As you may know by now, Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. Steve will go down in history as a man who revolutionized the world of personal computing, music, and digital content. He brought industrial design to the world of personal technology and made it as simple to consume content on his devices as clicking on a switch. It was not about the consumer always being right; it was about telling the consumer what being right is and leading the way.
Steve Jobs is also leaving a great legacy in the world of games, making everyone into a gamer and enabling anyone to be a game developer.
He snuck a high-end gaming platform in the one device we all use, the phone.
Before Steve Jobs and the iPhone, you had to be a gamer to play games. You could watch movies on your PlayStation or Xbox, but the primary purpose was gaming. And it cost about $350+ (console and 1 game) before you could play one level of game-play.
The iPhone changed everything. You bought the iPhone because you wanted a cool phone. But, lo and behold, when you opened the App Store, you discovered you could play amazing games with it, for $1 or less. And it was as easy to purchase and play as it was to buy a song.
The iPhone opened up the market of gaming for everyone who doesn’t consider themselves gamers but wants to own a phone, which essentially is 99% of the world.
The iPhone (and later, the iPad) were impressive gaming machines, with fast processors, high-end graphics, and innovative game technologies like the touch-screen, gyroscope, and accelerator. But the biggest innovation was that the average person did not know about any of this until they bought the phone itself.
By turning everyone into a gamer by hiding a game device in a phone, Steve Jobs changed the concept of what a gamer is. We are not “movie-goers,” we just watch movies. With iOS devices, we are no longer gamers. We just play games. And his legacy will live on as Apple moves back to the living room with iOS devices that sync with the TV and the TV itself (that is the future!).
Steve Job’s second biggest gaming legacy was in democratizing game development.
Before, a game developer would have to get the approval from a console maker, raise development funds, and often sign up with a publisher who would take the majority of revenues (and even the IP). It was a long, often painful process. Sure, there were exceptions, but the dream of anyone creating a game was more a myth than reality.
Apple changed this with the launch of the iPhone and extension of the iTunes model to games. For the first time, developers were offered the majority of the sale (70%) and allowed to set their own price.
Essentially, Steve Jobs and Apple let the market set the price. This has led to unintended consequences, such as prices dropping to an average of $1 (compare that to console), but also to the further development of innovative revenue modules such as free-to-play (freemium).
Apple was not the only company innovating the development and distribution of games. Facebook did as well, followed by Google and Valve (Steam).
The new model for game development and distribution is by no means perfect. Companies like Apple and Facebook have now as much or more monopolistic power as the consoles before.
But the development model has changed for the better, forever. Before, anyone could dream of creating a successful game out of their basement. Today, anyone around the world can.
In the same way we are all gamers now, we all can be game developers as well.
RIP, Steve Jobs. Your legacy in games shall live on for a long, long time.