A couple of the main features of iOS8 Apple announced today seem like they might bring that platform a couple steps closer to where I wish it was in regards to gaming. If you ask me it could still do a lot more.
Right now when I want to play portable games my first choice is still my 3DS, mostly because of the software but also because I still have a bit of trouble seeing my iPad as a device for games. There are things about its gaming experience that are still uncomfortable to someone like me who grew up on conventional consoles.
The obvious step forward Apple has taken is its new “Metal” development set, allowing a lower level of software overhead in regards to graphics for app developers which will mostly benefit games. I’m actually surprised Apple wasn’t already doing this. iOS as a platform already behaves more similarly to a console than, say, Windows. All its software goes through certification, and the devices running the OS fall within a general set of architecture. Letting developers code to the metal has always been an advantage of consoles against the various PCs that need DirectX to run the same games, and it makes sense for iOS to have that same advantage. Specifically this could cause iOS developers to run into less software overhead than Android developers.
The second thing that might be cool for games is Family Sharing. Family members not being able to share iTunes-bought content has bugged me for years, and Family Sharing is becoming the norm for digital gaming platforms between PlayStation, Xbox, and Steam. Being able to share paid games makes at least as much sense for a handheld. Depending on how it works it could make multiplayer between friends and family a lot more viable.
A couple other small cool things are app bundles and video previews. Bundles have been such a great part about Steam I still wonder why Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo don’t do them. Video previews are just better for app discoverability.
All that said, there are still things I’d like to see done with iOS gaming. It’s a powerful force in the gaming market already but I still don’t think it’s meeting its potential.
For instance, save file management is still tricky on iOS in my opinion. I shouldn’t have to be worried about losing save files when I delete games. Whenever I close out of an iOS game I’m still not totally sure what progress it saved. iCloud doesn’t work 100% of the time and nowhere near 100% of games use it. I’d just suggest an official app for managing data from other apps (Windows Phone has something called “Files” right?), able to be exported to iTunes. Maybe let people actually manage their save files on iCloud.
The issue of buttons is in the process of being solved but it’s taking longer than I thought for good adapters to show up. The one’s I’ve tried feel too cheap and cost too much.
The biggest issue is probably the iOS game market itself — how the standards for pricing have affected the kinds of games that show up. But I could probably devote a whole post to that subject alone (If I haven’t already).
iOS is already a great system for the quick-fix games that have grown up within it, but I feel like it’s always a couple steps away from something more.