The battle of mobile gaming

Most of us probably associate mobile phone games with some cheesy snowboard or tennis game to play if you got nothing better to do (Although QuadraPop on certain Sony Ericsson mobiles is addictive as hell). But things aren’t quite like that — Games like Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within have been available on mobiles for many years now and the technology is moving forward with great speed. And it seems we’ve reached a point where we might have an epic battle between Apple and Microsoft on our hands.

Recently, Forbes anticipated that the release of Apple’s App Store would make the iPhone a dangerous foe to the Nintendo DS, and Chris Tompkins from The Industry Standard says that iPhone “might finally put the lackluster Java-based cell phone gaming market to death.” The iPhone’s ability to use the effects of OS X and Open GL-accelerated games is said to be a big factor to this, as well as the ability to download games fast and easily from the App Store.

But as epic battles go, the other guy also tends to think that they are going to be the king of the hill. Robbie Bach, Microsoft’s Devices Division president, has said that Microsoft’s operating system Windows Mobile is on course to outsell the iPhone: “About 20 million devices will ship with Windows Mobile on it. We will outsell the iPhone. We will outsell the BlackBerry.” Bach also says that Windows Mobile is ahead of the iPhone, as they already ship a lot of 3G mobiles, although an iPhone with 3G capabilities has been announced as well. Another thing the two have in common is that Microsoft also plans to offer downloadable games.

But if the iPhone is going to challenge the Nintendo DS, an awful lot of people would have to own it. Apple revolutionized the MP3 player business, and the iPod has become almost synonymous with portable music, but that business was more open and lucrative than handheld gaming is today, so I really don’t think any mobile phone is going to successfully challenge the DS, or the PSP for that matter. The primary function of mobile phones is not gaming and handheld systems solely designed for that simply do a better job of it.

There may be a battle of mobile games between Microsoft and Apple, but Nintendo and Sony probably won’t be a part of it.