Why iOS 9 Will Change Mobile Gaming as We Know it
Why iOS 9 Will Change Mobile Gaming as We Know it
It's been a little over a month since Apple's new iOS 9 was rolled out. Just a few days later, Apple announced that its new operating system had been installed on more than 50% of active iPhones and iPads, which made it the fastest adoption rate in the company's successful history.
It's undoubtedly an exciting time, not only for Apple fans but gamers at large. Why? iOS 9 introduces a series of game-changing (pardon the pun) features and engines which, if proven as successful as tech experts predict, will have an industry-wide impact. After all, mobile gaming is a $25 billion per year industry on both iOS and Android. It's actually expected to surpass console games in terms of revenue by the end of the 2015.
Let's take a detailed look at the iOS 9 features which will make a difference in the way we play on smartphones, and explore what each one means for end users.
3D Touch: Being Under Pressure is Great
(Image Source: gamezebo.com)
3D Touch is the innovation cornerstone of Apple's iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, as it brings brand new ways to interact with the screen. Since their popularization in the late 2000s and up to now, touchscreens have been registering a set series of gestures: tapping, swiping or pinching. 3D Touch brings new gestures into play, which Apple has named "peek" and "pop." iPhone screens now respond to actual levels of pressure instead of mere touch or finger movement. As demonstrated in the Special Event Apple this September, this technology - dubbed "the next generation of multi-touch enables you to preview an email, by pressing lightly, or make it pop up by pressing harder. Similarly, users can access different interface features and shortcuts by applying different levels of pressure.
There are, of course, many more applications to this haptic technology and gaming is perhaps the most interesting area at least according to Wired magazine, which has welcomed it as "Apple's biggest gaming innovation." These new gesture options will effectively enable game developers to make complex games more intuitive and improve on the shortcomings of mobile gaming controls in comparison to other platforms.
Among the first games to take advantage of 3D Touch was an App Store Editor's Pick, futuristic racing simulator AG Drive. While accelerating and breaking your vehicle used to require tapping and holding different points on the screen, developer company ZORG has now mapped acceleration to 3D Touch, adding new depth to the already acclaimed game.
(Image Source: badlandgame.com)
Another interesting case is multi-award winning platform puzzle BADLAND. Frogmind games recently updated the addictive side-scroller with 3D Touch-based controls which help players navigate stages, as well as new optional "force objects" available in the level editor. Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade, is the first game developed specifically for the iPhone 6s. It is based on the popular tabletop strategy game franchise of the same name. In Warhammer, pressure is mapped to zoom controls to allow players to zoom in on the action.
According to the Entertainment Software Association's annual report, casual, puzzle and card games are the most frequently played genres, reaching an impressive 77% of all games played on mobile devices. After the introduction of 3D Touch, developers within these genres have been implementing the technology in the most creative of ways to make their app stand out. While games like Zombie Tsunami have opted to feature 3D Touch merely in mini-games and menus, the potential is great - and smart, innovative use will prove catalytic in making a game more popular.
ReplayKit: Play it again, Sam.
(Image Source: youtube.com)
Although iOS 9's new ReplayKit is a tool for developers, its implementation has certainly been swift and clear to gamers. ReplayKit easily enables videogame creators to implement game recording and sharing features, so that you can share your accomplishments with friends and social networks.
It seems that Apple has wisely picked up on the latest trends in eSports and the growing popularity of game streaming services, such as Twitch.tv. More people than ever -71 million in 2014, as reported by SuperData Research - watch competitive gaming events while e-gaming revenue predicted to hit $465 million in 2017 according to research firm NewZoo. Replaying your own games and watching others' sessions for enjoyment as well as tips and tricks seems to be all the rage right now, and iOS 9 brings that functionality right to your fingertips.
Many iOS games were already touching upon this trend by providing gamers with detailed history and stats on their previous games, such as PokerStars Mobile. The popular poker app, which recently added a range of games for the casino market, dedicates a whole section of their app to a history feature, giving gamers the chance to follow their progress closely. However, the introduction of ReplayKit technology makes this process more visually appealing, by introducing video and also adds the capacity to conveniently edit and add voice-over commentary.
This feature was welcomed by gaming companies and implemented almost overnight, as a number of games have already been updated to include it. One of the first was Gang Nations, the popular combat strategy game for iPhone and Android. It now enables players to record their battles with rival gangs and share them on social networks. Many more games, such as Breakneck and Playdemic's Sims-like hit Village Life followed suit and more are still to come.
GameplayKit and Model I/O: Under the Hood
One of the three game developer-exclusive kits Apple introduced in iOS 9 is the aptly named GameplayKit. It encompasses a series of tools that handle gameplay logic - randomness, simulation, pathfinding... Similarly, Model I/O is designed to light 3D models in both game and app design. Finally, the pre-existing game-specific SpriteKit, SceneKit and Metal have been updated to developers' delight, allowing for better use of the iPhone's central and graphics processors.
(Image Source: iphonefaq .org)
If all this sounds a bit too technical, but don't worry. All you need to know is that in effect, these tools will help developers create more immersive games with more complex rules and ultimately, better gameplay and more realistic graphics than ever. Apple promises that it will bring "console-grade" games to its devices.
For a taste of Apple's SceneKit, used for powering 3D games, you can check out the free fast-paced game Marballistic, where you control a marble ball frantically jumping from platform to platform.
Game Center: Let your Friends Play
Game Center, Apple's social gaming network, has also received a handy add-on. With the advent of iOS 9, Game Center supports guest players. Device owners no longer have to worry about friends borrowing their phone to try out games and messing up their stats, high-scores and achievements. Said friends can now play as guest players - in fact, up to three players can play real-time games and up to a massive fifteen players can play turn-based games on iOS 9.
Battery life and App Thinning: Every Little Bit Helps
iOS 9 promises to deliver up to 4 hours longer battery life than before thanks to under-the-hood performance tweaks and a new feature called Low Power Mode. By automatically disabling unneeded services, Low Power Mode enables you to conserve juice so there's more there when you feel like gaming. This feature seems similar to Sony's Battery STAMINA mode and brings a much needed update to iPhone's battery life, which is promised to also last longer because of hardware optimization.
On top of that, Apple introduced a new technology named App Thinning. It allows for apps to be optimized for specific devices, so that downloaded packages don't include irrelevant files and are, as a result, less chunky. This way, devices are left with more available space, while games are faster to install and launch.
iOS 9's reviews have been stellar, especially in terms of gaming capabilities. Now it's up to the developers to utilize all that it has to offer. As gamers, all we have to do is explore their efforts and decide for ourselves.
Editor: Mo Cheng