, so they can match the scope of their games to a variety of price points from zero to $9.95. This is a very big deal and makes it painless for users to jump into the market by trying free Apps. It also allows developers to adjust the price of Apps already in the market and see almost instant results.
7. The software
Apple’s Touch based interface is significantly ahead of the competition and is being refined through regular software updates. Apple’s entire culture is based upon delivering innovative, elegant, simple-to-use experiences and it shows in the reviews and sales. The fact is that the iPhone caught the entire smart phone industry asleep at the switch.
8. The hardware
Apple has been making mass market, battery-intensive portable devices called iPods since 2001. In that time, they have out-innovated, out-marketed and outsold every competitor by significant margins. They have never been afraid to compete with themselves, eliminating market leading products (like the iPod Mini for example) with better ones rather than milk a product until its old age. Apple “eats its own children” and does so when they are barely out of their teens. This strategy is alien to most companies and makes it hard for them to compete.
9. The competition
I find it incredibly refreshing that no one yet knows what the killer game on the iPhone is going to be. The marketplace is so new, the audience so diverse, and the applications so many, that there is a lot of crap being thrown at the wall. Will Sony make the killer iPhone game? Will Microsoft? How about Nintendo? Nope. No sir. Not remotely. They all have a vested interest in not supporting Apple’s platform strategy, leaving an opening for smaller, more flexible companies to find their place in the sun.
10. The audience
Today, I don’t think users buy an iPhone primarily to play games. They buy it to replace their cell phone. Then they might use it to check email and the web. Maybe the third priority is getting an iPod to listen to music and watch movies. But, once they have the phone, they get access to the App Store and all its content as a bonus. How many new gamers are going to be created?
What kinds of experiences is this vast audience going to want? And when will games start becoming a primary driver of sales on the platform? Overnight, the iPhone could emerge as the Trojan Horse of game platforms, having already penetrated to every corner of the earth.
11. The Chance To Make A Dent In The Universe
This is the most important reason of all. In 1984, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh, the computer that changed my life and paved the way for my excuse of a career in publishing and video games. During the same year, Rob Reiner released This Is Spinal Tap. Coincidence? I think not …
We’ve hitched our fortunes to Apple’s iPhone with our startup company, Appy Entertainment. We’re currently prototyping our first game for this new, exciting, world-wide platform.
What do you think? Is the iPhone the fourth wave of computing, or will they have to pry your Blackberry from your cold, dead fingers? Comment below!
Time to turn it up to 11!