iPhone: The New NES

iPhone: The New NES

The iPhone, like the NES before it, will be what gets a whole new generation into gaming.

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I disagree with this assessment. Simple games can be nice and fun, but I think the amount of simple games on the NES was more a case of technical limitations than a preference for this among developers. When you're trying to program on 2kB or so of RAM, there's only so much you can do, especially if you don't have the abstraction of a high-level language. I think the glut of simple games on the iPhone is more down to laziness than anything else.

While you can't really push the envelope on a smartphone with the rather inappropriate languages they're using - Objective-C is a language which matches the type safety of C with all of the blazing speed of Smalltalk, and the only good thing about it is that if you strip away the Objective part, you're left with C; Java may have the advantage of being relatively platform-agnostic, but I think the following quote sums its appropriateness on a smartphone quite well: "The memory allocation strategy of Java can be described in three words: Nom nom nom." - the fact is that programmers on smartphone platforms are given the sorts of resources which would have defined supercomputers in the SNES era, let alone the NES era. Genius programmers in the days of the NES did well to get things tight enough to make the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3; genius programmers on smartphones... well, I don't think there are many genius programmers writing for smartphone platforms.

I reiterate: The simplicity common in the days of the NES was an inherent part of programming for a limited platform. The simplicity common in smartphone games comes because lazy programmers can make plenty of money aiming for the lowest common denominator.

I'm not calling the iPhone the new NES until, in a few years when people have moved onto something better, I have a Russian knockoff of it that works perfectly has all it's features and software crammed onto the system memory. That's what the NES meant for me.

Does this make Android the Sega Master System?

Yeah I am in disagreement here. It is only "the new nes" for those people who can stomach Iproducts. Honestly that number you would find is resoundingly smaller group of people than the advertising might suggest.

One of the biggest separation points is the cost of entry. Part of the sucess of the NES was the low entry point into getting into it. Meaning more people could afford it and thus was common to find in middle class, even working class homes. While cell phones and smart phone costs are NOT prohibitively expensive, there is no one centric name to be that focused on so as to create brand recognition, and when apple products cost typically 2-3times what a normal competitior would, that means their level of saturation is far from it being pervasive.

Another thing about this is, that... in order to introduce a new generation to gaming, would it not also stand to reason that the item itself would have to be a discardable item through its expense that you could afford to hand it over to a kid? I doubt we are going to see a lot of parents handing their 5 year old child an iphone. Though it could possibly happen with apples core demographic that will immediately replace an iphone with whatever newest iphone happens to come out. In that instance, it seems possible you might give a kid an iphone. But last I checked, deactivated phones and apple service do not mesh well together.

Besides, gaming is a part of our culture now. We have children who have grown to become adults, who have children of their own. The next generation of gaming will be handed down from parent to child, by playing with them, and introducing them into gaming. Not because the kids figured out you can play angry birds on a tossed aside antiquated iphone.

Great!
Problem is, how do you bridge the gap? With the SNES and Atari (etc.), the console eventually evolved into the gaming machines we have today. And PCs have always been natural gateway devices, with full gaming experiences available in minutes from the same system you watch youtube videos and play FarmVille on.

The iPhone? Closed. Barred. Gated. You don't really have a way to move from phone-gaming to full gaming, aside from the occasional Dead Space, Battle for Wesnoth, or Crono Trigger port. You just stay on the little system and that's that.

Same with Call of Duty - sure, it's introducing millions of new gamers - but they're Call of Duty gamers, not gamers in general, and that seems unlikely to change. We need crossover experiences, and nobody's building them. That's a problem, and it's a problem whose solution would probably create more new business for the many, many cash-starved developers out there than all the DRM and ten dollar projects in the world could ever drum up.

I don't agree that it's the next NES. When someone calls themselves a gamer in-front of me, and I ask them what they play and get an "Oh, iPhone games... Angry Birds, ya know?" I hardly consider them gamers. Sure, they're a different type of gamer, but it's not a type of gamer I consider to be a real one. The people who make these games, and make millions off of them, are pretty much making millions off of Flash and Java games that could be free on the Internet. These games don't deserve their praise, as any person good with Flash or Java could easily make another one of these games, and somehow in a year become millionaires.

