You can bury your head in the sand all you like, but the simple fact of the matter is that 2009 has been all about digital delivery on handhelds. The App Store has, of course, been massive along with the dramatic comeback of the PSP Store and Nintendo’s brave new venture into what is a relatively uncharted realm with DSiWare. But what of the mobile gaming set?
It’s easy to forget that mobile phones have never known anything other than digital delivery when it comes to games (apart from the ill fated N-Gage QD, and the less said about that the better). It’s odd then that for much of 2009,the bulk of the mobile games industry has been floundering in its attempts to streamline the methods it uses to get content into the hands of customers.
To say that the iPhone’s entry into the combined smartphone and smartphone content industry has been disruptive is to spell out the obvious in bold black typeface with letters fifteen feet high. Java is almost completely dead now and while the App Store continues its Trojan march across the industry, the likes of RIM, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and HTC are still figuring out how best to make their mark in the games and applications space in 2010.
For an industry undergoing a violent paradigm shift, many small to medium sized games companies have been caught in the middle. Some went bust, some merged with each other to redouble their efforts, and some got their act together quick and jumped on the App Store bandwagon, carving themselves a nice, comfortable, little homestead to weather the storm in.
But those developers would be wise not to get too settled in. A multi-platform future is more important for the mobile games industry than ever. As it is, Nokia, RIM and Google have provided solid new distribution channels in the shape of the Ovi Store, the Blackberry App World and the Android Market, respectively.
So long as the brains behind each of these new digital store fronts make the necessary efforts to nurture and entice the industry’s best developers, the onus will continue to be on the publishing side of the industry to take advantage of these platforms, or face a future where the already saturated App Store continues to provide a one way street for the mobile games industry.
The smartest of the iPhone new school has already made the jump to assorted digital platforms with encouraging success. Subatomic has released Fieldrunners on PSP Minis (and hence the PS3, which can now play PSP Minis too) with a DSi Ware version planned. Chillingo has embraced PSP Minis too with Mini Gore, as has Gameloft with Hero of Sparta. Indeed, Gameloft has ventured as far afield as Xbox Live Arcade, where it published its own Brain Challenge title.
The point is, the most visible target isn’t necessarily the only target for publishers to home in on in the mobile games industry. There’s lots of smart money to be made on the Blackberry Store, the Android Marketplace, Ovi Store, the PSP Store, DSi Ware and all the other new stores that continue to spring up.
So come on publishers – it’s money for old rope anyway, let’s make 2010 the year the mobile industry fights back against Apple impending omnipresence.
Pocket Gamer is Europe’s leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.