John Carmack thinks Steve Jobs doesn't understand games. At least, that's what the developer said in a recent interview, as explanation for some of the more irritating quirks of the App Store.
Well, Jobs might not understand games, but he knows a thing or two about a.) making big revenues, and b.) building buzz around his company's products. Right now, games are doing both for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
It showed strongly at tonight's Let's Rock product launch. Although mainly focused on music, the event showed more clearly than ever how important mobile gaming now is to Apple's strategy.
Proof one: Steve Jobs stuck his flag firmly on Nintendo's turf, by claiming that the iPod Touch (and by extension, the iPhone) may now be "the best portable device for playing games on".
Proof two: Just two iPhone/iTouch apps were shown off on-stage at the event – both of them games. The fact that they were from the two biggest guns of the mobile gaming world, EA Mobile and Gameloft, was also notable, since previously Apple has placed an equal spotlight on smaller developers.
Proof three: Jobs revealed that more than 100 million apps have been downloaded from the App Store. And you can bet the lion's share of the ones that were sold (i.e. the ones Apple makes direct money from) were games.
But it's Jobs' claim about the iPhone and iTouch becoming the best portable gaming device that'll stir up the most fuss. You can argue back, of course.
If Jobs really wants to park his tanks on Nintendo's lawn, Apple needs to introduce more game-specific features to the App Store - videos would be a start – as well as counteracting the inevitable flood of console ports (thanks to the success of Super Monkey Ball) by encouraging more original games.
DS has Nintendogs, The Legend Of Zelda, Advance Wars, Animal Crossing, Brain Age... all original games that stretched and defined the platform. And all, admittedly, released by Nintendo.
Assuming Apple doesn't intend to ramp up its in-house development to Nintendo levels, it needs to work more pro-actively with developers and publishers to stimulate similar levels of innovation on iPhone.
But with PSP having provided somewhat lacklustre competition for DS so far, if handheld gaming really is as important to Apple as tonight's event indicated, it can only be a good thing for the industry as a whole – not to mention gamers.