IPhone Will Be A Game Changer For Games Industry

The iPhone's got 3G, but does it got game? You betcha'.

With enhanced graphics, faster download speeds and easier access to fee-based games, Apple’s second-generation iPhone has the potential to revitalize the mobile gaming industry, experts say.

Bejeweled 2_25798384
PopCap Games

"The iPhone has been able to change consumer’s attitudes on how they view their mobile phone," says David Riley a director at market research firm NPD Group.

Since other cell phones on the market have failed to cater to a gaming platform, the mobile game market has been floundering for years, says Riley.

One major way the iPhone will change that is through its newly created App Store. The store allows users to purchase games -- as well as other applications -- directly from the iPhone itself with just a few taps on the screen. The process is much simpler than with other phones.

"The App Store is a better purchasing experience," says Eric Puterbaugh, director of client services at Nielsen Mobile.

With other phones, carriers like Verizon or AT&T or Sprint control the store where games are bought.

"It is not a great customer experience," says Andrew Stein, director of mobile business development at PopCap Games, an online and mobile game developer.

Puterbaugh says the App Store works better because Apple provides a clearer store front, or menu, with game descriptions and customer reviews.

"Apple is better at selling digital content than a carrier," he says, citing the company's success with selling movies, music and television shows through its iTunes store.

Analysts and game publishers also say that the release of the new iPhone itself will raise the profile of the entire mobile gaming industry and make non-iPhone users more aware that they can play games on their phones.

Unlike Apple, phone carriers haven't advertised the fact that their customers can play games on their phones.

Specific numbers on how many games have been purchased since the iPhone 3G was released earlier this month are not yet available, but empirical evidence suggests demand is high; on iTunes, seven of the top ten paid applications are games.

In fact, Apple just announced that iPhone owners had downloaded 25 million software applications from the App Store since its launch July 11.

On the previous version of the iPhone users were already showing interest in using the device for game play: 20% of them played online games, making them nine times more likely to play games than the average mobile consumer, according to Nielsen Mobile.

Industry watchers say the improved graphics and unique tapping controls allow developers and publishers to create more complex games for the iPhone than the more casual games currently on the market.

Game Makers Reach Out

Travis Boatman, Electronic ArtsMobile’s Vice President of Worldwide Studios says the company expects to release “Tiger Woods” and “Need for Speed” games for the iPhone as well as multi-player games.

"The iPhone touch screen is going to help our studio become more creative," says Stein, whose company PopCap Games developed "Bejeweled 2," available on the App Store.

But Puterbaugh says publishers should be somewhat wary of Apple's App Store, which could allow the company to gain an upper hand on the mobile gaming market, as it did with the music industry and wind up having more control over pricing than the publishers.

For now, however, the feeling in the industry is bullish.

"It’s interesting to watch publishers actually make some money off of this mobile phone platform,” says Riley.

Send questions and comments to:joseph.pisani@nbcuni.com