Apple's announcements last week were all a bit "meh" to be honest. By that I mean I was slightly underwhelmed.
- Downloadable movies from the iTunes Store: check (US only, what else is new?)
- Slightly modified iPods and bigger iPod harddisks and longer batterylife: check (this happens every 6 months or so)
- Hints of support for phones in the iTunes bundle: check (no product yet but by now an Apple iPhone is almost a certainty)
- An upcoming iTV to connect your Mac with your digital HD-TV: check (Apple (Steve Jobs) wants complete control over your living room and the TV is the last entertainment bastion that Apple has no hold on. Yet)
- iPod games: check (Apple advertised for a senior handheld games engineer about a year ago)
I was most excited by the games part as I believe a significant amount of money can be made there for Apple. Sure, the 320*240 screen of a 5G iPod is too small to play really huge immersive games like Doom or WoW or Myst but big enough for a quick game to while away a few spare minutes. And the default offering of Brick and Solitaire was always a bit weak.
I downloaded Zuma
and played it for an hour or so while on the train to my parents' yesterday and I must say that the gameplay was actually pretty good. I had my doubt about whether the iPod scrollwheel would be functional enough as a controller but was pleasantly surprised.
As of yet there are no public APIs to develop games and my guess is that Apple wants tight control for now to keep the offerings of extremely high quality. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple were talking to important developers like Pangaea, Ambrosia and Snood's Dave Dobson. The last one especially as he has been putting Snood on everything from Windows to PDAs to toasters in recent years (not really on toasters but if he could he would, I'm sure). The screensize might be a bit of a problem for some games but I think it's ideal for simple arcade or puzzle games.
A port of MAME
would rock too. All Apple would have to do is sell us the ROMs via the iTunes Store. I'm not really up to speed on the whole handheld games market though and it could be that most of the old games are now the property of SEGA or Nintendo or Sony. In which case Apple might have a problem.
As for Virtual Pet Rock, I'm sure that if there were a public API and we were to develop it now it'd go on the iPod as well. After all, most of our heavy users are very preoccupied with their pet rock (read: mad) and given a chance would take their Virtual Pet Rock with them at all times. I have no doubt the interface is up to something like this. For now we'll have to wait and see whether Apple will ever release an API and whether we'd want to spend the time to port it at that stage.
[If you're from Apple and want to contact us to ask for permission to port Virtual Pet Rock and put it on every iPod sold I'm sure we'd be able to come up with a suitably satisfying arrangement :). Just use the contact form on this site.]