The iPhone and App Store vs. Nintendo and PlayStation

Daniel Sung Mobile phones Leave a Comment

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Welcome to the second day of our App Store week at Tech Digest marking the first anniversary of the software gateway that’s helped put the iPhone on the map. That said, I largely decided yesterday that the App Store is a pile of novelty nonsense but one area I only really glanced at was its impact as a serious supplier of quality games.

Nintety-five per cent of the games are complete rubbish but there’s a few big gaming titles on there like Quake, Doom and Metal Gear Solid carrying the flame. More to the point, though, there’s potential, potential within the handset to deliver much more than the likes of Finger Sprinter and Where’s my Watermelon. The question is, is there enough in the iPhone/App Store combo to really pose a threat to the Nintendo DS and the PSP? Are they really in the same space and the even the same league. Come with me and we’ll take a look.

The first place to start is the hardware itself. Each handheld has a maximum storage of 32GB, depending upon how you expand it, which means the iPhone’s ok there. It’s not too shabby on processor power either which is going to be key to getting decent games to run.

The iPhone has only one 32-bit ARM CPU rather than the DSi’s dual chips and the PSP Go’s 64-bit MIPS unit but it is, at least, clocked nice and high in comparison at 600MHz rather than 133MHz on the DSi and the PSP Go at 333MHz. It’s not as good as 64-bit gaming but then, technically, nor is the DSi and it’s still in the realms of what the PlayStation 1 could do. Not bad for a handheld.

The second hurdle for App Store games is that even if the iPhone has nearly got what it takes on the inside, it might have some other physical restraints that the others don’t suffer from. It’s rather like dolphins and whales. They’re creatures of perhaps comparable intelligence to man but the trouble is where we had arms, legs, a good voice box and opposable thumbs to help us rule the world, they got rather trapped behind flat flippers and a problem with dry land. It must be rather like being Shaun Ryder – definitely something important going inside but no ability to express themselves. Anyway, I digress.

The point is that the PSP Go and DSi are built to play games. They have D-pads and fire buttons. The iPhone has a touchscreen. Gorgeous as that interface is, it’s not particularly well suited to all sorts of complicated, in-depth games. In fact, it rather lends itself to the usual brand of nonsense we see peddled at the App Store.

In its favour though, it does have an accelerometer – an interesting bonus over the other two. The 3GS also has a built-in compass and HSDPA connection and those could all add a certain interesting dimension to original gameplay. Sadly, though, those are really the trimmings and the iPhone’s going to need to get the basics right before it becomes a serious gaming handheld. Thankfully, at least the screen is comparable. It loses 0.3″ to the PSP Go and an entire other LCD to the DSi but it’s 3:2, 3.5″ touchscreen is certainly enough.

Battery-wise, the iPhone isn’t ideal but it should last you most of your day. I’m not sure how far it’ll get you playing solid games but far enough is the answer I’d suggest. Not great but it’s not going to be the area that holds it up.

So, the hardware isn’t ideal but it’s probably enough to compete with the other too particularly given that it makes phone calls as well as all the other internet browsing and multimedia functions that it does much better than both the PSP Go and the DSi. So, provided that the games at the App Store are as good, there’s a very good chance that a user might not bother buying a dedicated gaming device if they already have an iPhone.

The trouble is that it’s not a straight choice. The iPhone is prohibitively expensive for most users. The mobile gaming market is relatively young in its target group and the young are simply not as able to afford shelling out £200 plus £40 each month over the next 18; not when compared with a one off payment just over £100.

The games on the App Store are cheaper – certainly more so than those for Nintendo – but then, that’s partly because most of those games aren’t as good. What about if developers really go to town and make something decent? How much is that going to cost at the App Store.

And that leads me on to another good question. Will the developers see the App Store as a serious platform for serious games? What it does supply is a far easier way of getting your software out there. No need to worry about distribution when you can just stick it on iTunes; very quick, very convenient, very efficient and nobody to get in your way except the the big red button.

What’s more, there’s the cash. The 70/30 split on the App Store must be pretty tempting. All you’ve had to pay is your $99 for the SDK and then you can start packing a proper majority per centage for your game. It all sounds rather attractive for the burgeoning developer with bags of enthusiasm but not so many contacts and as much industry recognition.

But with the current set up, successful developers are going to want to move on. As we’ve already seen, the iPhone hardware is more limited than the other systems and the audience is limited too. There’s an impressive 22 million iPhones in the world but that’s only half as many PSPs as there are and a quarter of the 100 million DSs sold worldwide.

There’s also little in the way of marketing in the App Store – not compared to the tens of thousands of pounds that the games distributers and their PRs will throw at your product to make it an all time great. There is fortune, if not fame, to be made in the App Store but it tends to be for the nonsense. What serious games developer wants to bother with the iFart and perhaps there lies the real rub of the piece? The App Store is carving out a niche for itself as a mobile gaming haven but not one of quality and not for the serious gamer.

