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The Evolution of Gaming on iOS

I’ve played video games ever since I was a kid. I’d like to say that I’m not proud of how much I play, but in a way I would just be lying. I feel as though there is a little bit of stigma associated with saying that computer games are your hobby. I think this is a little unnecessary, as more and more people have started to play. This is in part, due to the fact that in your iPhone you’re carrying a portable games console in your pocket. And before you say it, yes, Candy Crush does count as playing video games…

Before recently, I’d never really taken iOS seriously as a gaming platform. But the more I came to think about it, the more it’s changed since the first game I played, way back on my iPhone 3G.

Portable gaming has always been a big market. Every I know, around my grand age of 24, had a game boy growing up. Many of my friends invested in the PSP, and of course, the immensely popular Nintendo DS. However, where the DS reached wide audiences, the market never truly took off in comparison to today’s iOS sales.

iOS changed the way that people perceived games, right from the off. When I first got home to unbox my iPhone 3G, the first apps that I downloaded were games, namely Angry Birds and Doodle Jump. These two games were as addictive as they were simple. Simple mechanics, enjoyable by all and most of all affordable at just 59p.

Apps like these opened up the world of gaming for those that didn’t spent their youth sat playing Super Mario in their pants. It’s fair to say that in 2009 Angry Birds was all the rage, all of a sudden coffee breaks were Angry Birds breaks. What’s that guy doing on the bus? Playing Angry Birds. Why are my colleagues spending exponentially more time in the toilet? That’s right, Angry Birds.

Personally, I got tired of Angry Birds very quickly. Simple games are great, but for me, it takes a really good formula to keep me hooked on something simple. I play for the challenge, and simple games just don’t provide that.

Today, iOS games are not simple. Yes, mechanics and controls only have so much scope with a lack of physical buttons. But now it’s possible to recreate console level gaming on your smartphone. Oh what a world we live in.

Take for example, the excellent Transistor, from Super Giant Games - recently featured in the AppStore’s 10 Most Iconic Heroes feature. Quick disclaimer - I didn’t play this on iOS, but I think that shows the beauty of it. Transistor, is a beautiful game, and it felt right at home on the PS4, which was the platform I played it on.

I’m currently involved in a platinum trophy race spanning the past half a decade with a good friend. Currently losing 88–82 (follow me @Sethoy on PSN), so playing a full length game like this on iOS would be counter productive for me.

Transistor is the opposite end of the spectrum to games like Angry Birds. The game as a deep story, stunning visuals and a sophisticated, well thought out battle system, all combined with intuitive controls. For me, it is just one of several examples illustrating how games are becoming more accessible to the masses, and how far iOS has come as a platform. Angry Birds was almost the height of what could be achieved back in 2009/10, but Transistor shows the way forward, particularly as we enter the age of tvOS.

Companies are beginning to recognise that iOS is a platform that is here to stay. Unfortunately for the trophy hunter in me, the PS Vita has been all but killed as a platform, and a lot of that is due to developers turning their focus to iOS. Nintendo will release their first iOS title this year, where seasoned developers Square Enix have made Final Fantasy III, IV, V, VI the iconic VII and most recently IX available on iOS.

It’s an exciting time for gamers and iOS, and for everyone else on the platform really. Gone are my childhood needs for intricate mirror systems to play FFVII in the bath - the youth of today will never know innovation like kids from the ‘90s. Games like Transistor, like Bastion and Telltale Games brilliant The Wolf Among Us combined with more simplistic titles like the gorgeous Monument Valley and Alto’s Adventure all strike a unique balance of beauty, simplicity and above all, fun, on iOS that you don’t find on the powerhouse consoles of today.

The gulf in class between the AppStore of 2009 and 2016 is unbelievable. It’s a revolution like no other in tech history. The sky is the limit as to what you developers seem to be able to achieve, and I’m looking forward to seeing how far this can be taken in the next 7 years.