Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

I Love AppStore (similar to, “I love lamp,” but without Steve Carell).

I love AppStore thumbnail

This was first published at iPGN. To view my original article, click here.

Before I jump into this, I just want to say one thing – I’m preaching to the choir. I know that. If you didn’t like gaming on your iPhone or iPod Touch, then you probably wouldn’t be at iPGN (see that logic? Yeah, that’s an if > then statement. Came up with it all by myself). With that mind, I’m here to tell you that the App Store is the greatest thing that’s happened to gaming in, well, years. I would say the greatest thing since sliced bread, but that’s clearly an exaggeration. And besides – I really like sliced bread.

Some of you might not agree with me. The App Store is just a software distribution system; how can it be the best thing to happen to gaming? Shouldn’t that be better graphics, or a killer story, or innovative control systems like what Sony and Microsoft announced at E3? You would think that, wouldn’t you? It’s not true. All those things are great, but they don’t just pop into existence by themselves. Somebody’s gotta come up with them – the developer. Arguably the most crucial sort of developer is the indie guy. He might not make a ton of sales, but the way he goes about developing is essential in the evolution of gaming.

In the PC and console gaming industries, it’s a sad fact that over time, one of two things will generally happen to independent developers. If they’re bad, they disappear. If they’re good, they’re usually bought by behemoth companies like EA, and the odds of us seeing the same level of creativity in their games is greatly diminished. Apple’s App Store is the perfect place for new developers to break into the market, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a good fit. Apple is all about creativity – indie developers match that ideal. I’m not saying that every one of them is magically more creative than the rest of us, so much as that their situation forces them to think outside the box. They can’t throw wads of cash at their game to make it appealing, so alternate routes are taken that traditional developers tend to ignore. The end result is usually a unique product with gameplay and mechanics that we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

As we’ve already established, most independent developers don’t have a very large budget. It’s blood, sweat, and tears they’re investing, not loads of money. Guess what? It’s a lot cheaper to distribute your game through the App Store than other avenues. As long as they can plunk down the $100 fee they’re in business. That low cost barrier is crucial – it gets more developers into the game, with more diverse backgrounds and skill-sets. That ultimate translates into a better, more extensive selection for users.

Additionally, the App Store system encourages user feedback – it even prompts you to submit a rating when you delete an app, for goodness’ sake. That organized, mass feedback is much more useful to indie developers than just showing their game to a couple of friends and hoping they’re truthful. It reveals trends in user thinking – what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to see in future updates – and they can adjust their plans accordingly. Along those same lines, the flexible pricing scheme of the App Store is yet another bonus for the indie guys. They can experiment with different price levels, put their products on sale after a major update, and react to dropping sales rates quickly and effectively. Heck, they can even undercut and potentially out-sale the “big boys,” mainstream developers who don’t have the same degree of flexibility that independent developers are afforded by their situation.

That’s not to say that it’s a perfect system – it isn’t. With the thousands upon thousands of games in the App Store, there are probably a lot of good games that are worthy of attention, but get lost in the crowd. It’s sad, and I sympathize with those promising developers that just can’t seem to catch a break, but it’s the nature of the beast; somebody is going to slip through the cracks. Also, Apple’s platform is still fighting the perception that it’s a poor choice for gaming. If it isn’t dedicated gaming hardware like the DS or PSP, it isn’t as good, right? That perception is flawed, but it can still stifle the development of titles that really push the boundaries of the system. Some developers will create what they know they can sell, not what reaches the platform’s potential. Even with these weaknesses, though, the App Store is still the best at what it does.

In the end, I love the App Store – not because it’s an amazing model (though it is pretty damn good), but because it gives small developers an opportunity to catch a big break. They’re able to do things with it that just aren’t possible with other platforms. With the upcoming release of the iPhone 3G S hardware, some of the negative stigmas surrounding the platform should disappear, and developers will be able to do even more. I can’t wait to see what they give us next.

Coming soon… I discuss micro-payments in the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0

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June 12, 2009 - Posted by | Gaming, Humor, iPhone/iPod Touch, Tech | , , , , , , , , , ,

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