They also have a phone that is capable of making games with graphics that can near rival consoles, and yet, most go for the simpler approach to making a more cartoon-looking game, and get worlds of praise? Really?

The guys who made games back in the day used limited hardware, and made gems of games with what they had. Now people who make iPhone games are just being lazy, and making extremely simple games any somewhat experienced Java/Flash user could make, even with all of the hardware they need to make very amazing, well done games. They aren't putting true effort into their products, and for that reason, I don't consider people who call themselves gamers who play these lazily made products to be, well, gamers. *rant over*

Though I wouldn't call the iPhone the new NES, but I think it is an important reimagining of what gaming can be. I definitely wouldn't knock on iOS/Android games as being "too simple" and "lazy design". Those touch screens are really not meant for delicate gameplay. Trying to work dual analog on an iPhone screen takes up way too much screen real estate, to the point where most would call it bad design. Tap or drag based games are much more effective even if the hardware could technically do better. Less complex but bold graphics are necessary for a screen which will also be taken up by the player's fingers. Clarity of what the player can and can't interact with is essential when your method of control is buttonless and less precise than a traditional controller. And the game, despite having more resources available, still cannot usurp RAM from the actual operating system of the device. Even Angry Birds making its physics calculations can make an iPhone chug.

I feel the challenge of iOS/Android developers is even greater than the challenge that NES programmers had. Not only do they have to contend with a platform with less definition of how far you can push your graphics and your gameplay, but you have to concede that you have to price your game to attract impulse purchasers. A lot of phone game developers are small teams that don't have the resources to put together an AAA console game and thus need to aim for the crowd that is the least judgmental of games: the casual phone gamer. An indy dev could stick to their PC gaming guns, but the iOS is a great way to get name recognition and build up funds to make another, more ambitious game. And heck, maybe they'll put that on the iOS too, and push even more boundaries around mobile gaming. What we saw in 2011 is still the infancy of mobile touchscreen gaming.

What I got from this article, with observations like -

Mike Wehner:
it score more than 500,000 99-cent sales in less than a year. Remember, we're talking about a game nearly identical to many that seasoned gamers know can be played online for absolutely free, or even downloaded as no-cost freeware.

- is that this platform is so successful because it reaches inexperienced new gamers who don't know any better. While that might be true, I don't think it deserves points for that.
I think the smartphone (I don't say iPhone because Android phones are just as relevant) is good as a gaming platform because of the new type of control that it brings, which can lead to innovation.
I don't think it's right to say that it's the new NES. The NES symbolizes the rise of gaming from ashes after the crash of the industry in 1983, While the iPhone symbolizes a small innovation.

Wow. There is a lot of negativity here. But reading through the responses so far I think many are missing the point.

The point isn't whether the programming is lazy, if there is a follow up such as the SNES to the NES, or whether Apple is worthy or just targetting the largest audience.

It's that the touchscreen smartphone is a great gateway for the non-gamer to be drawn into the wonderfully rich world of video gaming. Unfortunately the analogy that the OP was making seems to have been lost with personal opinions about Apple and the term gamer.

Personally I think that while the experiences may not be as deep on a smartphone, the addictive nature of playing something as quick and simple as Angry Birds has merit as a great introduction to the world of gaming.

In fact, it can be argued that it would make an even better way to draw someone in rather than the way they did 25 years ago. Back then one had to purchase a console dedicated to playing video games to play games. Now its much easier trying to get a person to try out a game on a phone they already own. Then, if they like that experience and other smartphone experiences they may learn of games on facebook and such. If the person's interest has been piqued, then they will continue to seek deeper experiences which bring them to the world of console/PC gaming.

Obviously (and I put this in just to avoid the responses like this) the best and easiest way to get into gaming has always been when you had friends/family that introduce you to their hobby and given you the opportunity to play but that could be true with smartphone games as well. With all that being even, the smartphone is, if not better then, at least as good as the NES to introducing many people to video gaming.

