Crispy Gamer

Apple: Would-Be Improvements for Games on iTunes?


Games on the iPhone are a wonder to behold and sometimes, even a joy to play. The iPhone’s pretty much single-handedly resurrected mobile gaming into a category worth caring about and all of the major players in the industry recognize that. During their last product event, Apple specifically called out Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DS handhelds while touting the iPod Touch as a superior experience. Traditionally, Apple hasn’t made many waves in the gaming space. But, after engineering a sea change in handheld gaming with more than 20,000 games on the App Store, one might understand the reason for their gloating.

But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns in Apple-land.  I met with Apple representatives about a week ago as they showed the latest iteration of the iPod product line. After getting the lowdown about the shiny newness, I offered up two of my biggest gripes about games content on the App Store.


1. Gifting:
It’s always bothered me that you can’t gift Apps—more specifically games—via iTunes. You can make presents of movies, music and TV shows that are available on the iTunes store. Heck, you can even mix-and-match tracks onto a custom playlist and give a friend music that way. But, Apple’s digital content hub won’t let you dole out Apps as presents. The reps I met with were quick to respond that I could simply buy a gift certificate for my intended giftee. I offered up an honest retort: maybe I don’t like that person enough to shell out $10 for thr least expensive gift certificate. While that may sound mean, my basic point remains that one should be able to give a single game. That’s especially true because games offer up a different kind of engagement than non-inter-active entertainment.

2. Sorting:
The fancy marketing term for this is granularity. It alludes to a user experience that allows folks the ability to see the particulate details of various elements. Going to the front page of the Games category in the App Store doesn’t offer up much information. You can see titles sorted by newness, hotness and top free and paid games but no specific sub-category or genre. The lack of detail is even more annoying because every so often, the App Store puppetmasters will break out a category to highlight like “Best New Doodle Games” or “Best Tower Defense Games.” So, someone somewhere is kind of categorizing games content? I’d imagine that this foggy execution is due to (1) developers not being able to tag their games with specific categories yet and/or (2) the people who evaluate App Store offering not being up to speed to their video game genre knowledge. Either way it makes finding a shooter or platformer on the App Store a truly hellish chore.

To their benefit, the Apple folks I met with did take my feedback seriously and said they’d bring it back to their peers in the company’s compound in Cupertino. That’s pretty heartening, considering the fact that rumors about Apple entering the gaming market are flying hot and heavy again. So, Crispy readers, what are your pet peeves about playing or acquiring games on an iPhone or iPod Touch?