Does Apple need a Joypad and Quality Control for Apps?

 

PMUK Blog iPod Touch

Earlier this year Apple announced that its portfolio of gaming and entertainment apps now outnumbered Sony’s PSP by a staggering 20,000 titles, and Nintendo’s DS by 17,000. This is no mean achievement considering the platform has only been available since June 2007. With the advent of the iTouch aimed at making the platform both affordable and accessible for those not requiring a phone, this showed that both Apple, and more importantly developers word-wide, see the platform as a serious alternative to the traditional market leaders.

PMUK Blog iPod stats

But hold on, there’s a saying that’s very relevant here: – ‘Quality over Quantity’, and that’s where Apple’s claims falter a little. I’ve been an Apple fan since the very first iPods, and still love the innovation and design content that Apple seem to steep into every product they release. But it’s almost like they need to create an ‘Application Filter’, as I must have wasted a good many hours over the last year first downloading, then running, then removing apps of all types claiming to offer the goods but leave me feeling cheated.

 

PMUK Blog iPod 2


“Wait a minute,” I hear the more devoted iUsers among you shout, “there already is a filter!” Recently the comically named Me So Holy app was rejected by Apple for containing “offensive material”, admittedly an app which allows users to paste their faces on religious icons was sure to cause a stir. The distinction I’d like to draw is the difference between a filter which weeds out games which might annoy a nun or two, and a filter which dismisses poor quality (and often duplicated) titles from the app store.

It’s fine having a top 25 free and Paid apps shown on Apples online store, but how many are actually games that really deliver the goods? It seems to me that Apple is more concerned with generating revenue and quotable figures than having better quality software. Yes, reviews give a good indication of what to expect and sites like YouTube are full of videos showing the apps actually running, but what are the benchmarks that Apple themselves use? How do Apple set a minimum standard that apps must achieve to become a download on the App Store and are the ‘Top Games’ really worthy of the title?

That’s a tough one, as like everything else in this industry it’s subjective, with one person’s heaven being another’s hell. But take the Sony PSP for example, yes there are a few real howlers in there, but the vast majority are good titles, either ported from their big brother or written especially for the platform. This is also true with the Nintendo DS, but again the majority of titles offer great gameplay and fully utilise the handheld’s strengths.

So how does the iPlatform compare to the PSP and DS? Well for example the iPhone 3GS runs a PowerVR SGX GPU pushing about 7 million triangles per second, and fill at rate of 250 million pixels per second. Compare that to the PSP, which pushes 33 million triangles per second, with a fill rate of 664 million pixels per second, so it’s nowhere near as powerful. Here’s the one surprise though, the ARM9 powered DS only pushes 120,000 triangles per second, and is limited to 2048 triangles per frame, on both screens. This equates to a fill rate of about 30 Million pixels per second. So the DS isn’t powerful at all, but look how many titles of quality are out there, where developers have concentrated on gameplay over graphics. There must be another factor in why the PSP and DS are still the gamer’s first choice.

 

PMUK Blog iPod3

Here’s the crunch, the PSP and DS use a control method that gamers feel comfortable with, is tactile and for console gamers, feels second nature to use. The battery life is also far longer between charges when running games. Until Apple creates a gaming pad add-on or slot-in cradle with extra battery capacity, the platform will always have a major disadvantage. The touch screen and tilt-sensor are just about adequate but are difficult to use over long periods of time and hands tend to block sections of the screen in use. I still can’t believe that Apple haven’t released anything like this, or are not busy developing such a peripheral.

Time will tell, but Apple please remember that releasing quality gaming apps, and giving us a better control method going forward, will ensure the longevity and further development of this platform. Continued saturation with poor quality apps will just lead to end users feeling unfulfilled and reaching for your opposition.

Peter Gray

 

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