An issue I have with mobile gaming these days is the lack of deeper gameplay experiences. With the NES, it was (at the time of release) cutting-edge home gaming technology and had both newcomer-friendly fare like Mario and things like Romance of the Three Kingdoms. With iOS and Android, games like Dungeon Defenders are the extreme minority, and we end up with new game-players (the term "gamer" has more hardcore connotations) who consider anything more complex or expensive than Angry Birds to be not worth looking at. With such a mindset, is it any wonder why the gaming-staple publishers don't bother devoting too many resources to mobile gaming? XBLA and PSN show that smaller classic-style games such as sidescrollers and strategy games are being made and marketed to the core demographic. If those started to trickle onto the Android and Apple app stores, hopefully over time that will raise the bar for what mobile gamers consider a quality game.

I agree with the idea that you have here... I got into gaming with the simple demos that came on Windows... mostly Blake Stone... That coupled with a small exposure to things like super mario on the SNES (NES was slightly before my time, but I may have played one once too, I just don't remember!) mario, game and watch and tetris on the gameboy, and a selection of games my cousins had on their Amiga (Lost vikings comes to mind) and a gamer was born!

I recently managed to get a previous girlfriend into gaming using iPhone games like angry birds, and some other titles like pocket god. She drew to them, and then suddenly she had a Wii, and was a mario galaxy, and mario kart nut...! :P

The NES brought gaming back from the ashes, like a phoniex. The Apple product did not bring gaming back from the ashes, therefore the creator of the post is incorrect.

Hmm.

I don't disagree that mobile gaming will fast become many young person's path to full fledged gaming, but could we PLEASE not make it all about the iPhone?

Android and WP7 both present great mobile gaming, iPhone isn't the only player here. Considering the higher market share of Android, it's more likely that it, not the iPhone, will be the platform many young gamers find their feet.

In fact, could we take individual platforms out of it entirely and just say that the revival and re-interpretation of smartphones, coupled with the collosal advances in mobile processing technology have allowed this new entry into gaming to exist?

I get that, for a brief time, Apple led the pack in this, but let's not get too over excited shall we?

Wow, lots of negativity here. just becasue a game is simple, doesn't mean it's not good. If you think making these games and getting millions of sales is easy, I advise you to try to make one yourself. Sure there are probably more deserving devs out there who put in more effort, but it's not like John Cage is ever going to be as popular as Justin Bieber, becasue John Cage didn't try or want to be popular.

That's a little off topic. The point is, mobile gaming is making games more universal, and making them more like films and tv, somehting that everyone does. That can only be a good thing. And clearly, at least some people are getting into more complex gaming from these platforms, that guy above me is a case in point.

asacatman:
If you think making these games and getting millions of sales is easy, I advise you to try to make one yourself.

The issue is that iOS is a shit platform to develop for. In the age where languages like Python and Java is making programmers' life easier, the iOS still sticks to Objective C. Making a game for it is hard enough, without getting into the question of adding depth or new gameplay (until and unless you're using proprietary engines like UE3 and Unity).

RAKtheUndead:
I reiterate: The simplicity common in the days of the NES was an inherent part of programming for a limited platform. The simplicity common in smartphone games comes because lazy programmers can make plenty of money aiming for the lowest common denominator.

I counter: Rather, the very anti-gaming touchscreen or phone keypad interface often combined with OS bloat makes the phone platform about equally limited, despite the hardware difference.

Iori Branford:

RAKtheUndead:
I reiterate: The simplicity common in the days of the NES was an inherent part of programming for a limited platform. The simplicity common in smartphone games comes because lazy programmers can make plenty of money aiming for the lowest common denominator.

I counter: Rather, the very anti-gaming touchscreen or phone keypad interface often combined with OS bloat makes the phone platform about equally limited, despite the hardware difference.

I haven't failed to notice that from the perspective of gaming; in fact, it was one of my key arguments against the iPhone in the past. I'm especially not fond of iOS as an operating system; when Unix has had full pre-emptive multitasking available to all users from the start (and for that matter, I've seen what Version 7 Unix looks like - when programmers did more with 256KB of memory than many programmers can do today with a gigabyte), the fact that iOS doesn't make it available at the user level is a major step backwards - as in, all the way back to 1969. However, the sheer increase in processing power is absolutely immense, and can't be sensibly ignored.

Raiyan 1.0:

asacatman:
If you think making these games and getting millions of sales is easy, I advise you to try to make one yourself.

