Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Apple Might Do

Given that I don't have shadowy insiders feeding me rumors, I just have to speculate about Apple's "new creation" slated to be announced next week, and what it might mean for game developers and marketers. All the rumors seem to be centered around a tablet of some sort, which will be in some ways like a very large iPod Touch. Based on Apple's past product introductions, I bet it will be more expensive than most people will like... we'll have to wait a year or two before the price comes down to the point where the market for it will expand rapidly (just like with the iPhone).

Apple will no doubt be encouraging developers to support it along with the iPhone, which will probably mean supporting new features of the tablet (such as a larger resolution). Rather than having separate apps for the iPhone and the new tablet, in most cases developers will likely opt to put everything into one file, so downloads will get somewhat bigger. I think interfaces will have to change for some games; what's convenient in a device you can hold in one hand is not so convenient when you have to use two hands, or a lap or a table, to support the device. A larger resolution will make some things easier to do, no doubt.

A more important innovation for marketers will be when Apple debuts an integrated advertising market for the iPhone/Touch/tablet. This will probably not be announced until later, but since Apple picked up a major mobile advertising company, you can bet it's coming. This will be key for game developers trying to earn a living on free or 99 cent games... when you can integrate ads as easily as Google allows, this revenue stream may make up for the low average selling prices of Apps. (Now if Apple were to debut a leaderboard system and integrated gaming community like Xbox Live, that would be cool... but I'm not holding my breath.)

Yes, there's lots of speculation about what this tablet could mean for magazines and ebooks (imagine a full color, hyperlinked RPG manual with integrated GM assistance and mapping). But the true impact won't be felt for quite some time, as it will take a while for an audience to build to a reasonable size even if this thing takes off fast. Which is good, because it will give the smaller publishers (which is to say, most iPhone developers and the entire adventure gaming industry) time to get ready for whatever impact this might have.

So read all the hyperbole with a skeptical eye, but remember that Apple usually takes time to make their new technothingy into a true hit (the App Store concept took a year to take hold, after being dissed by Apple for months), and even longer before it becomes moderately affordable (the $99 iPhone took years to arrive). It should be an interesting year...

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