Gameloft Gung Ho About iPhone Gaming
We spoke with Gameloft's senior vice president of publishing Gonzague de Vallois about the mega-publisher's thoughts on the new platform...
With Apple's new iPhone 3G and App Store (www.itunes.com/appstore) now up and running, the next generation of mobile phones have arrived. The largest mobile game publisher in the world, Gameloft, has a line-up of six games available, including: Brain Challenge, Diamond Twister, Platinum Sudoku, Platinum Solitaire, Bubble Bash and Backgammon & Chess.
Gonzague de Vallois, senior vice president of publishing at Gameloft, overseas all development at the company across all gaming platforms. Gameloft has 12 studios around the world and over 3,500 employees. In addition to showing Modojo.com playable versions of these mainstream-focused launch titles, de Vallois took some time to discuss the potential impact the new iPhone and Apple's new digital distribution game store might have on the burgeoning mobile games business.
What are the advantages of digital distribution via Apple's App Store?
Purchasing games over the Internet is something gamers can do in a few minutes. The users are used to this from iTunes. With a traditional mobile phone, you pay the cost of the game and then you're charged an additional data charge, which you don't see until you receive your bill. With iPhone, you'll know the price you're paying and there are no extra charges.
Will you be offering free game demo downloads through the App Store?
No. If the consumer makes the effort to go to the shop to buy something, and if you give him things for free, he might not buy anything. That's exactly what's happening on the Web-based business. We have some games that we sell in the U.S. and Europe and we get very little revenue from them because we're forced by our partners to provide free demos and consumers don't buy the full game.
How do you see the upcoming battle between Apple's iPhone and Nokia's N-Gage gaming offerings playing out?
I think it's going to be a big competition between Nokia and Apple. In terms of power, the games are pretty even. As a publisher, we're very happy to see these two guys competing in games. The question is how big and how fast are the N-Gage games going to grow. The first Nokia handsets will come out in Q3 that support N-Gage. They'll have 150 million to 200 million handsets out by next year. It's a rich platform and it has great processing power. We have different rich platforms on the market, the iPhone being the first one out there. And then Nokia from Q3 and Q4. For the mobile game business, it's a very interesting time.
Do you see Nokia introducing a phone with all of the functionality of an iPhone?
Yes. N-Gage will support motion sensor in the future and they can match Apple game quality. We haven't seen a good touch screen in over a year now since iPhone. We believe Nokia will be coming out with one.
Nokia's made a lot of promises in between the launch of its first two N-Gage devices and the long-delayed N-Gage cross-handset platform. Can they compete in this space with Apple?
The two platforms that are really bringing something new and innovative, Nokia and Apple, were both late on the game side -- Nokia with its launch delays and Apple shipping an iPhone that didn't support gaming. The fact that Apple is coming out big with iPhone, it puts pressure on Nokia to have N-Gage live and working. They promised they'd go for it for real this time. The first N-Gage launch was a side business. Then they said they were going to go for games and music and content and there was nothing. So I think they'll be highly motivated to get it right.
How do you see competition for the iPhone's touch functionality playing out in the games space?
Looking at Sprint's Instinct touch screen, it's still Java-based, so it doesn't support rich games. We have the Nokia, LG and Samsung all working on new phones with touch. In about a year-and-a-half we'll see more competition to iPhone in the gaming space.
How do you see the mobile gaming space and the portable gaming space co-existing, especially now with the quality of games from iPhone and N-Gage?
There have been rumors about PSP phones and Nintendo DS phones. The next eight months will be very exciting. PSP already has Skype and Nintendo DS has voice chat. I think that the big fight between all of these guys is what are people going to carry in their pockets. Is it the PSP that works as a phone, is it a phone with advanced gaming capabilities like N-Gage or iPhone? For the majority of people, I think they're going to choose one device that works as a phone, an Internet device, a camera and a gaming device.
Do you see the Wild West mentality of the past, where dozens of poker games would crowd the mobile gaming market, as history now?
There has been for the past two years or so a bigger effort from carriers to focus on major publishers. You've seen a lot of the bad games get cleaned out from carrier inventories. They only want to have two or three poker games and quality games overall. I think that will help the business, because consumers will get used to quality mobile game experiences.