Once upon a time, it looked like Apple would finish off Nintendo as the leader in mobile gaming and proceed to take on the big boys on the big screen. The App Store was booming and games were the biggest hits you could find. The easy availability and cheaper prices meant that players could stock up and play all kinds of different titles. Sales of the Nintendo 3DS sagged, which spelled real trouble for Nintendo. Apple could also provide what the competition couldn’t- a quality portable gaming experience on a bigger screen thanks to the iPad. It looked like things were really coming together.
Once the second version of the Apple TV was released, I thought it was inevitable that Apple would soon take the next step and make a play to compete head-to-head with Sony and Microsoft. Even if they took a different route with game pricing, they could still become a big player in gaming by providing a complete mobile and home experience. You know, the business model that Nintendo is proving works very well with the Switch today.
Obviously, none of this happened. Apple never fostered quality software that would demand higher prices. Instead, they stood by while App Store prices sank and developers grew tired of making lots of sales for very little money. The ones who have stuck around did what they had to- embrace either freemium or subscription models.
That wasn’t the only bad move that was made. Apple didn’t come out with an MFi program for real game controllers until interest in quality gaming on iOS had already started to wane, and again, the launch was botched by arbitrary decisions and requirements. Apple also sat on the Apple TV and didn’t move forward until it was too late. Even when they did, their App Store for tvOS was burdened by a stupid requirement to use the bundled remote as a controller. It was DOA.
What could have been. Epic’s Infinity Blade was once the poster child for what was possible in gaming on iOS. The games had cutting edge graphics for the time that made full use of what the iPhone and iPad could do. They had immersive stories and action that rivaled console titles. They cost a good bit more than the average game, but they were worth every penny and more. They were routinely featured on stage at Apple Events for a reason.
Unfortunately, as of this week, the Infinity Blade trilogy is no more. While owners can re-download the titles, they are no longer available for purchase. It is telling that one of the most successful gaming companies in the world has pulled the plug on life support for this series. I can’t blame them one bit either, as there just isn’t any money or interest in this kind of gaming on iOS anymore. Players like myself who wanted this kind of experience grew tired of waiting on Apple to get it in gear and get serious about gaming. We all moved on, and now one of the last holdouts has, as well.
Infinity Blade wasn’t really my type of game, but I still bought one of the titles when it was on one of many sales. I wanted to support Epic in what they were doing, as well as other devs who were pushing what gaming could be on iOS. I was more interested in other games, but I appreciated the quality and attention to detail. Around the same time, I was putting hours into the iPhone and iPad versions of FIFA, which used to actually cost money. It also used to be a fully-featured experience with many of the modes you would find on a console version. Not today. Now it’s basically a card trading game played on a field. Blech.
I also remember paying for the original Real Racing and the groundbreaking Real Racing 2. I LOVED those games, especially 2. It was one of the first titles to support HD play on TVs via the iPad 2’s HDMI dongle. Then they supported playing through an Apple TV via AirPlay, though not very well, I’m afraid. It was the tech that wasn’t quite ready for real-time game streaming, not the game itself. I still give them credit for trying to push iOS gaming forward. If only Apple would have seen the same potential.
Unfortunately, I also remember the disappointment when I saw he writing on the wall with the release of Real Racing 3. EA bought the developer and immediately turned the new version of the game into a fermium cash register. One of the best examples of a quality game at a premium but fair price suddenly crossed over to the dark side. I saw what was coming at that point and steadily lost interest in mobile gaming.
Interestingly enough, Real Racing 3 is not only still around, but still actively supported. Why not? That fermium cash register still has a little juice left to squeeze out, right? I know I sound bitter, but I can’t blame a company for taking money that’s on the table. I also can’t blame Epic for ending support for a game series that hasn’t been in active development for a few years now. But I feel just fine blaming Apple for not doing a better job curating the App Store when it would have mattered. They are far better at this now that the moment to become a real gaming platform has passed. Unfortunately, that time came, went and won’t be coming back. The end of the road for Infinity Blade is just the last of the dying embers of what could have been.