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What will a video games industry run by Apple look like?

Mark Hattersley | Nov. 30, 2012
Apple more or less owns the video game industry already with the iPhone, and the iPad mini is likely to take over from traditional gaming devices; and that's before the television arrives. What will an Apple controlled video games market look like?

The second big introduction was a levelling of the playing field of distribution. The process that a young programmer working from a bedroom goes through when submitting a game to the App Store is the same that EA goes through. And the presence both games get on the store are the same, and either developer can charge whatever it wants.

That's the sort of environment that led to 650,000 apps being developed for iOS since its launch just four years ago. And sure, there's a lot of guff, but there's also classics like Angry Birds, Cut The Rope, and .and #sworcery. And that's the environment that Apple will push further forward.

The thing is that a developer coding from a bedroom is happy to charge 69p (99c); whereas EA has staff to pay and offices to run. So devices that pander to companies like EA first and foremost, perhaps feel like they can, and should, charge more.

Our PlayStation Vita review noted the price disparity between the average iOS game and game being sold by traditional games developers. iOS games typically cost between 69p and £5.99. PlayStation Vita games are typically being sold for between £20-£40. Sometimes for the same game. FIFA on PlayStation Vita costs £44.99, FIFA on iOS costs £4.99. Just a tenth of the amount.

Then there's the iPad mini, which our testing noted that it's pretty much ideal as a gaming device. It costs around the same as a PlayStation Vita (but does all the cool stuff that an iPad does, that the Vita doesn't); it's light enough to be comfortable as a gaming device, the screen is high quality, and it's portable, and the battery life lasts all day long.

The problem for the games industry is how to create games with movie-like production values (the sort that Grand Theft Auto 5) and make a profitable return selling games at prices that are just a tenth of what they used to be to the burgeoning iPad mini tablet market.

The truth is, they just might not be able to. People won't buy games for £45 when games costing just 69p are the norm; and most people simply aren't going to buy systems that charge £45 for games. And as tablets increasingly replace computers as the standard device for doing most computing tasks (email, web browsing, document creation and so on) they also replace gaming devices. The money flows towards tablets, and the developers go where the money takes them.

The development costs for iOS compared to Xbox or PlayStation are tremendously different when you're a small developer starting out; but they aren't that different to a tier-one developer like Rockstar. A few thousand pounds to buy development kit and sign up to a service can be a make-or-break deal when you're starting and have a budget of nothing; it means very little when you're dealing with the estimated $100 million budget that the average Grand Theft Auto is reputed to cost to make.

 

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