New gaming platform of choice: iPhone
New gaming platform of choice: iPhone

After years of being a punchline among hardcore gamers, Apple has gotten serious about gaming.

They just happened to use a cell phone and not a computer to do it.

With 30 million iPhone and iPod Touch users around the world and 25,0000 applications available in their online store, Apple’s smartphone has suddenly become competition for the likes of gaming giants Nintendo and Sony.

While Sony’s Playstation Portable has 50 million users and Nintendo’s DS has 100 million, both systems have been on the market for more than four years. It took Apple only eight months to hit 30 million and that’s drawn a lot of attention from game developers.

Last year, Neil Young left gaming publisher Electronic Arts after 11 years with the company to start a mobile game publisher that focuses on the iPhone.

Ngmoco has since launched five games, some free, some for sale, on the platform, Young said. As of this month, those games have been installed on about 7 million devices, he said.

“The market is super heated. The pace of adoption is going way faster than the DS,” he said. “When I left Electronic Arts there were a good group of people who thought I had lost my mind, now they think I made the right decision.

“This year we are expanding our pipeline, we plan to release 15 games this year.”

Most surprising to Young has been the discovery that so many hardcore gamers are drawn to the system.

“iPhone is being adopted as a handheld,” he said. “It’s different than the PSP and the DS. It terms of capacity, it is more powerful than the DS, and the second generation is as powerful as the PSP in terms of processing.”

“It’s got a multitouch screen, and can hold all of your media. It’s always on, always with you, always connected to the network.”

While Young says it would be easy to bring PSP and DS games over to the iPhone, doing that would ultimately be a disservice to iPhone owners.

“The iPhone deserves people trying to create games for it in the way that Nintendo tries to create games for the Wii and DS,” Young said.