The issue is that iOS is a shit platform to develop for. In the age where languages like Python and Java is making programmers' life easier, the iOS still sticks to Objective C. Making a game for it is hard enough, without getting into the question of adding depth or new gameplay (until and unless you're using proprietary engines like UE3 and Unity).

I'd argue that Java and Python are just as poor choices for game programming as Objective-C, which itself is limited mainly by the Objective part. The best games out there are programmed in C++ with scripting facilities in the likes of Lua or Lisp. You get efficiency (albeit at the cost of C++'s unfriendly nature) for where it counts, and a more elegant way of abstracting things like scripting elements.

xyrafhoan:
And the game, despite having more resources available, still cannot usurp RAM from the actual operating system of the device. Even Angry Birds making its physics calculations can make an iPhone chug.

That just points to me of either an inefficiently coded game, or a very inefficient operating system. The physics calculations on a game like Angry Birds shouldn't make an iPhone chug when I could probably get comparable calculations done on my old Pentium III with the likes of LXDE or Xfce running on it - and with less than quarter of the RAM of the iPhone.

RAKtheUndead:

Raiyan 1.0:

asacatman:
If you think making these games and getting millions of sales is easy, I advise you to try to make one yourself.

The issue is that iOS is a shit platform to develop for. In the age where languages like Python and Java is making programmers' life easier, the iOS still sticks to Objective C. Making a game for it is hard enough, without getting into the question of adding depth or new gameplay (until and unless you're using proprietary engines like UE3 and Unity).

I'd argue that Java and Python are just as poor choices for game programming as Objective-C, which itself is limited mainly by the Objective part. The best games out there are programmed in C++ with scripting facilities in the likes of Lua or Lisp. You get efficiency (albeit at the cost of C++'s unfriendly nature) for where it counts, and a more elegant way of abstracting things like scripting elements.

You do realize the Objective-C is the only way to interact with the GUI, but that you can still write a game's logic in C or C++? Even after the GUI is set up, you can still call C functions to draw stuff.

I will also point out that the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad are different computing devices than computers: one main thing to note is that apps take up the full screen. Also, they have to be careful with power consumption: if they use too much power with two apps running at the same time, you'll have no battery left. Another quirk of iOS is the lack of any swap space, so two full-fledged apps would have to deal with less RAM than if there was only one running. Does iOS implement the best multi-app environment? No, but it does make compromises that I feel are meant for the best.

As for the article, my first game system was an Atari 2600. I agree that easy games are a great way to introduce people to gaming.

I can't argue with the premise of the article at all. It's a gateway device to bigger, better things. The only real issue I have with iOS is the closed source mentality of Apple. Everything is all locked up, but that isn't unlike the NES was, obviously. On a more mature level, I think people want more options out of their hardware. At least when they come to understand it better.

I do like to point out that Angry Birds are also on the Android OS, the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.

The iPhone is a far cry from the NES. The NES resurrected a nearly dead industry and brought on the Golden era of gaming. There is nothing special about the iPhone. What does the iPhone has? Apple branding, a higher MSRP, a crack prone screen and a good marketing team.

iPhone isn't even a original device, the Blackberry and phone enabled PalmOS PDAs existed before hand, and we have the Android with an open software platform and a wider market share.

I think it was laughable that the iPhone would take a serious market share away from the other competitors in the mobile gaming market. Nintendo been kings of this market for nearly 23 years.
Although the PSP failed to show up Nintendo, the Vita is has not got out the gate yet.

Baresark:
The only real issue I have with iOS is the closed source mentality of Apple.

That is the biggest reason I would refuse tthe iOS of being the next NES.

RAKtheUndead:

I reiterate: The simplicity common in the days of the NES was an inherent part of programming for a limited platform. The simplicity common in smartphone games comes because lazy programmers can make plenty of money aiming for the lowest common denominator.

I agree. Don't get me wrong sometimes simple to play but easy to master games will always out sell there complex Monstrosities some game series turned out being. Give me Pac-Man over Call of Duty any day of the week. But until Apple stop being the company that appeals to "stuck up douche bag who hang around Star Bucks all day" I think I stick to my DS and PSP.

I wonder how much of a gateway to gaming smart phones can be when you dont learn any of the "skills" from gaming?

