For the last 24 hours it seems that no matter where you look, you just can’t get away from the Verizon iPhone 4 announcement. And while we would normally stray away from such tech related stories, we’re making an exception because of the iPhone and it’s position as a gaming platform. Love it, hate it, call it casual, but one thing you can’t deny is the power of the iPhone and the iOS platform and its uncanny ability to trick people into gaming. I like to call it a “gateway console”. It’s worth taking a good look as to what this latest announcement means for our favorite hobby and why it’s a great time to be a mobile gamer.
What is the big deal?
If you’re an owner of the Apple iPhone, and you live anywhere in or near a major American city, then you already know where I am going with this. Service on AT&T’s network is anything but ideal, with users claiming to have tons of calls dropping on a daily basis as well as serious data speed issues. The company who’s known for “raising the bar” has been rolling out 3G updates to it’s network for the past three years but has yet to been able to keep up with the demanding strain iPhone customers have placed on its network. Verizon has been fortunate enough to watch from the sidelines while all of the AT&T network subscribers performed one giant cellular beta test and has used that time and data to make the necessary preparations.
Why will this launch be different?
Well duh, did you not just read how the last bullet point ended? Verizon has been prepping for this phone for about as long as they’ve been testing it behind the scenes (since 2008). In that time they’ve made some serious headway in the form of running fiber throughout their entire network, making sure that their towers are prepared for all of the data, not to mentioned that they’ve had a good warm up period with the explosion of Android devices for the carrier (which consume just as much data). The biggest reason why this launch will be very different from 2007 is simple. When the iPhone originally launched 4 years ago, there was no iTunes and more importantly no App Store. Customers on the big red V will immediately have access to both, which will create for an instant network stress test right from the very start, and because of it if they do see spikes in data, they can address the network needs accordingly.
What does it mean for App and Game Developers?
As of right now, in the realm of mobile gaming the iOS software is king. And while Google’s Android operating system has made leaps and bounds in almost half the time, even at one point surpassing the iPhone platform in terms of US market share, developers have yet to really break ground in terms of returns and sales on Android. The biggest difference maker between the two is accessibility; on Android a developer could potentially create apps for customers on every major US carrier, on iOS their application or game was limited to only At&t.
With Verizon now jumping into the mix you are now talking about a group of 83 million potential subscribers, obviously not all (and probably not even half) of those will get an iPhone, but I’m sure over the next year or so a good chunk of them will. Those new converts will be joining a group of about 20 million existing US iPhone customers. If you break down the numbers and combine both carriers, what you’ll realize it that once the Verizon announcement became official, the iPhone became available to almost 60% of the entire US cellular market share. In the words of Ron Burgundy, that’s “kind of a big deal.” It’s certainly a sweet slice of money pie that I’m sure all app and game developers will be trying to grab a piece of, and with so much at stake it may just be enough to make some developers forget about other platforms all together.
What does it mean for us gamers?
With Apple potentially gobbling up so much market share it will be as good as a time as any to snag up not just an iPhone but pretty much any iOS device. For the same reason above, developers will hold the iOS to a much higher regard than any other platform and with Verizon launching their iPhone that will only be solidified even more so. Remember early on in the PS3’s life cycle when it was receiving shoddy ports from the 360? That was happening for two main reasons; the first being that developers were not familiar with the system’s architecture yet (which isn’t an issue for iOS) and the second is because the 360 at the time had a 10 million unit lead in market share thus lowering the priority for PS3 ports. It’s simply good business sense, support the highest selling device and it will guarantee the highest returns. With 20 Million plus iPhones already out there and the potential for about 25 – 35 million more in the US alone, if you’re a mobile gamer like me, the next couple of years are going to get very interesting… unless of course you game on Android.