应用商店的出现给手机游戏领域带来革命性变化已不是什么新鲜事，《愤怒的小鸟》和《Words With Friends》等作品在此起到铺平道路作用（游戏邦注：就像《Farmville》给社交游戏领域创造的变化一样）。但随着越来越多开发商和发行商意识到这两个原本备受质疑游戏类型的受欢迎程度，新游戏黄金时代似乎即将到来。
PlayStation 2和PlayStation 3游戏《Buzz!》的开发商Relentless Software承认iOS如今处在开拓新市场的最前线。Relentless Software CEO David Amor表示，“很多人称自己不是游戏玩家，但调查他们的休闲活动时，你会发现他们其实也玩游戏。这些用户都是碰巧接触到游戏设备。”
此外，App store也可能步入缺乏创新的阶段。最近几周，出现许多完全基于他人作品的游戏，如《Free Running 》——App Store平台完全复制《屋顶狂奔》的作品。不难想象各手机平台也出现许多热门《愤怒的小鸟》克隆作品，此外《割绳子》也是最近问世的《Spider Jack.》的主要灵感来源。就连《挖矿争霸》也出现许多iOS克隆版本。在后面这些例子中，借鉴过程合情合理，游戏领域向来常出现迭代内容（游戏邦注：但这意味未来作品也不容乐观）。
A New Golden Age of Gaming
by David Hing
A New Golden Age of Gaming
It’s not news that the app store has been revolutionary for mobile gaming, with titles such as Angry Birds and Words With Friends paving the way, just as Farmville has for social gaming. Increasingly, though, with developers and publishers seeing both of these previously ridiculed areas of the industry suddenly surging in popularity, it seems like a new Golden Age of Gaming may be on the horizon.
Apple’s efforts with the iPhone and the iPad in particular have opened up the market to people who otherwise wouldn’t have shown any interest in playing games. Joe Wee of Chillingo, one of the leading publishers of iOS games, singled this out as the greatest strength of these platform, saying: ‘It brings out the hidden gamer in everybody. That’s the magic that iOS has brought to an entirely new gaming market.’
Relentless Software, responsible for the Buzz! games on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, agrees that iOS is currently at the forefront of this effort to open new markets. ‘I had a lot of people that would say they weren’t gamers, but then when you quiz them on what they do, they do play games,’ said David Amor, Relentless Software CEO. ‘People almost accidentally have a game device in their pocket.’
The situation has been helped by the great deal of innovation in iOS game development too. Much like the indie market at large, the overheads are minimal compared to the more standard models of software development seen in the industry. Amor illustrated as much when comparing the process of bringing his upcoming iOS title Quiz Climber to market with the stress of getting Buzz! to launch on the PSP and PlayStation 3.
‘Traditional video game development requires a massive commitment’ he says. ‘In the case of making a PlayStation game, your master disc is going to Austria and there’s a machine there that stamps out a million discs and that’s a big thing to take on. This is much more straightforward.’
The platform is also very easy for a developer to work with and the development software for the iDevices is highly accessible. ‘Anyone who is creative can download that and just hammer out a game,’ says Chillingo’s Chris Byatte. ‘It’s opened the doors to everyone to reach the market.’ Although some have criticised Apple’s approval process, Byatte believes it’s highly beneficial to the consumer. ‘In the more traditional mobile market, there’s a 50 per cent chance that it won’t even work,’added Wee.
Developing for iOS also bypasses a significant drawback of PC development, which is that developers only have to worry about one standardised system (albeit now with a few SKUs). One positive aspect of Apple’s strict control over the uses for its device and how it can be modified is that development for it is much simpler. ‘So much energy as a developer is soaked up figuring out different configurations,’ says Amor. ‘You’re spending half your energy worrying about that, and it would be much more fun spending that energy on making a new game or coming up with new ideas.’
It’s not just the PC market that suffers from this. The mobile gaming market outside of Apple is also affected by the diversity of the hardware currently in use. Chillingo started out developing for Pocket PC (now known as Windows Mobile). ‘We know the pains of delivering content and provisioning,’ said Chris Byatte. ‘It’s tricky, and in the old days providing support was very time consuming and really, that has gone now.’
