After dominating the handset and app markets for so long – or at the very least, holding a significant market share – Apple have begun to close the net on a market they were once expected to revolutionise. The company are on track to edge out each and every one of the most popular p-personal gaming consoles of the past forty years, via their Game Center service.
Since the 1970s, computer games have been an ever-increasing success among audiences both young and old. And, becoming much more commonly in recent years, games are steadily evolving into a form of media comparable to film, in terms of personal involvement, plot and state of the art graphics. You have only to look at Microsoft’s wildly successful Halo franchise – a first-person shoot ‘em up series that broke new ground by alternately giving players the chance to blast through hundreds of hostile aliens, and immersing them in the alien culture. Halo is a prime example of how engaging plotlines are now a priority even for games that have previously followed a very simple formula – e.g. shoot everything that moves.
The audience reception to this change in the gaming industry speaks for itself. The Halo franchise has been liked over three million times. Final Fantasy XIII, a long-awaited instalment of a series famous for its storylines, sold over a million units in its first week. The gaming industry has come an undeniably long way since our parents spent their afternoons at the arcade playing Pong.
And that is what Apple are said to be overtaking.
An Apple Inc analyst has made the bold claim that accounts on Apple’s Game Center will outnumber personal gaming consoles, and become the world’s biggest gaming platform. Apple have stated that over 130 million accounts have been set up through their Game Center, and Asymco have expressed their belief that this number will exceed 200 million by the end of the year.
This would be a historic achievement on Apple’s part – no home gaming system, neither handheld nor console, has ever broken the 200 million mark. The current top-selling gaming system is the Nintendo DS, which has sold over 150 million units since it was released; despite the considerable jump from this figure to 200 million, Asymco remain confident.
It’s not just Game Center accounts that are used to measure the success of iOS devices as gaming devices. OpenFeint, a third party social/gaming platform available to iOS and Android devices, reports over 180 million active accounts which us their service. Couple these numbers with the active Apple Game Center accounts, and it’s easy to believe that soon iOS gamers will outnumber those who still cleave to the traditional gaming model.
As unsurprising as this news may be, given Apple’s relentless growth, it brings to light the disturbing possibility that the gaming industry might be starting to downsize. In spite of the steps taken by games like Halo, gaming may be sidelined into becoming an activity only indulged in by mobile phone owners waiting for a bus, or snatching a few minutes of Angry Birds on their lunch break.
We can only hope that the next generation of console gaming is able to remind players of the limitless heights a console can achieve. With Microsoft’s Xbox 720 rumoured to make an appearance before 2014, we may not have long to wait.