No controller, mouse or keyboard. How many times have you seen some ones girlfriend/aunt/grandpa/stereotypical none gamer try to play fps an find themselves staring at the ceiling stuck? Or tried to play rts and they get the camera stuck in the top corner of the map looking at fog of war?

The best introduction is friends or parents. My 4 year old loves to play lego games on the 360 with his dad. He has all the cordination and lego logic down to play solo but loves the shared experience and wants to play co-op.

As a far as gateway goes, he then had a real thing for Super Streetfighter 4 but hes currently banned from that till a little older. He kicked the car (too much bonus stage I guess). Its a learning curve for both him and me.

(I'd also recommend The Maw to anyone with a young child who likes gaming. It oozes charm and was a massive hit for us. Bigger studios could learn a lot from this game on how to make engaging charecters)

A key difference is that the NES was exclusively a gaming platform, while the iPhone isn't. Anyone who picks up a yen for gaming on Apple's platform is going to have to jump ship to the PC or a console to get much more complicated games. And there's nothing wrong with that.

As for the limitations of a touchscreen, there's this:
image
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like much and costs $75. Apple should put their zeal for polish to work and embrace the gamers they have by making their own controller add-on.

All games are intrinsically for fun. That is a fact, unchangeable.

However, not all devices capable of playing games are technically made FOR it. The iPhone is a dynamic multi-functional device which can fit gaming into its venue. It is not, however, made FOR it. It holds the convenience of it as a feature. It's a phone with computing, gaming, etc/ wrapped around it in the same fashion that a Sony PSP is a gaming device with internet, radio, and movie-playing around IT. It is what it is. You don't buy an iPhone strictly for playing games. You don't buy a PS3 for its web browser, although you CAN use it. If you want to get your kids into gaming, buy them a gaming device.

I dont do Apple but from an Android perspective, I can agree on the jrpg clones. Zenonia is mentioned above. But even more the actual turn based ones. Symphony of eternity, Alphadia ...

In terms of a more "mobile" experience, Battleheart is definitely a jrpg gateway drug.

But those games are few and far between and honestly? Angry birds and cut the rope are to gaming what a stepper in front of the basement television is to sports.

I disagee. I know a lot of people that started thier gaming career with Starcraft, HOMM 2 and Settlers 2, me being one that started with Starcraft.

Whether you like Apple products or not is irrelevant. Those of us who first got into gaming with the Atari, NES, etc. didn't have such a bias, we just wanted something fun to play and that's what those systems provided. That's exactly what the iPhone is providing to millions and millions of people who have never touched a dedicated home console or portable system in their lives.

And yes, other smartphone platforms - namely Android, and to a lesser extent, WP7 - offer similar experiences, but Apple's marketplace and GameCenter are so perfectly melded with the devices that it has taken off above all others.

Being a touchscreen device has its drawbacks, for sure. And anyone who spends their nights playing an Xbox 360 or PS3 is going to immediately feel like there is a lack of proper control for many titles, but the same could be said about many NES or Atari games. People who start gaming on their smartphones and then move on to bigger and better things won't see the touchscreen as a burden, but rather will look back on it in a decade and see its flaws as part of its quirky charm, just as hardcore gamers look back on the two-button NES controller with rose-colored glasses.

Mike Wehner:
iPhone: The New NES

The iPhone, like the NES before it, will be what gets a whole new generation into gaming.

Read Full Article

Love the article.

I think a lot of the "backlash" toward this type of gaming is the "grown-up gamers" forgetting that new gamers are on their way in every year. We grew up with gaming, and it grew up with us... but that doesn't mean we can shut the door behind us.

What if adults decided that, since none of them are babies anymore, no one should make baby food? Or that since all the adults know how to ride bikes, there is no reason for anyone to manufacture training wheels? After all, the baby food and training wheel factories could be put to better use making more things for us. (I don't mean to indicate that players of these games are "babies," or anything of the sort. This is about the attitude of the "haters.")

And above all, what I think we're really afraid of is that this new generation will be bigger than us. That means we'll lose our "majority share," and the bulk of the gaming market won't be centered around our wants and wishes anymore. Rather than recognizing it as evolution branching out, we see it as evolution closing in...

 

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