In some ways the PlayStation Portable’s fiercest competitors are not Nintendo’s frequently re-released DS handhelds, but Apple’s hundred-million-selling range of iPhones and iPods. Not only do these devices share many of the PSP’s multimedia functions, they also (especially in the case of the iPhone) have the processing grunt to handle reasonably complex 3D games, and the latest models pack accessible touch screen interfaces to boot.
Apple’s Vice President of iPod and iPhone Product Marketing Greg Joswiak would agree: in fact, he thinks the iPhone is the "future of gameplay" while more dedicated gaming handhelds are "more in the past."
"The gameplay I think has surprised a lot of people, because it’s not just the casual games," Joswiak told T3. "There are real 3D games, and it’s hard to imagine we’re only a little over 100 days into it. There are already so many games and as we look at it, to us it really seems this is the future of gameplay."
"Whereas a lot of these devices [Nintendo DS and Sony PSP] are more in the past," he went on. "And a big part of that is not just the device itself, which is easier to carry, and has the touch display and accelerometer which is great for gameplay, but it’s the electronic distribution of the apps as well."
According to Joswiak, electronic distribution benefits both end users, who pay far less for digital products – "£25 versus almost all the games cost £5" – and developers, who "don’t have to worry about licensing and manufacturing hardware".
He also pointed out that removing physical formats from the picture makes it easier for developers to update their games. "If there’s bugs found, things you want to fix or features you want to add, they can do that through the apps store, whereas it doesn’t really exist in the physical world."
Joswiak refrained to comment on Sony’s PlayStation Store, now accessible (in Japan at least) by PSPs, but promised "amazing things" from Apple’s download services in future. "We only started doing this, released the apps store for customers about two months ago, and of course this version of the iPod Touch came out in September."
"So three months ago I should say, so if you squint your eyes you can see a future where you say it’s amazing the things you’ll see as far as gameplay, and we know from working with these developers and the things they tell us they’re working on, especially original content ideas, I think they’re going to blow everyone away."