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What iOS 12 means for mobile gamers

Multiplayer AR and a welcome performance boost
Product: Apple news | Publisher: Apple | Format: iPhone, iPad
Apple's WWDC is happening right now in California, which essentially means a bunch of app developers crammed into conference rooms with Apple engineers talking about arcane numbers and stats.

What's of interest to us is the keynote address that Apple kicked off the whole event with on Monday evening (UK time).

Read: 7 things we learned from WWDC 2018

You know those massive iPhone announcement events? WWDC's keynote is a lot like that, but with the focus on Apple's software efforts rather than its hardware.

That might sound a bit boring, but the truth is that this can often have more of a direct impact on the kind of mobile games we'll be playing over the next year and beyond than the next iPhone.

So what did WWDC 2018 have for mobile gamers? We spotted two areas in particular that should be of interest.

Augmented Reality 2.0

At last year's WWDC, Apple announced ARKit - its very own augmented reality platform for iOS. This meant that game developers could better utilise the iPhone's array of sensors to produce AR experiences on iPhone and iPad.

At WWDC 2018, Apple announced ARKit 2 for iOS 12. Besides offering better face tracking, object rendering and object recognition, the new ARKit sports a potentially transformational addition.

You can now share AR spaces with other players. That means multiplayer AR gaming! If you're waging war on your kitchen table, other players can join in and interact on their own iOS devices.

Read: The Machines AR review

Apple is showcasing how this might work with a fun-looking multiplayer slingshot game called SwiftShot, which reminded me a little of the brilliant Wii game Boom Blox.

Four players join a shared AR space on their iOS devices, then form teams of two to bring down the opposition's virtual fort. You have to physically move to position your shot, and by all reports it offers a surprising amount of fun.

Apple also invited Lego onto the stage to demonstrate and exciting toys-to-life concept. In this demo, a whole 3D AR world was created on a table when an iPad recognised a physical Lego play set. The player then dragged in an avatar and invited in a second player, and both of them embarked on a rescue mission to sort out a burning building.

Improved performance

It's nowhere near as sexy as shared AR, but Apple's announcement of performance improvements should benefit a whole bunch of mobile gamers.

That's particularly so for those who are using older devices. Anyone gaming on an iPhone 5S or an iPad Air may have gone into WWDC 2018 fearing the end of support for their device, but Apple has frozen the compatibility roster in place for another year.

More excitingly, Apple has concentrated on bolstering performance on these older devices, so iOS 12 will actually run better than iOS 11.

Apple says that apps will boot up to 40% faster on older devices, and will also be much better under load. Obviously it will still be up to individual game developers to optimise their apps, but hopefully they'll follow Apple's cue on this one.

Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 7 June 2018
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