Smartphone games – how do the main platforms compare?
The iPhone is the undisputed leader in smartphone gaming. But how do the other mobile platforms compare? We take a look?
Smartphone gaming has become a serious business over the past two years, mainly thanks to the iPhone, and the big names in the industry such as EA and Gameloft have jumped on the bandwagon to take advantage of an ever growing market.
Indeed, mobile phone gaming is now so popular that Sony and Nintendo are seeing revenues fall as the PSP and DX struggle to compete against games which are almost identical, yet priced much lower, on smartphones. It is likely that you take your phone everywhere and thus there are many opportunities to play a quick game and this extends the appeal even further.
You can equip a modern smartphone with games from every popular genre and still pay less than you would for one game on a dedicated portable gaming system. The comparison is often stark and one example is Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown on the iPhone which retails for £5.99. It is £24.99 to buy for the PSP and the versions are very similar indeed.
Smartphones also naturally come with flexible communication options which allow online multi-play and the ability to upload scores to social networking sites such as Facebook.
One other important factor is that as the popularity of smartphones grow, so does the potential market that software developers can target. Potentially smartphones will attract a much bigger market than dedicated consoles and this will cause games developers, hardware manufacturers and the makers of the mobile operating systems to increase video capability to the point that what we see as console gaming now will become normal on a phone.
The fact that millions of people will be using smartphones and that there will be no retail stores needed for delivery also means that the games will represent better value for all of us.
As technology has moved forward the days of playing simple card games and 2D strategy adventures are over, for most platforms, and this is another reason for the hardware manufacturers to push the boundaries of what is possible on a mobile phone.
You can now play well known games like The Sims and Call of Duty on an iPhone and some of the more popular titles are making their way to the Android platform as well. Nokia entered the market with a professional setup earlier than the rest via the N-Gage platform which sadly did not gain enough followers to continue, and this has now been replaced by the Ovi Store.
The likes of Windows Mobile and the now defunct Palm OS also have thousands of games running on the platforms, and many of these have been spruced up and released on the more popular platforms today. Smartphone gaming is not new, but it is without doubt now a credible choice for leisure time and one that will grow bigger as each day passes.
Let’s take a look at gaming on some of the biggest smartphone platforms.
The Symbian platform has not historically been seen as a gaming platform, but there is great scope for developers to exploit a huge consumer market. The current selection of games is, on the whole, quite simplistic in comparison to some other platforms and the Ovi Store houses many games which vary in quality.
There are some superb titles available which show what is possible, but at this time there are too many which offer little entertainment value for the price. The very best games are still available via N-Gage and some of these rival the very best available; if you are looking for serious gaming on Symbian this is the place to go.
Amount of games: 1000’s
Type of games: All genres covered, but most are simplistic in their implementation.
Overall quality: Poor to average.
Hardware performance: Most games are built to work on all Symbian phones and thus hardware performance is very consistent.
Best Symbian gaming devices: The Nokia N97 and Nokia 5800 have large touch screens and offer a superior Symbian gaming experience.
Game rating: ***
The BlackBerry platform was not designed for gaming, or for many other non-business activities, and this is starting to become more apparent as the competition heats up. Despite many enhancements to the operating system, there is still some way to go before we will see this platform compete with the best in terms of gaming.
There are some immersive games which will keep you happy for a few minutes, but none which push the boundaries of mobile gaming. However, some of the board games and puzzlers do stand up to scrutiny so it’s not all lost. If you purchase a BlackBerry device to get things done you will be more than happy, but don’t consider gaming to be a big feature.
Amount of games: 100’s
Type of games: Most genres catered for, but ambitious titles are sadly lacking.
Overall quality: Poor.
Hardware performance: The BlackBerry operating system stops the development of complex gaming so hardware performance is good. Most BlackBerry’s are not designed for gaming though.
Best BlackBerry gaming device: BlackBerry Storm- more games are made to work on the large touch screen.
Game rating: **
The Android platform is growing quicker than any other and games developers have realised this. At this time the number of titles are growing steadily, but we are still not seeing the blockbuster titles available on the iPhone and this is mainly due to the fact that third party games can currently only be installed in internal memory.
When this changes, so should the number of big titles available and with popular games like Doodle Jump and Paper Toss already on the platform it is likely that many of the rest will follow. At the moment the Android platform is a sleeping giant in the mobile games market and is the only likely challenger to the iPhone in the near future.
Amount of games: 100’s and growing quickly
Type of games: All genres catered for apart from complex 3D titles.
Overall quality: Good.
Hardware performance: Very good due to the limitations currently in place for developers.
Best Android gaming device: The HTC Desire and Google Nexus One have big screens and lots of power which is perfect for gaming.
Game rating: ***
The iPhone completely changed the mobile gaming industry and to this day the changes continue at a frightening pace. The range of titles available is so immense that the biggest problem is finding the genuine showstoppers which are often priced at less than £3. With so many genres covered and some classic new titles already commanding attention it is hard to knock such a complete service.
Whether you want a casual puzzler or a full-on combat shooter, a game will be available that suits your needs. The large number of iPhone and iPod Touch users also ensures that titles can be priced at throwaway amounts which only fuels the industry further. If smartphone gaming is high on your wish list, the iPhone should be as well.
Amount of games: 10’s of 1000’s and growing every day.
Type of games: All genres catered for and many exceptional titles available.
Overall quality: Excellent.
Hardware performance: With so few iPhone models available, and with Apple’s developer restrictions in place, the performance is superb. The only hindrance is battery life.
Best Android gaming device: iPhone 3GS.
Game rating: *****
Written by Shaun McGill
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