Is Apple a True Contender in Video Games?

Apple are continously gaining ground within the video game market. Once a computer company, Apple have begun to tap into the gaming industry by releasing increasingly powerful handheld devices such as the iPhone and iPad which developers are already making big money from with more developers creating or porting games over to the devices. Could Apple really compete with the likes of Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft?

Should Nintendo and Sony be viewing Apple as a threat to their handheld ground?

Before gaming really became as widepread and accepted in society many different companies had their share of the video game market. During the 1970’s a long list of companies began to distribute their own home computers which could also be used to play video games. Due to the over saturation of the market with low quality games the famous “Video Game Crash” of the early 1980’s wiped out many competitors and threatened to effectivy kill the video game market. Nintendo released the NES in the years that followed which seemed to save the market from it’s certain death. The difference here is the NES was not a home computer like the masses of gadgets released at the start. The NES was a dedicated game console.
The release and popularity of Nintendo’s little grey box brought new life into the gaming market and soon enough other companies decided to go for the gold. Atari and Sega became top competitors with Nintendo until both Atari and Sega dropped out of console manufacturing as Nintendo’s popularity hindered their profits.

In the past decade Microsoft made it’s move and entered the console market after Sega (Microsoft were actually involved in Sega’s last console) decided to drop out. They joined Nintendo and their newest rival Sony, who seemingly defeated Nintendo during the previous console generation. These three companies are, to this day, the big rivals of the video game industry. Gaming has become an pass time not just enjoyed by nerdy kids anymore, these companies have revolutioned the industry and made billions from the market. Now, a forth competitor is attempting to enter the fray. Apple.

Left: 9.7″ screen iPad – Right: iPhone 4

Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, a smart mobile phone who’s monumental success revolutionized the mobile phone industry the same way the big 3 changed the gaming industry. The iPhone brought higher specs into it’s phones meaning it could do a decent job at running games. Much better games than previous phones could do. Because of this, Apple has started to make a shift into gaming through annual releases of higher specced iPhone and iPod Touch devices with increased graphical power.

The first generation of Apple’s iOS devices were not completley targetted towards gaming in the “hardcore” sense and hardware was lacking the speed needed for the activity.  The 3rd generation iOS devices brought with it vastly superior hardware compared to it’s predecessors as Apple seemed to be trying to tap into the gaming market with what is basically a handheld console. Afterwards, Apple released the Ipad tablet computer, another IOS device with a 9.7″ screen with similar computing power to the iPhone 3GS. A great tool productivity tool but with a screen of that size in your hand gaming on the device is attractive.

Gaming on iOS devices has been known to bring developers mass amounts of profit very quickly. Titles are distributed via Apple’s App Store service with the games being offered for prices hugely lower than the £25-40 games that we are used to with developers like Rovio seeing these prices turn into incredible success stories with the mega popular puzzle game “Angry Birds” which has brought the developers millions and has caused the game to become a franchise of toys, apparel and even a movie.

Epic Citadel shows the power of Apple’s hardware

Games that have been released on Apple’s handheld products were originally seen only as casual titles, those which are played for small increments maybe while travelling to work or waiting in line. Because of this nobody really saw Apple as a threat to traditional gaming.
The three major companies have not considered Apple to be a potential rival to their territory, but Epic games (creators of Gear of War) have been able to demonstrate the power of these iOS devices by publishing their own title on the App Store, a tech demo of sorts, Epic Citadel. Epic Citadel, created with their own Unreal Engine, allows the user to navigate around a beautiful castle kingdom, a true demostration to how gaming can look on these devices.

Not long after the release of Epic Citadel one of Epic Games’ own studios release Infinity Blade onto the App Store. Infinity Blade used the castle landscape of Epic Citadel to create a true RPG onto Apple’s platform. Inifinty Blade has been described as  “a turning point for iOS” for it’s ability to create a console like experience to a device with no physical buttons.

Apple are ready to release their second generation iPad this month which carries a dual core processor and 9x faster graphical power. Developers have already release updates to current games to take advantage of this speed increase and with an integrated HDMI output, the iPad 2 can essentially become a home console – handheld hybrid. The video below shows Infinity Blade running on the new iPad 2 and being outputted to a 50″ television.

Recently Nintendo seem to be ready to view Apple as a rival as their devices gain ground and increased computing power continues to attract developers who have since released titles like Dead Rising, The Sims and the episodic Back to the Future titles. Many people are beginning to ask if the low selling price of iOS games (between 50p – £6) have begun to threaten the traditional selling points of the games which we are used to. Though you have to wonder if the cost of the iPhone and iPad really allows them to shine through as gaming devices as the majority of those able to afford them may not really be interested in games. This is where the iPod Touch comes in. The iPod Touch carries the same processor as it’s phone and tablet relatives but is sold at a much more affordable price point.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said to Forbes last year;

“Do I think that in the near term they can hurt us more than Microsoft? Absolutely.”

Although Microsoft doesn’t currently have a handheld console on the market. How much damage have Microsoft done on the handheld front?

Could Apple really gain good ground as a contender in the handheld market?

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