Although Apple recently surpassed Microsoft in market value and consumer mindshare, the Cupertino giant still lags being its rivals in one key arena: gaming. Due to a variety of factors–chief among them Apple’s own reticence to embrace gaming as a priority–PCs have become the de facto system of choice for computer gamers, so much so that “PC gamer” is a part of the cultural lexicon.
So how did Apple get left behind? Why is Mac gaming potential so underutilized? What can Apple do to get back in the game?
Just when my unnatural infatuation with all things Harry Potter started to die down, Feral Interactive had to go and release an even more interactive way of experiencing life through the eyes of The Boy Who Lived. This kid-focused action game transports players right to the heart of the story about a young orphaned boy who learns he’s actually a wizard. One of the first big titles to hit the Mac App Store, Feral Interactive delivers a terrific port of a fun game.
Players lead Lego-ized Harry (along with his friends, pets, and enemies) through his first four years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The game is broken up into levels that resemble memorable chapters from the book series, and at the end of each year, of course, is Harry’s life or death facedown with Lord Voldemort. At first, you must complete each level in Story Mode, which requires you to follow a ghost who leads you through the school grounds to different levels. After, you can go back through the level in Free Play Mode, which permits you to unlock new areas and find hidden rewards.
Leading a kingdom of peasants, heroes, and wizards is no simple feat, and yet defending your territory, inventing health potions, and invading evil villains is all in a day’s work for the King of Ardania. At last, the long awaited sequel to 2000’s Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim has made its way to the Mac courtest of Virtual Programming. Majesty 2 brings 3D graphics, additional characters, and many hours of battle to the popular real-time strategy game. A few problems with screen navigation aside, Majesty 2 makes for a fun, brain-bending test of planning and defending a fantasy kingdom.
On Saturday, the English language version of Asia’s largest massively-multiplayer online role-playing game launched on the App Store. Empire Online, developed by Lakoo, is an anime-inspired adventure title that tasks players with building their own handheld kingdom. Free-to-play and swimming in nostalgia for classic RPGs, Empire Online looks ready to conquer the North American market.
For many, the golden age of role-playing games was the early 90's. Games like Chrono Trigger, The Secret of Mana, and Final Fantasy 3 gave the era a distinctive artistic and gameplay flavor that has influenced developers ever since. With the iPhone and iPod Touch, these distinctive icons of gaming lore have experienced a welcomed revival. Now, developers like Lakoo are proving that iOS gamers don't have to just be satisfied with ports of famous titles—Lakoo is producing some pretty compelling new, original titles to breathe new life into the platform.
That sound you heard Tuesday was the sound of Verizon customers all over the United States cheering the news that, come February, they can have Apple’s iPhone. This might not seem like it has any implications for gamers—other than those who are on Verizon and are looking to get in on iPhone gaming—but the partnership between Apple and the largest U.S. cell carrier will have a discernible effect on the future of the games industry: It’ll make mobile gaming bigger.
Verizon currently has 93 million subscribers on its nationwide service. Expect that number to grow as customers from competing services migrate over. If just ten percent of those subscribers buy an iPhone, that would add over 9.3 million potential customers to Apple’s App Store. Add that to the reported 73.5 million iPhones that have been sold by the end of the 2010 fiscal year and you have an installed base of more than 80 million, which bests even the Nintendo Wii. (This isn't even including the number of App Store-compatible iPod touches that have been sold either.)
Capcom, a leading developer of mobile and console games, recently unveiled its New Year’s iOS game lineup. In the next couple of months, the developer plans to release Devil May Cry 4, Resident Evil VS, and Zombie Cafe for the iOS platform. Additionally, the developer has released new updates to its Dead Rising and Capcom Arcade titles.
One of the more addictive games available for the iOS, Flight Control HD is now available for the Mac by way of the Mac App Store and Valve's Steam service. While Flight Control HD has been garnering buzz for a while now, it’s relatively new to the Mac platform—first coming to the Mac via Steam's digital download service weeks ago. Since the game has already achieved acclaim, I looked forward to playing it on the new platform. Although its graphics and unique interface look great on a larger screen, ultimately, the game doesn’t soar without touch screen controls.
In Flight Control, players direct air traffic in a busy airport, trying to land a variety of planes and helicopters safely. You land the aircraft by drawing a path from the plane to its color-coordinated runway. When the incoming traffic becomes denser, it can be hard to manage upwards of twenty crafts without crashing any of them (which results in game over). Levels range in difficulty and higher levels throw more planes your way, much faster. There are also various obstacles such as changing winds to avoid. Having a finely tuned sense of multitasking is the key to success in Flight Control HD.