As you are most likely aware, Apple‘s WWDC keynote was earlier today and Steve Jobs delivered a solid 2 hours worth of announcements — mostly revolving around the new iPhone 4 and iOS 4 (renamed from iPhone OS). Among the plethora of new information only a few points were on-the-nose related to gaming, but there were a few that were indirectly related as well.
Two new game titles were revealed during the keynote, complete with representatives of each developer making the announcements.
First up was Zynga‘s CEO Mark Pincus announcing, that’s right, Farmville for the iPhone. The iPhone version will offer push notifications so you won’t forget to harvest your crops – as if you weren’t already addicted. It will be interesting to see how We Rule will stack up to Farmville and it’s already established group of addicts from Facebook. Farmville will be available in the app store by the end of June.
Karthik Bala, Senior VP of Activision, then took the stage and announced Guitar Hero for the iPhone. The title hit the app store today for $2.99 and features character customization, guitar/bass customization and a good handful of songs. You can purchase additional three-packs of songs for $1.99. The gameplay is as you’d expect, but with one mechanic twist — sliding to string notes together. This adds a new piece of the game to get you immersed in the song, and it works very well. I downloaded Guitar Hero this afternoon, and it has replaced Rock Band on my iPhone.
One other title shown (that wasn’t officially name-dropped) was a Jenga-looking game, demoed by Jobs himself. However, the game wasn’t being shown to announce the title, but it was being used to demonstrate the iPhone 4’s newest piece of hardware — a gyroscope.
Yep, a big deal in terms of the evolution of the iPhone mobile gaming market. The gyroscope adds a three-axis gyro (angular velocity) to the device, bringing pitch, roll and yaw as well as rotation around gravity. Simply put, this opens the door for developers to create new and more precise mechanics and movement in their iPhone games. We will no doubt see an influx of new titles knocking down the doors of the app store that will feature gameplay that uses the gyroscope functionality.
The rest of the hardware benefits are simple additions that will ultimately bring in a better quality of gaming to the iPhone. The display now features a 960 x 640 “Retina” display — which increases the pixel density to 4 times the amount of pixels of the 3GS. Ultimately, this creates a cleaner and crisper visual experience. Pair that with the A4 chip (which is also built into the iPad) and you’re sure to have a better all around experience in games, when looking at graphics and overall performance. The battery life has also been upgraded and the numbers are very impressive – 40% more talk time, 6-10 hours web browsing, 10 hours video playback, 40 hours music and a whopping 300 hours standby.
Another hardware feature that isn’t directly gaming related is the front-facing camera. I wouldn’t be surprised to see developers figure out a way to work the camera’s functionality into a game. Just imagine being behind the wheel of a race car and seeing yourself in the rear view mirror. The front facing camera may also be a great benefit to character customization, personalizing a game’s avatar with your own face. I’m definitely interested to see if and how this can be worked in to future iPhone games.
One of the features we were anticipating to learn more about, but was unfortunately missing from the presentation, was GameCenter. Revealed back in April during the iOS 4 keynote, GameCenter was briefly summarized as a social gaming platform for the iPhone where you can add friends and challenge them, obtain achievements and climb the high score ladder.
Unfortunately, there was no mention of the platform in today’s WWDC – but this is a big deal for Apple’s advancement in mobile gaming. What’s great about GameCenter is that its the first of it’s kind in the mobile gaming sphere. Not the Nintendo DS, nor the Sony PSP have come up with any sort of achievement functionality or coordination of social integration a la some breed of friends list. Out of the gate, this is a big step ahead for Apple in the gaming sector.
What you have to wonder is how will GameCenter effect the already instituted social platforms on the iPhone, like OpenFeint and Plus+? These divisions already back some popular titles like We Rule, Pocket God, and Rolando – so will there be some sort of integration with these platforms? Can they co-exist, or are they soon to be obsolete?
Apple brought on the details in a big way today, and you can bet that they haven’t revealed everything just yet. Reservations for the iPhone 4 start June 15th, and the device is officially out June 24th. If you aren’t interested in upgrading just yet (or can’t), the iOS 4 will be available June 21st – so mark your calendars to update.
Will you be picking up the iPhone 4? What are you looking forward to the most with iPhone 4 and iOS4? Is there anything you hoped for that still hasn’t made the cut?
Source: GDGT (photos)