Before Apple, developers wanting to sell in the mobile market would have to port titles to many different platforms and then rely on shaky distribution centres, only to earn 50 per cent of the revenue (compared to Apple’s 70 per cent). Joe Wee described the release of the iPhone as a ‘Eureka moment’ in mobile gaming, as it offered a standardised platform with a built-in digital distribution centre that was attractive to many developers.
The accessibility and ubiquity of iOS appears to offer the benefits of the PC market, but also the benefits of working with the homogenised hardware configuration of a console. Small teams of developers aren’t just prospering in the market; they’re thriving, despite the fierce competition. These teams are setting up virtual studios, and Byatte tells us how Chillingo is working with teams that have never even met each other face to face, or are operating on different sides of the globe.
Could The Bubble Burst?
Looking to history, if this is in fact the beginning of a new golden age, then the end could already be forecast in terms of where these small teams might end up. We might label it as a golden age now, but it could already be the beginning of the end – what will happen when these small teams are so successful that they outgrow the market?
‘You had the ZX Spectrum days where people were back-bedroom coders – they probably know each other, and they’re selling cassettes by post, but those guys are now execs of the Sonys of the world,’ says Byatte. ‘That’s how they started out.’
Amor agrees, with a hopeful eye on how this rush of mobile developers could reshape the industry: ‘I’d like them to continue making games, but why not have those people be the people that run the Sonys of the world in the future?’
However, is this just marketing bluster to state that we’re on the brink of something new and wonderful? Byatte and Wee see the market moving towards the social market, and they’re seeing a lot of social elements cropping up in the games on which they work. Although this is not necessarily a negative factor, could this be the beginning of a new medium entirely? Rather than a golden age of gaming, could this be the birth of a social media/gaming hybrid? It’s something Chillingo is carefully considering.
Not only this, but it could be that the App store has reached a point where innovation could be arguably as less prevalent. In recent weeks there have been cases of games being submitted that are entirely based on someone else’s work, such as Free Running – a literal clone of Canabalt that has appeared on the App store. It’s also no big surprise that the massively popular Angry Birds is seeing a number of imitators popping up across all mobile platforms, while Cut the Rope has served as a significant ‘inspiration’ for the newly released Spider Jack. Even Minecraft clones are popping up on iOS. In the latter cases, this is perfectly legitimate inspiration, and iteration has always existed in the game industry, but it could also be a worrying sign of what’s to come.
Another potential negative that could hold mobile gaming back is the way in which the games are funded. Finding ways to extract cash from players is a new problem for these developers, and it’s seen the birth of ‘freemium’ games, or games featuring micro-transactions – a move that some have reacted to angrily and which is prone to exploitation.
‘It’s challenging for developers to basically choose the right model for the game,’ says Wee. ‘You need it to fit well with how the game plays and how consumers perceive they will deride value from it and indeed pay for it. It’s not necessarily an issue, but there are definitely more opportunities and new monetisation methods with consumers’ desire to play free-to-play games on iOS.’
As for what makes a great game in the new golden age of iOS gaming, the consensus seems to be that it’s a near-indefinable feature known as ‘polish’. Byatte says that a lot of the developers with which he works want to get their app released as soon as possible, but he often recommends another three to six weeks of polish and playtesting to help iron out the kinks and identify bugs. ‘It can be a painful process because a lot of these guys just want to start making money, but we say you’ve gone all this way, don’t throw it out to the winds,’ he says.
Meanwhile, Amor recommends refining the core mechanic of any game and advises against feature creep. ‘People want a core mechanic that they can understand quickly, and I think game developers have a habit of saying “alright, now what could I add?” and most of the time you shouldn’t add anything at all.’
The app market provides the environment for a perfect storm of development and it’s possible that the next big innovations in gaming will come from there. In just two or three years, it’s already amassed an enormous gaming library, far in excess of that of some consoles, although it still remains to be seen whether or not this is just a bubble that’s about to pop. （Source：bit-tech）