There's no question the iPhone 5 will be a roaring success when it goes on sale Sept. 21. But the latest smart phone from Apple could also give certain game publishers a significant boost.
Gaming has increasingly been an important part of the Apple ecosystem – and while video game companies only made token appearances at Wednesday's press event, at least one says it views the new phone's release as a major catalyst for the industry.
"The iPhone 5 is going to be a big accelerant for us," says Nick Earl, SVP of EA’s Global Mobile and Social Studios. "Having been in the console business for two decades, we've seen that when [new] consoles come out, we see a huge improvement in powers that brings in new gamers and fuels growth. I don't see any difference here. Is [the iPhone 5] revolutionary? It's hard to know until we see it out there, but it feels like such a strong device in terms of its capability."
The CPU strength, of course, is a big plus. Apple's decision to include the A6 processor in the iPhone 5 makes it twice as fast as its predecessor. That gives game makers more power to create better artificial intelligence and higher quality graphics.
That's especially important as the mobile audience matures into more core gaming (dubbed mid-core by publishers, as opposed to the hard core gaming masses on consoles and PC). But it might not be the biggest draw for publishers and developers.
"The number one thing from our perspective is the 4-inch retina display," he says. "Our roots, as a company, are graphically oriented. We create rich, graphical experiences."
However, while EA Studios executive producer Rob Murray compared the graphical quality of the iPhone 5 onstage to today's consoles, Earl is careful to note that the systems still don't represent a threat to traditional home consoles.
"We absolutely believe this is complementary," he says. "This is not a threat to the console business. It's a different player - or if it's the same player, they're playing at different times and under different circumstances."
The jump from a 3.5-inch screen to a 4-inch one is something that can't be understated, as well. After ignoring wide screen gaming for years, Apple has finally made it a part of the iOS culture (though, granted, it's likely much more focused on the film aspects of the new screen size).
The move to a 16:9 screen ratio strips away one of the PS Vita's bragging rights. As mobile games become more focused on core gamers in the months and years to come, that ratio will be fully utilized to showcase more cinematic titles.
And while it's hardly a new story that the iPhone's battery outlasts dedicated handheld systems, Apple did manage to tweak Nintendo and Sony by ramping up the processing power and adding a significantly better (and bigger) screen, while managing to actually increase the system's battery life.
The 3DS and Vita both have notable shortcomings when it comes to that litmus test.
What's noteworthy is that while EA is planning to place its "biggest bet" on the iPhone 5, don't forget Apple also rolled out a slew of new iPod Touch devices – the system it has always touted as its gaming device. And it didn't hesitate to do so again today:
"It's the world's most popular music player... but a lot of people don't realize that it's also the world's most popular videogame player as well," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's VP of iPod, iPhone and iOS product marketing.
Every iPod Touch now has that same wide screen – and the flagship line got many of the updates the iPhone 5 did, making it a draw for people who aren't ready to upgrade their phone yet. Meanwhile. the iPod Nano doesn't support apps yet, but it seems a pretty sure bet that it will down the road, given the design decisions Apple made this time around.
Despite what the doomsayers might proclaim, Apple isn't a giant that's going to devour the rest of the industry. But its announcements this week will help it solidify its place as a focal point for gamers – and game makers – alike.