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Game-Makers Rush The iPhone

Posted by: Matt Vella on March 11

iphone44.jpgHot on the heels of Apple’s (AAPL) unveiling of an iPhone software development kit last week, game-makers are rushing to join Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Sega (SGAMY) in planning games for the coveted uber-device. Yesterday, mobile developer Gameloft (GLOFF) announced it was cooking up some 15 games for the iPhone for 2008. Game designers, it seems, have been chomping at the bit to create titles for Apple’s hot-selling phone.

Id Software’s legendary John Carmack also entered the fray, posting his company’s initial plans on Slashdot. “We have put in our application like everyone else,” he wrote, adding, “I don’t have any inside information at this point. I think Steve is still pissed at me over some negative comments I made about iPod development tools a while ago.”

Carmack also pointed out that – as far as marketing and distributing games is concerned – Apple’s plan to use the iTunes store to package and promote new software could be a major breakthrough for mobile games publishers. In other words, the iTunes store could provide a much more attractive billboard to trumpet new titles than currently exists. (Currently most mobile game stores are over-the-air or phone based, hard to navigate, constrained, and generally cumbersome.) He wrote, “This type of developer / customer interaction is probably the wave of the future for mobile devices, it will be interesting to see how quickly the other players can react. Based on our experiences with the carriers, I am betting not very quickly.”

It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes yet another area where the iPhone breaks the iron fisted control of carriers over distribution in the mobile market. The device’s unique touch and motion-sensing technology combined with a better mobile game “shopping” experience could foster another microcosm within the already booming iPhone ecosystem similar to music, video, and accessory sales. Mobile games have gradually been getting more sophisticated with triple-A titles redefining the experience, away from re-hashed 80’s “classics” towards more console worthy titles. The recently release Metal Gear Mobile is a prime example. All in all, this could be another boost in that direction.

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No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.

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