The video games industry has been well established now for well over 30 years. In all its history, there has never been such a seismic shift in the industry as has been seen in the recent past. Whole new niches within the market have opened up wide, and as a result, more people are enjoying video games. Moreover, the types of game selling well have changed dramatically, and even their method of distribution has shifted. Make no mistake, an awful lot of this change has to do with a device we call the iPhone.
The iPhone first caused a stir back in 2007, when it was first released. Many people don’t recall, however, the iPhone did not launch with the ability to install 3rd party software. There was no App Store and no games. Apple saw the primary appeal of their new device as a way to surf the web whilst away from home, indeed their marketing revolved around the ‘desktop’ web surfing experience that the iPhone could offer.
It was over a year until Apple launched the iPhone game Store, a place where anybody could sell their software to any one of the millions of iPhone owners worldwide. It was introduced along with the iPhone 3G, and marked a significant shift in the way software was distributed to mobile devices. Never before had anyone attempted to centralise the process, providing a one-stop-shop where anybody could extend the functionality of their phone. Digital distribution in video gaming was pretty much unheard of, but the power of this model soon became clear when combined with a device with an always-on data connection. What business wouldn’t want to be accessible for sales 24-7, whilst being carried around in their customer’s pockets everywhere they went!
On it’s launch the App Store contained just 500 applications, and nobody saw the gaming potential of Apple’s iPhone one bit. Fast forward to the end of 2008, and by this time games were the number one use for smart phones outside of actually using it as a phone, email, and texts. Mobile games had suddenly got bigger than any business application - the intended audience of smartphone devices!
Sure enough, the iPhone rags to riches stories that we are so used to hearing these days, were beginning to break.
The first person to make a living from the App Store was a man called Steve Demeter. His initial investment in developing his first game, Trism, was just $5000. After his game released, he quickly made a quarter of a million dollars in profit in just 2 months!
Ethan Nicholas was struggling with mortgage payments and medical bills when he read about Steve Demeter’s success. He decided that even a small slice of such success could help him turn things around, and worked flat-out for 6 weeks to develop his game, iShoot. Amateurish though this title may seem by today’s standards, he eventually sold over 2 million copies of this game at $2.99 a game!
More recently, the success of the best-selling iPhone game of all time has shown that these kinds of success stories are continuing. Back in 2009 a struggling Finnish games company short of funds was in the throes of a make-or-break business plan, when one of their designers came up with the idea for some bird-like characters which they eventually built a game around. That game become Angry Birds, a sales phenomenon which has been downloaded over 40 million times! Angry Birds accounts for 200 million minutes of play worldwide, every single day!
Recently the 10 billionth app was downloaded from Apple’s App Store, and guess what- it was a game! Her download of Paper Glider netted Gail Davis of the UK a $10,000 iTunes Gift card as a prize. Not bad considering it was a free game!
Growth in mobile gaming doesn’t look set to stagnate any time soon. Google are shaping up to be a thorn in Apple’s side, with their Android platform, and Microsoft have now entered to market with their Windows 7 Phone. One thing is for certain, it’s a great time to be a mobile gamer.
Peter Morris is an IT enthusiast, and developer. He’s been a keen gamer since his childhood, and a long term fan of Apple’s devices.