"Eh, it's a phone."
While buzzwords, liberally sprinkled with the occasional usage of the phrase 'game changer' are a-plenty right now, it's hard to find anyone genuinely excited about Apple's latest reveal. Move past the diplomatically phrased articles, the odd shill and the smattering of loyalists and you'll find snarky quips and tired acknowledgment that this revelation is, by and large, really just synonymous with a bill for a new phone. A newer, shinier, more fashionable phone, perhaps, but a phone nonetheless.
To recap for those who don't feel the need to be an omniscient authority on all things technology related, Apple drew the curtains back today on the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. While the latter is essentially more of the same except with a smaller price tag and more aggressively-colored packaging, the iPhone 5S is supposed to be a beefier enticement. There's a 64-bit A7 chip, the first of its kind in a smartphone, under the hood, a new camera system, a never-before-seen fingerprint scanner and a button chiseled out of sapphire. In theory, this is awesome. Polygons, unlike adipose tissue, never go out of vogue. But is it the game changer that some pundits are excitedly trumpeting it to be?
"I don't think it is," Rami Ismail, one half of indie darling Vlambeer, remarks. "The game was changed long ago by the iPhone as a concept."
News about the latest, slickest iOS game, the one that sends phones rocketing into hyperdrive, generally proliferate like rats. Pixels impress, after all. However, once eyes have adjusted to the analogical glare, what remains is usually of a simpler breed. Last month, the iOS charts were topped by Asphalt 8: Airborne but were quickly followed by Ending, Mikey Hooks, Blackbar and 868-HACK, all games rooted in great ideas and low-fi aesthetics. Though there is no standing stigma against bigger, more involved games, a sort of mental dissonance does exist. Many see iOS games as a diversion, a placeholder, a stopgap for unexpected down time and not as giant time sinks. (Not in a single session, at least.)
"I think it might have something to do with the low entry prices on the App Store - since games cost me a dollar or whatever, I play for 30 minutes, and can then think to myself, 'Well, you've basically already got your money's worth from this game, so continuing onwards isn't entirely necessary.'", Mike Rose, who writes with Pocket Gamer UK, muses. "Compare that to if I grab a PS3 game for £30, and I feel more compelled to check every nook and cranny of a large-scale experience such as that."
"Rymdkapsel, Plants versus Zombies 2 and 868-Hack." Ismail replies, when I ask about the games that currently have their claws in Vlambeer. "Rymdkapsel because it's a slow-burn, strategic game that feels like it would play perfectly on any platform, but it works well on iOS for some reason. Plants versus Zombies 2 because it's so hard to stop playing, a great sequel to a great game, an an extremely impressive and respectful implementation of IAP. 868-Hack is something different. It's a smestorp game, which sort of means that it's sort of impenetrable for anybody without some knowledge or interest in game design, but it's one of the most flawlessly executed game designs we've ever seen."
If razzle-dazzle isn't what is selling games, does that mean there's room for the iPhone 5C to muscle into smartphone territory? Sort of. According to Chinese news outlet Sina Tech, Apple is scheduled to conduct a conference sometime tomorrow in Beijing. It's supposed to be an exclusive affair and many speculate that it'd come packaged with announcement about the new iPhone models, a possibility further cemented by the not-so-gentle nudges from the mega-corporation itself.
"We're not economists, but Apple recommending to localize to Brazilian-Portuguese and Simplified Chinese is a sign. Our gut feeling is that those countries will be increasingly important as they start becoming more globalized. On top of that, it will also mean more developers from there will be able to start making games for global audiences, which should be super interesting." Ismail says.
"The appearance of a 'cheap' iPhone is interesting. " Lee Perry from Bitmonster Games says over e-mail. "I hear from many colleagues with apps on both iOS and Android that there's about equal income to be found on both platforms, assuming your game is F2P. For premium apps, it's largely iOS or nothing. So many people have basically been given Android devices, but they're not really up front "spenders" statistically. I'm wondering if cheaper iPhones will mean an influx of more gamers unwilling to pay for premium apps, and hence yet another foothold towards games being largely F2P. I look forward to the day where a simple up front pay model is viable for a game with a team again."
Should they succeed in establishing a stronger hold on the $35-billion dollar market, this would mean an influx of new customers for the platform. But depending on where you stand in regards to the subject matter, this could either be a great thing or reason to produce further apathy. Premium games, supplanted by a growing number of free-to-play titles, are already having difficulty establishing traction with their desired audience. Putting China, which stands rather truculently against anything that is not of the freemium variety, into the mix probably isn't going to help.
What's interesting, though, is how many people see the 5C as the the 'cheap' iPhone when it is, quite simply, cheaper. It's a tad more bang for your buck, a little more desirable if you're not into monochromatic designs but still not all that accessible to the lower-middle class income bracket. Had the iPhone 5C never come to be, the iPhone 5 would now be the one priced at $99 with the iPhone 4S still tranposed to the 'freebie' slot. In other words, it's business as usual. Move along. Nothing to see here, folks. That said, there's certainly nothing wrong with the new products. One might just help bump Apple's declining position in a more favorable direction ever-so-slightly while the other will blur the lines between 'portable console' and telecommunication device even further. However, if your friends start getting super-excited and start waving the words 'game' and 'changer' in an interconnected fashion, you can point them here.