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iPhone game development overtaking DS, PSP

updated 11:50 am EST, Fri February 5, 2010

Apple catching up to Nintendo in dev interest

The iPhone platform is more popular to write games for than the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, according to a new study from Game Developer Research. Demand for the iPhone has surged to where about 19 percent of all game developers are writing for the iPhone and iPod touch. The figure is more than twice as high as for the DS and PSP and results in three quarters of all mobile game developers writing for Apple's handhelds.

Mobile games represent about 25 percent of the entire game development community, or more than twice the 12 percent from before. Apple's presence is believed to have spurred on most of the growth.

The shift also puts the iPhone OS in a favorable light compared to traditional TV console developers. Although the Mac/PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 still have the brunt of support at 70, 69 and 61 percent each, interest in writing for the Wii actually fell from 42 percent in 2008 to just 30 percent. Nintendo's child-oriented image and a general lack of interest for third-party games contributed to its slump.

Developers responding to GDR didn't specifically address the reasons for moving to the iPhone and iPod. However, they claimed that their choices of platform were often dictated by level of market influence as well as the ease of writing code. The ability to port code and the costs of development were also elements.

Apple's devices have been helped both by the sheer publicity of the platform as well as the centralized, Internet-based nature of its apps. As developers at least temporarily get high levels of exposure and don't have to pay for a separate publisher or retail deal, the potential exists for much more practical revenue than at stores, even with prices a third or less than what they would charge for DS or PSP copies. These also often don't have to worry about lost revenue from used copies being resold at GameStop and similar stores.

The transition to the iPhone is partly evident through the number of ports. While many are producing original titles, games like the Assassin's Creed series and Civilization Revolution are actually Nintendo DS versions modified to use the touchscreen and improved performance of Apple's machines.

by MacNN Staff



  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969


    But... But... But...

    The iOS platform devices are no good for gaming. They don't have real buttons!
    No handheld gaming toy could possibly be taken seriously with out D-Pad buttons.

    It just CAN'T!

    I love seeing all the nay-sayers having to eat their words!

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Those poor DS and PSP fanboys

    are going to rage when when they hear this claim. Those fanboys say that the iPhone/Touch platform games are horrible and nearly impossible to control without buttons. The Nintendo CEO thinks that the iPad is nothing to be concerned about as a gaming platform.

    I'm sure developers see things differently, plus they're mainly interested in making money which the iPhone/Touch platform is offering them. It would be really great if some company designed an analog controller for the iPad to pull some of the hard-core mobile gamers from the DS and PSP devices. However, I think Apple is content to have touch and tilt controls on all their products for consistency reasons.

  1. cmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Gaming experience

    Sorry but this says nothing about the actual gaming experience and more about how much more attractive the development model is for the iPhone/iPod Touch compared to the DS/PSP.

    First, iPhone development has a much lower barrier to entry. Development is also well documented. Compare this to the DS/PSP where you've got high costs just to look at the development environment and the actual programming is kept secret to a select few.

    The App store is also good for developers. Rather than having to hit a physical store, people can buy games directly from their device. That also means no distribution costs or publisher fees other than the Apple tax.

    The actual gaming experience? Depends on the game. Trying to translate games that are successful on the PSP usually doesn't work so well. Games that are designed from the get go for the iPhone are much more successful. So it's kind of a wash. There are games that simply do play better on a PSP or DS because of the separate controls. There are games that do just fine on the iPhone without those controls.

  1. lamewing

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Agreed. Total number don't mean that the quality of the games between platforms is comparable. The iPhone/Touch game quality still doesn't meet that of the PSP/DS. If we start to see more of the big name RPGs finding their way (in mass) to the iPhone/Touch I will be more willing to compare the platforms as equals.

  1. Synthmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Quality is irrelevant…

    The developers, consumers, big game companies and most importantly the dollars are flowing to the iPhone/iPad universe. And the way Apple aggressively updates hardware, software, the OS and the SDK, the money will continue to flow in that direction and the quality of the games will continue to improve.

    Compare Apple's update schedule to Sony and Nintendo who wait forever for minor upgrades in order to milk the hardware for as long as possible. And now the iPad is on the horizon which blows any other mobile platform out of the water as far as hardware, and 100k developers are foaming at the mouth hoping to get in on the second App store gold rush. Meanwhile it is still a big pain to develop and distribute DS and PSP games.

  1. chas_m



    But ... but ... but (the sequel)

    But how could this even be POSSIBLE when the iPhone/iPod/iPad doesn't support FLASH?!

    Haven't the haters been telling me for a week now that Apple is DOOOOOOOOOOOOMED because it won't support Flash??

    Yet somehow Apple is fostering a popular mobile game development platform?!

    Brain ... exploding ... wait ... maybe haters ... are full of $h!t ... could ... be ... Adobe ... really the problem here ...

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