iOS Gaming: Now I Believe
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently jumped on board the iPhone train. After spending some time with it and sampling some of the many games that are available for the device, I can honestly say that my time with dedicated handhelds is probably over. Affordable games, impressive visuals and sound, and plenty of variation in genres and offerings make iOS devices compete favorably with the DS and Vita handhelds we see now.
I’m certainly not out to sway anyone from their preferences. If you bought and if you enjoy your 3DS or Vita, that’s fantastic. I’ve always said that there will be a market for them. For me, though, I was very surprised with the gaming experiences that awaited me on my iPhone 4S. Augmented reality is there. Tilt controls are there. Touch controls, while obviously not as responsive or accurate as traditional controller inputs, are acceptable as long as the game is built with touch in mind and not a port with adapted control schemes. I’ve got pinball games to hold my interest from Farsight Studios and from Zen Studios. I’ve got arcade-based games like Galaga S and Galaxian S that work surprisingly well. I’ve got a pretty neat puzzler in Castlevania Puzzle, which appeals to me as a fan of the series and adapts the idea for a touch screen instead of porting an older game with potentially rough play control. I’ve got a really cool shooter in Star Wars: Falcon Gunner that satisfies my arcade and Star Wars appetites while letting me dabble in augmented reality if I wish.
For what amounts to the price of a downloadable game on Xbox LIVE Arcade or the PlayStation Store, I have a library of seven games to play on the go… and I haven’t even taken a look at free offerings too much just yet.
I’ll admit that I’d rather play with a more traditional controller, as that’s what I’m used to. I admit that sometimes my thumbs get in the way of the action, and, on occasion, the touch screen is inconsistent with its sensitivity. It’s not a perfect experience, but when I consider everything else that I can do with this device– phone calls, text messaging, web, decent photo and video tools, productivity apps, and a lot more that I haven’t even tried yet… thinking about spending $250 on a Vita or $200 on a 3DS seems redundant. I don’t want to carry two gadgets when one fills my needs adequately or better.
I know that I’m not alone in thinking this way, either.
People are still playing video games, and will for a long time. The problem is that portable tech has caught up to dedicated handhelds in many respects, and the biggest attraction is that there’s a lot to choose from and it’s almost all significantly cheaper than what we see on the Vita and 3DS. There aren’t enough reasons for more casual players to make that second investment when they already own smartphones and tablets. Core players will still buy handhelds and will always rail on the lack of a controller, and that’s perfectly fine. For me, smartphone gaming is an imperfect but still enjoyable experience that’s less expensive, more varied, and is good enough to satisfy my gaming urges when I’m not here at home.
As an analyst, it’s been clear to see that a gradual market shift has been occurring as handheld hardware sales– despite new platforms– have been generally struggling here in 2012 while the mobile sector has been growing. Now, as a longtime video game player and with first-hand experience of what iDevices bring to the table, I can see why the shift is happening. You can complain about lack of depth, lack of a controller, the advancement of the freemium model, and more… but a growing number of people don’t care enough about any of that.
It will be very interesting to see how Sony and Nintendo deal with the challenges posed by the mobile sector as we move forward. It looks like more games will be coming for both the 3DS and the Vita later this year, which solves one problem. Now they have to get consumers to buy in… and not just the core consumer that has been on the fence, either. Trying to win back the casual consumer is important; without them, revenues will continue to slide and questions about the viability of the dedicated handheld market will continue to be asked.