SPECIAL REPORT: Apple tells Develop that its digitial download service can boost gaming

‘iTunes can dominate games’

Digital distribution platform iTunes can revolutionise the games industry in the same way it has conquered music, Apple has told Develop.

The statement of intent has come from the company – previously a more reluctant player in the games space – following its unveiling of new iPod Touch hardware and booming business of its App Store. Apple’s online storefront continues to challenge traditional retail and now provides a new channel for games developers.

The App Store, the section of iTunes which sells software produced by third-party developers, hosts over 3,000 pieces of software at various price points (from free up to around £5.99 – 70 per cent of the revenue goes to the developer), and games make up 20 per cent of the content on there.

“Some of [the games] are getting pretty fantastic. There is something here for everyone,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs had remarked at the unveiling last month.

iTunes is described by Apple as the ‘largest online content store in the world’ offering also 8.5m songs and 30,000 TV episodes for download. There are 65m user accounts with registered credit cards on the service. All of this has enabled Apple to slowly climb up to become ‘the number one music distibutor in any format in the US’ ahead of traditional retailers like WalMart and Best Buy. Now a similar transformation is headed for the games industry, the company said.

“iPod Touch is about music, movies and games and iTunes provides a single destination for music, video and games for our customers, along with seamless integration,” Christie Wilkinson, Apple’s worldwide product manager for iPod told us. And when asked by Develop if digital distribution is an inevitability for games in the way it has been for music, Wilkinson gave a clear answer: “Yes.”

She added: “We are every excited to have over 3,000 applications on the App Store, as well as over 100,000,000 downloads in just the first 60 days along with developers creating more and more games and applications to come.”

Apple announced new iPod Touch hardware last month, also showing new global TV ads which affirms the company’s serious focus on the games space and presensts the devices as key sources of quality games content. Jobs said at the unveiling: “You can make a pretty good argument that it is the best portable device for playing games on – and a whole new class of games.”

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