Playing games with Apple

Amongst all the iPhone and OSX 10.5 hubub, I haven't heard much said about the part of the Stevenote talking about games. EA announced they are soon going to be releasing Mac versions of a bunch of their games. John Carmack also demonstrated ID's next engine which will support Macs along with the PC, XBox 360, and PS3. That's a nice announcement in itself, but it's really just the beginning.

Apple is going to start selling games from the iTunes store.

In fact, they already do sell iPod games from the iTunes store, alongside music, movies, and TV shows. Desktop games is a natural next step for the store. Digital distribution is just getting started for games, but it's projected to take an increasing share in the future, just like digital music sales. There are already a number of "game portals" selling downloadable games including Valve, Yahoo Games, MSN Games, and RealNetworks. Most of them only sell games for Windows though. It makes a lot of sense for Apple to compete in this market with their iTunes store. They can even use it to give a nice boost to OSX.

Apple will only sell games if they support Mac OS X.

This will provide a huge incentive for game developers to make their games support Macs. "You want us to sell your Windows game from our massively popular iTunes store? Sure, as long as you have an OSX version we'll sell them both for you." The downside of this is that Apple wouldn't be able to match the full roster of games sold by other stores ... at least until they convinced a large enough portion of the industry to support Macs. EA's the largest publisher in the world, and ID's engines get licensed for use by a multitude of other companies, so they'll be able to hit the ground running.

This would be a deliciously clever move for Apple, using the iTunes store to give even more boost to Mac OS X. I don't have any real knowledge that this is Apple's plan, but it's not such a big stretch really. Everybody in the downloadable games biz knows about the increasing role of the "game portals" and online distribution. It's the exact same situation that the music industry has undergone. Games are more complicated to sell since they are code and not pure data, but it's not a big deal in practice.

I'm pretty much 100% certain that Apple will start selling games from the iTunes store in the next year or two. It's a natural fit, and something I've been thinking about for awhile now. The WWDC announcements mean it might be coming sooner then later. The only real question is whether they will sell pure Windows games to Windows users, or whether they will use this opportunity to force a massive influx of games to OSX.

What do you think?

Posted by dustin on June 14, 2007 with category tags of

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