(In 11th paragraph please read "10 million copies" instead of
"5 million copies", correcting sales of "Bejeweled")
By Scott Hillis
SAN FRANCISCO Aug 23 Your iPhone should be an
ideal device for playing video games.
After all, it has a gloriously large touch-sensitive screen
and sensors that can detect when it's being tilted: a mash-up
of the best features of Nintendo Co Ltd's 7974.OS DS handheld
and Wii home console.
But games for Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhone are off to a slow
start as the company concentrates instead on making sure the
device's primary features of voice, music and Web browsing run
"Apple wants to be focused on making sure the thing works
as a core device," said Travis Boatman, vice president of
worldwide studios for the mobile division of Electronic Arts
Inc ERTS.O. "The first few iPods didn't support games but
eventually they did."
Those of you with an IPhone can already play a number of
games, but the first batch of titles has been mainly those that
were hastily adapted to fit the screen's format.
Like other iPhone programs not made by Apple itself, games
are limited to running within the Safari Web browser and cannot
be installed "natively" -- meaning directly on the device --
without using work-around solutions that are too much hassle
for most consumers to bother with.
That poses a few challenges to game developers. Some ways
of using the touch controls, such as dragging items across the
screen, don't work within the browser. Playing through the
browser also means you'll be out of luck if you're outside of a
APPLE IN THE GAME?
One of the first serious efforts came from PopCap Games, a
leading developer and publisher of casual games whose slate
includes hits like "Bejeweled" and "Zuma".
"There are a lot of passionate Mac users here in the
company," said Andrew Stein, director of PopCap's mobile
business development. "They looked at the iPhone and thought
this would be really cool to do 'Bejeweled' on."
PopCap viewed the project as a proof of concept for doing
games on the iPhone, but up to 100,000 people have already
played "Bejeweled" on their iPhones in the three weeks since
That pales next to the 10 million copies that have been
sold on other game devices, but it's pretty good considering
that only a few hundred thousand iPhones are thought to have
been sold since their debut in late June.
"We don't typically make announcements about what's in the
pipeline, but based on the success of 'Bejeweled', we're
looking pretty closely at the iPhone," Stein said.
EA, which has formed closer ties with Apple in recent
months with more support for its Macintosh computers, is also
professing love for the iPhone as it mounts a push into the
area of casual games.
"We're huge believers in the iPhone and believe that's
going to be a viable market going forward," Boatman said. "It
has an amazing interface for games and there are lots of
beautiful things you can do with that touch interface."
And there are hints that Apple is working on games of its
When Apple updated the iTunes software used to activate the
iPhone, curious hackers who looked under the hood quickly found
lines of software code indicating that games will be eventually
run directly on the iPhone rather than in the browser.
That's not unprecedented: the company developed several of
the 18 or so games offered for its iPod media players.
"We look at the iPhone as a really big deal. It basically
makes the channel of distribution owned by Apple as opposed to
owned by the carrier," said Michael Chang, founder of
Greystripe, which distributes free cellphone games supported by
"Apple understands content, as opposed to carriers that are
acting a lot like media companies," Chang said.