There are several moments that can rightly be called ‘pivotal’ throughout the history of gaming. The Magnavox Odyssey. Space Invaders. The NES. Game Boy. Sony’s PlayStation. Xbox Live.
The iPod Touch has certainly earned its place on that list.
The savageness with which Apple has reshaped the handheld sector is all the more impressive conspiring its former domination by just one company – Japan’s Nintendo.
When Nintendo launched the Game Boy in 1989 it was seemingly facing a losing battle. Up against the graphically powerful and full-colour Atari Lynx, the Game Boy seemed almost childish.
But both the Lynx and Sega’s Game Gear were soon forgotten by a world that was completely consumed by Game Boy and its smash hit Tetris. By sacrificing graphical clout in favour of practicality, Nintendo outsmarted all other contenders.
Several iterations of the Game Boy followed over the next 15 years until again in 2004 Nintendo was once again seen as the underdog as it attempted to square off against the technologically superior PlayStation Portable.
And we all knew how that panned out.
Yet come 2011 and the launch of Nintendo’s third dedicated portable games system, the 3DS, and the story is very, very different.
Of course, the reasons why the 3DS has seen a slower adoption rate than most had predicted are varied and opinion differs. It’s a time of global recession. The launch line-up was weak. The price was arguably quite high. Where was the digital strategy? And skepticism over 3D continues.
But this author contends that the main problem faced by 3DS is that of software pricing and delivery. Buying a boxed game on a physical card for anything up to £39.99 just doesn’t cut it in this day and age.
And Steve Jobs and Apple are the reasons why.
The first iPod Touch and iPhone were released in 2007 but it was the release of iOS 2, its first major upgrade to its portable operating system, and with it the introduction of the App Store that drastically changed the portable gaming landscape.
What the App Store did was completely transform the public’s expectations. Gone were the days of carrying around a bag of cartridges. Gone were the days of having to go to a shop. And more importantly, gone were the days of spending £30 on a portable game.
With iOS consumers were able to browse the App Store on their device and, within the space of a minute, both choose and acquire any game they wanted. And some of the experiences offered for just 59p were incredible.
True, 59p was never going to get you a 40-hour 3D Zelda adventure (though £2.99 might). But what it would give you is something like Angry Birds or Flick Kick Football. Beautifully designed, horrendously compulsive and capable of delivering hours and hours of fun.
It could be contended that Apple single-handedly altered the expectations of an entire sector. Whether you’re talking about content or delivery, the changes introduced by Jobs have completely redefined the games market. Jobs effectively bullied Nintendo into thrashing out a digital roadmap and made touch control an absolute prerequisite for any device that sits in your pocket.
And the vision that Steve Jobs bought to the games market will most certainly live on for many years to come, shaping and defining how modern platform holders and publishers must react to the demands of their paying public.
The video games market, much like the wider world, is a poorer place for the loss of Steve Jobs. The thoughts of MCV go out to his friends and family.