With iPhone OS 3.0 hitting on June 17th, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how the new feature set will improve mobile gaming. With games regularly topping the sales charts on the App Store, iPhone gaming is a serious platform, but will it compete with the DS and PSP? It could with 3.0.
There are a couple key features they will be added with iPhone OS 3.0, but the biggest one for gaming is peer-to-peer networking. Previously, to conduct a local multiplayer game, each iPhone would have to be on the same wireless network. This made it almost impossible to play games like Texas Hold'em or Scrabble when not in an area with guaranteed wireless. Now, iPhones will just have to be in the same place to connect.
Push notification will allow certain types of games, specifically play-by-turn or multiplayer games, to maintain a sort of faux "always-on" presence. One of my favorite games is UniWar, a turn-based, Advance Wars-esque game. I currently have to log in to see if any of my games require action, but with push notification, the game would be able to notify me if it was time to take a turn. As ngmoco showed off, this feature could also be used for game invites and friend list functionality.
This one will be a bit more controversial, but in-app paid downloads will bring iPhone gaming up to speed with the current trend of microtransactions. Some people may not like this, but it does open the door for content packs for games you already own. While it remains to be seen how developers choose to price content downloads, you could end up saving money by paying less for a content pack over a "sequel" standalone title that contains the same content.
Of course, the upgraded speed and battery life in the iPhone 3GS will benefit games, but what is the platform currently missing? A few things. The biggest no-show on the feature side is currently the ability to download demo versions that can unlock into full versions. I look at the way Xbox Live Arcade handles their trial versions and I hope Apple incorporates the same functionality in the next update.
Developers would also benefit as they could stop publishing "Lite" versions of their apps, which is a bit of a development hassle. I believe they would also get more purchases if users could simply unlock the app through an App Store transaction without having to download anything further. I don't know if this is in the cards as Apple wants to keep free and paid apps in separate silos, but it would be extremely nice.
I would love it if Apple created a service like Live or PSN that brought all of these gamers into a single community together. It doesn't need to have every feature in the world, but a set of API's and standards for game developers would benefit the experience of iPhone gaming. At the least, I'd like friend lists, achievements, game invites, and leaderboards.
What kind of features would you like to see for iPhone gaming? What's your favorite iPhone game?