Apple was the first company to add a 64-bit processor to a smartphone back in 2013, so to say this hasn’t been a long time coming would be folly. But the goalposts are moving and iOS 11 will no longer support 32-bit apps.
For anything that was released after February 2015 that should be fine, because at that point all apps needed to be made with 64-bit support. This was always the plan to move the device and the apps to a 64-bit device or platform. However this weekend, I played a game that gave me a warning in a pop up box. ‘This app will no longer be supported. Please contact the developer.’ What if I can no longer contact the developer?
The games industry, especially on mobile, moves so incredibly fast. It’s hard to keep up with it from the outside, let alone what a developer must go through. This is the first time I’ve encountered it and I’m actually quite lucky really. My iPhone is fairly recent, I got it so that I could run better apps and I’ve also managed to keep myself from filling it with reams of games I’d never play.
The downside of this is that I know what I like and I’ve got a game installed on there, Game Dev Story, that has been ever present on my phone since 2010. Thankfully, Kairosoft has been developing pretty constantly so they are still around to update the game. However, there are bound to be many games and apps out there that aren’t so fortunate.
Because it’s the nature of our industry. Studios and titles rise, flame up and burn out. But people will still play their go to games if they can. Many get withdrawn from sale of course, like many of Sega’s titles before Sega Forever launched, but what if the developer is no longer able to update that title, or what if the support for it is halted? I’m sure it will be an incredibly small minority that would be upset by this but they could be upset none the less.
Mobile games have moved so fast and the upgrade culture for phones is so quick that it is hard to say that a smartphone is a games console. We’ve seen the release of three different iPhone generations since the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One. Many of the games we see on mobile are very much designed to be compatible with all devices, so as to get the largest possible user engagement. They are more ‘devices that play games’ than ‘game playing devices’ but they are still game platforms. Iteration has forced change at an incredible pace.
We’ve often lamented in the games industry the lack of archiving. Many games that are available digitally, once gone, are lost to the ether. They are forgotten and there’s no way to remember what a game was. With this update, so many titles that helped define the gaming that smartphones allowed could be lost or unplayable on more recent devices. And that is incredibly sad.
It makes you wonder, will there be a time that certain games on mobile will be retro in their own right? Will there be a wash of unsupported apps? Or, to look at the positive side of it, will this be a time when the app store can be gutted, cleaned and almost reset of anything that has made discoverability a harder challenge?
But I want to know from you what you think. Will this update affect titles you already have? What are you doing to address this, if anything? Are you withdrawing an app? Updating it to support the changes? Are apps that you use going to be affected? Let me know by emailing email@example.com.