iPhone Games – The Meteoric Rise of the Mobile Game

The video games industry has been well established now for well over 30 years. In all it’s 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 App 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.

Mobile Games in Spain

While 38% of Spain’s 44 million residents have access to the internet via fixed line, Spain also has one of Europe’s largest mobile communications markets in Europe, with current statistics showing 109% penetration.

Couple that with Spain’s love of skill games and their propensity to gamble (again one of the largest gambling markets in Europe, with some 30 billion euros spent on gambling in 2006 according to national statistics) you can see the potential for the games market and in particular the future growth potential in the mobile gaming market.

The majority of Spain’s broadband users could only access around 1mb/s in 2006 and for many the average speed was much less. This is due to the lack of investment and renewal of fixed line technology. Telefonica who own most of the fixed lines and who lease them to service providers like Ya.com or Spantel, have failed to invest in fixed line technology, and the nature of their telephone lines has been the common reason why many have only been able to receive low bandwidth.

Many of Spain’s residents who live outside main towns or cities also fail to receive high speeds (indeed many even fail to obtain adsl at all) as the distance from the central exchange point causes attenuation on lines. Without investment in repeaters or exchange points, residents are now turning to internet access via mobile phones or USB modems as a faster and more reliable way of connecting to search the internet or play games.

Together with Vodafone (one of the three main operators of mobile communications in Spain) and Nortel, recently investing heavily in 3.6 megabit 3G communications technology for Spain, users are now able to access speeds averaging around 2mb/s, faster than the average fixed line bandwidth speeds in other major European countries.

The higher speeds allow greater variation in services, and one of the major services provided to mobile users is online gaming.

Nokia NGage, who recently undertook a survey of mobile gamers in Europe, state that 77% of Spanish subscribes play games on their mobile at least once per week, with some 14% at least once every day.

64% of mobile users in Spain play games on the move, more so than at home which is only 50%. Multiplayer gaming is becoming more popular with 17% currently accessing multi-player games each week and averaging 28 minutes sessions.

Silicon Seeds (an online mobile games site) also claim that Spain is the second biggest market in Europe for downloading mobile games.

Movilenio’s Ludo was the best-selling mobile game for Vodafone Spain in December 2005, and was featured on the Vodafone Live portal for weeks.

Bingo is another multi-player game which is proving popular in Spain, though while growth in registrations in particularly fast, actual cash play is proving much more difficult to accomplish as it seems the Spanish much prefer free-play games. Perhaps this is also due to Spain’s lack of confidence in providing credit card details over the internet or over the air. However, it is not thought to be too long before bingo will be offered over the air to mobile subscribers as e-gaming magazine report recent further development of mobile bingo and casino games from some of the big mobile gaming development companies.

So while countries like the UK and Sweden continue the fastest growth of bandwidth capabilities together with online bingo gaming offerings, the future for online bingo in Spain is certainly more mobile.

Use of Java in the Development of Mobile Games

One of the most commonly used platforms for the development of Java games for cell phones is the Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME). Most cell phones from well-known brands are Java enabled. Leading handset manufacturers depend on Java platform; it has become more of an industry standard in the design and development of mobile games. It has been found to be appropriate for the development of interesting mobile Java games. And there are a number of reasons for this trend.

A free and open platform, the Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) is a low-cost option for game development. There are several other reasons which make the Java platform ideal for the development of mobile games. The Java platform incorporates the Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP). This means that the constraints and limitations of developing Java games for small devices such as are taken care of. Consequently, the development of games for mobile phones becomes quicker as well as easier.

The security features of the Java platform are also commendable. Applications running on a particular mobile phone handset are not adversely affected by mobile Java games that are running on the same device.

Mobile written for a specific type of handset is capable of running on all other types of Java enabled handsets. This inherent portability of the makes it ideal for the development of mobile games.

Because of all these reasons, the Java platform is being used to design and develop a host of interesting and innovative mobile Java games for different models of mobile phone handsets.