While that’s the case and while the hardware isn’t quite there, I find it very hard to see how the iPhone and App Store are in the same space as the DS and the PSP. There’s definitely a place in the future to go that direction if Apple decides to add a few more buttons and some more processor power, and certainly if Nintendo and Sony decide to add telephony to their handhelds but, for the time being, I’d say convergence hasn’t quite converged that far. Give it the App Store’s fourth birthday, though, and we might have a very different story.

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PlayStation Phone rumours heat up

Paul Lamkin Gaming, Mobile phones Leave a Comment

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We’ve reported on it a few times in the past but it seems that the Playstation phone rumours just won’t go away.

Reuters are reporting that Sony Ericsson could even have a project team put together to develop a Playstation-based phone as early as next month.

In the past there have been stumbling blocks with the development of the Playstation phone due to Sony not allowing Ericsson to use the Playstation brand. It seems though as this might be about to change.

It would definitely make sense for this concept to go ahead, not just because Sony Ericsson has successfully used the Walkman and Cybershot brands successfully in mobile phone handsets in the past, but also because a mobile phone would be the perfect platform for a download-only games platform similar to that of the impending PSP Go.

Related post: PSP Go facing trouble before it’s even released

(via Reuters)

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PSP Go facing trouble before it's even released

Paul Lamkin Gaming 5 Comments

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There’s trouble a brewing in Playstation land. First off Activision CEO Bobby Kotick says that he is “concerned” with the PS3 and its high costs to both developers and customers and now two games retailers have slammed the PSP Go by stating that there is hardly any demand for the forthcoming handheld.

Chips spokesman Don McCabe event went as far as to say that “he can’t see any justification for stocking it”. Chips has 36 stores nationwide.

Chris Harwood, on behalf of Grainger Games, which operates 21 stores in the UK said that “the PSP just seems to have died as a format” and stated that Grainger Games only sell around five PSPs a week in all of their shops. He expressed apprehension over the PSP Go’s proposed price of £200-£230. “It seems really high,” he said. “The models they’ve got out now are struggling at basically £129.”

Grainger Games and Chips are relatively small fish in the gaming industry but the comments aren’t going to be very welcome at Sony HQ.

Read all about the PSP Go here.

(via bit-tech)

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The PSP Go! is real. Officially real. But not officially launched

Oli Jones Gaming Leave a Comment

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A video has been “mistakenly” posted on Sony’s official website of their Qore TV show which had a feature on the 3.8 inch screened, 43% lighter-than-the-original, PSP Go! If that was a mistake then I’m a cake. The video was “hurriedly” pulled once the Tech-media had been given sufficient time to lap it up and post copies on YouTube, which are systematically being pulled at a leisurely rate.

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PSP Go! to be announced at E3 with PlayStation 3 Slim to follow

TechDigest writer Gaming Leave a Comment

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The PSP Go!, the little brother of the PSP with a sweet slide-out controller is real, and will be announced this week at E3. Equally real is the PlayStation 3 Slim, although you shouldn’t expect any annoucment on that to come out at E3.

That’s the news wafting around the webwires today. The apparently flash-based UMD-less PSP Go! will be sold alongside its bigger brother and will mark Sony’s first step to an all-digital business model, with PSP-Goers downloading all their games.

While last week pictures of the supposed PS3 Slim were touted around like those of an alien autopsy, Ars Technica’s “very very well informed mole” says that, they too, are real.

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Which when we consider his track-record: Patapon 2 sold as download only, Resident Evil V 360 bundle and not to mention the PSP Go! – it would seem they have someone very reliable, very deep within the bowels of Sony.

Suspiciously deep in my opinion. Call me a skeptic. No do. Say it. But I think Ars Technica’s mole might well be a double agent, feeding them what the old men of Sony want us to know, to generate some hype.

But that’s hardly important, it doesn’t do to speculate about the speculator’s speculation. What is important is the cool-as-your-gran, PSP-Go should be announced at E3 this week, and hopefully go on sale worldwide soonafter. What’s that? Your gran isn’t cool? Well mine is.

(Via Ars Technica)

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PSP 2 RUMOUR: Dates and details on the "PSP Go!"

Daniel Sung Gaming Leave a Comment

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Ignore the picture but word has it from a bloke who knows a bloke at Sony that the PSP2 will not have a number or code but instead a subtitle, such as the PSP monkey or PSP Armageddon or such. The best guess out there at the mo is that it’ll be the PSP Go! in line with their PSP services already released, but I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in that.

What does make sense are some of the details which suggest that the handheld will be unveiled at E3 in June, it’ll be out in the last quarter of 2009 and it will indeed have the much drawn slide-out screen. Whether it’s of the 800×480 pixel touch variety is another matter.

There’ll be just the one analogue joystick and one d-pad, no UMD disc drive but it will come in two iterations of 8GB and 16GB built-in flash memory. There’ll be 100 classic titles available for download at launch, including Gran Turismo, and, fingers crossed, it should be something special to fight off the DSi at one end and the iPhone 3G at the other.

Good luck Sony. Don’t think I’ve ever said that before?

(via 1UP)

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