How Apple’s iPhone changed gaming for the better and the worse

“Few could have predicted the meteoric rise of King, which began life in 2003 creating middling browser-based video games,” Mark Walton writes for Ars Technica. “Like others that had struggled to develop a foothold in the industry — Rovio, Chillingo, and Supercell, to name but a few — King’s fortunes changed when Apple, having released the first iPhone in 2007, finally caved to pressure from developers and released a native software development kit one year later.”

“While commonplace now, the launch of a unified digital storefront alongside a native SDK was revolutionary,” Walton writes. “The first native game for the iPhone came from Apple. Touch Fighter, unveiled alongside the SDK, might have been a mere tech demo, but the OpenGL graphics and touch and motion controls it pioneered became a blueprint for third-party developers… Sega unveiled a version of Super Monkeyball, which used the iPhone’s accelerometer to guide the titular monkey-in-a-ball around platforms like a modern-day Labyrinth.”

“The iPhone and the App Store didn’t kill the console, of course, not even the handheld. Those that failed — like Sony did with PlayStation Vita or Nintendo did with the Wii U — did so because they misunderstood what gamers wanted,” Walton writes. “Instead, the iPhone grew the market. Angry Birds and Peggle introduced whole generations of people, young and old, to games. Indies could experiment with quirky ideas, often to great success. Even as it grew into a billion dollar industry, games never achieved the sort of mainstream acceptance associated with films and television. But the iPhone turned everyone into a gamer.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The “worse” part would be some exploitative freemium games, but most of what iPhone (and iOS and the App Store) did for gaming was for the better!


  1. It made so many great changes to gaming. Pokémon Go would have NEVER been created in the 1990s or even the early 2000s, and I like those decades! That game could only have been possible in the iPhone era, and we should be thankful that Apple has created a future that we should be proud of.

  2. I think the iPhone itself has been a plus to gaming. From unique games to becoming an add-on device to traditional console games its been good.

    The only downside has been some of the developers, ad choked games, schemes with in-app purchases and poor ports of existing games are my only complaints.

  3. I used to love iPhone games….until freemiums were allowed and basically destroyed most of the games out there. Developers decided they could make more money that way….

    I stay away from freemiums because of that. I don’t want to pay $4.99 for 99 extra jewels… :/

    1. but there appears to be enough people out there willing to buy their way up to make the freemium game model compelling for developers.

      The low prices in the first year or two of the App Store were not going to last. $0.99 or $1.99 was not going to bring in enough money for many developers, especially if they needed a team and a host of servers to run their games. Most people recognized that and expected the prices of solid games to rise over time. But the freemium model mostly crushed that process.

      Freemium games, by their very nature, destroy much of the pleasure of gameplay. It does not matter if you spend real $$ to speed things up, or not. The gameplay is inherently compromised on all freemium games because they are focused on steering and manipulating people to spend money, or to watch intrusive advertisements in lieu of money. Even the better freemium games are crippled, just to a lesser degree.

      Freemium games have mostly squashed the old model of paying a single, upfront price for a complete game with the option of game expansion packs or a next generation game release at additional cost. Developers and investors want that steady income stream with periodic game updates to add a new level or set of monsters or whatever to keep people playing and spending.

      In my opinion, even the best freemium game is poison. The freemium model has destroyed gaming. It is free enterprise and greed at its worst. The product has lost out to the process.

      1. All valid points. The freemium apps will hit small developers the hardest because they can’t afford to advertise like the bigger app development companies.

        One would like to think that word of a breakout game would spread quickly on social media, which would negate the need to spend heavily on marketing. But it still means that the vast majority of games will not see much revenue over the shelf life of the app, which is probably measured in months if not weeks.

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