One of the questions I get asked most these days is, "When are your games coming out for the iPhone?" I'm getting this a LOT. I'm not going to do it. But, when you get so many people knocking down your door for something, you'd better come up with a good reason for saying no.
Here's My Game ... Do I Get Rich Now?
When you write games, new platforms become available all the time. Then you have to decide whether to write games for them or not. XBox Live was one such platform. XBox Community Games is another. And WiiWare. And, of course, the iPhone.
When you jump onto a new platform early, the platform might take off, or it might not. If it doesn't, your time was probably wasted. If it does become a success, though, you can get in on a Gold Rush. Some early adopters of the risky platform can end up with tons of money. Pure, joyous greed attracts competitors. Because they're late to the party, some of them make a bunch of money, and a lot more don't.
XBox Live had a real gold rush. Some early games, like Uno, sold sick numbers of copies. But these days, getting a game on XBox Live can mean a ton of hassle and, if the sales estimates at VGChartz are even remotely close to right, there is the real possibility of not doing so good there.
Fart Noises = Millions of Dollars!
The iPhone is in a crazy gold rush phase, and everyone is standing up and taking notice. When someone can make a ton of money on an app that makes your iPhone fart, that should be your first warning of unsustainable sales.
Some early games have done crazy good. But there are starting to be signs that Indie games on the iPhone won't make a fortune. And it'll only get tougher.
As For Me ...
Which brings us back to me. I write big, deep role-playing games. The sort of game that lends itself to long sessions, not something you fiddle with for fifteen minutes on the bus. It would take real work for me to adapt one of my games to the iPhone, and, even then, I don't think it's the sort of thing that would attract a real audience.
There's a lesson for young developers. Make sure your game fits the way people will want to play it. PC Games = Longer sessions. iPhone Games = Ping. Zap! Done.
And, on top of that, the acceptable price point for iPhone games with any depth is now in the area of $4.99. Five bucks! And, if you charge that, forum-dwelling snots from all over the Internets will bitch you out in your ratings for being so greedy. I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I can make a living charging that little for my niche games. It's certainly not something I want to risk months of development on. And I honestly suspect that price point won't support a healthy game development industry. I hope I'm wrong.
(Honestly. The whining in the user reviews for a lot of the five dollar games is amazing. What? Do people think game developers live on air? Jesus.)
When it comes to my business, I am made of pure cowardice. It's hard to make a living doing this, so I have a really hard time doing anything new and exciting and risky. I'll never get rich (as if my games could ever be enough in demand to make me rich), but I can still buy my kids food.
So I will spend my time supporting two platforms that have a proven history in the gaming arena, platforms that have lately been tragically underserved by developers. They're called Windows and Macintosh. Take a look at them sometime. I think there's money to be made there.