For mobile video game developers, the impending iPhone 5 may be a game changer. The new device from Apple, in stores on Sept. 21 ($199-$399), has a more powerful processor, slightly larger display and -- compared with the current iPhone 4S -- is slimmer and weighs less, too.
The iPhone is already a vital gaming device, but these advances could solidify its smartphone gaming dominance. More than half of iPhone users (52%) play mobile games at least once a week, compared with 42% of Android smartphone users, according to a recent survey from research firm Frank N. Magid Associates.
Apple's improvements will likely increase the potential for gaming on its smartphone, says analyst Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid's consulting unit. "Lighter, thinner, bigger screen -- those are all really good for gamers," he says.
Game developers are already experimenting with how the new iPhone will push the envelope in the estimated $1 billion wireless games market. "We are really excited about this device because we think it is going to turbocharge a sector that is already arguably the fastest-growing part of the business," says Nick Earl, senior vice president of global mobile and social studios at Electronic Arts. The second-largest U.S. game publisher, EA is also the leading publisher of iOS games.
The new A6 processor promises twice the computing power of iPhone 4S. For game developers, that translates into better-looking games. "It drives both the graphics as well as the speed of the game and the depth of the game," Earl says.
And the larger display -- now 4 inches vs. 3.5 inches on the iPhone 4S -- makes for a larger canvas. In the game Real Racing 3, which was demonstrated onstage during Apple's iPhone 5 event, designers added side mirrors and rearview mirrors to the player's point of view. "That makes a big difference to the game play and the immersion," says Rob Murray, executive producer of the game that is due later this year for the iPhone 5.
At mobile game studio Ngmoco -- Blood Brothers and Rage of Bahamut -- Vice President of Marketing Doug Scott agrees that the larger screen increases "the visual impact of the game" and will allow "more intuitive methods for people to interact with the game."
Additional improvements to iTunes searching and faster game downloads via speedier 4G LTE networks will improve the overall game ecosystem, he says. "Now iOS is on a par, and perhaps has an advantage, with any gaming platform on Earth," Scott says.
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