The iPhone 15 Pro gives gamers a new option for playing their latest and greatest games. You’ll be able to play the likes of Resident Evil 4 and Assassin’s Creed Mirage – with raytracing – directly on your handheld device.
But will that change the way we play our games? Traditionally consoles or PC have been one thing, and mobile has been another. I play Final Fantasy 7: Remake on my PS5, and I play Ever Crisis on my Samsung Galaxy. Never the twain will meet.
So is there a great demand for phones that can play full-sized titles on the move?It’s an odd question to have, and one I’m not sure anybody was expecting to have to answer in 2023. Death Stranding shouldn’t be a mobile game, but I guess it is now. And that’s just the icing on the cake.
There’s certainly demand for mobile-but-fully-featured gaming there. The Nintendo Switch has sold 130 million units. The next Switch is the next big exciting gaming device, and is almost certainly going to retain its portability while offering more power. The Steam Deck and other portable PCs are taking off in a surprising way too. People want to be able to play games without being tethered to the TV.
But it feels like a leap from a dedicated device to just pulling out your iPhone Pro 15 Max. And I’m not entirely sure why that is. Effectively it’s the same thing: a screen with the ability to load the game. But I guess because of battery concerns and other functions of the phone, something about the idea of playing Resident Evil 4 for 12 hours on my phone feels different from doing the same thing on a dedicated handheld. And even that feels very different from playing on a console or PC.
That might seem irrational or daft. And I’m sure people who’ve already made the leap will be quick to voice just that opinion. But that’s missing the point. That sentiment is exactly what Apple are going to have to overcome to get their gaming offering normalised. They need to convince people who don’t play games on mobile for a million reasons and for no reasons to start playing games on mobile. And graphics and framerate are really the least of those issues.
But you don’t see if something like this works by approaching it by half. Google learned that the hard way with Stadia. You either need to leap in wholeheartedly or you may as well save your time and money. The iPhone 15, in many ways, is Apple’s attempt to jump in wholeheartedly. It’s a proof of concept. And if it reaches internal targets, you can bet Apple will start thinking bigger. Yes, that might just mean they start making acquisitions of their own.
Pair that with the idea of Apple TV developing into a console or console-like device and it’s not hard to see an Apple who really does change the face of the gaming industry. This will be another big Microsoft level player in a game that has mostly been dominated by – at the high end – Sony.
At that point, whether you play on your phone or not, it’ll almost certainly change the way you play games. You’ll potentially lose content without buying into their ecosystem. That’s the way the industry works and PlayStation is no longer the default. You’ll be able to play full games on a wider range of devices, including those put out by Apple.
Of course, that’s an extreme. Everybody wants in on gaming, and there’s a huge amount of money to be made. Apple already makes more than $15b from gaming alone each year. But, like Microsoft, they’re eyeing the $30b from Tencent. Opening up the app store to “full games” at modern console quality is a way to make up more of the pie. Even offering it is a step towards more money.
It all hinges on that one thing though: can our mobile phones replace out consoles?
The obvious answer is that they don’t need to. That’s especially true if Apple can figure out its own play anywhere/cloud save initiatives, although how they’d do it and who they’d partner with is anybody’s guess.
For now, Apple will be fine with people just paying their ‘measly’ $60, trying it out, seeing that it works (if it does) and keeping it in mind for the future. But what an interesting future it could turn out to be.