iDevice gaming “set to explode,” say game industry insiders

The sheer number of companies actively planning or already executing projects with target platforms like the modern day iPod Nano, iPhone/iPod Touch, and even AppleTV is much bigger than public perception seems to acknowledge. We’ve recently talked with a number of our friends in the gaming industry — from die hard Mac developers now focusing on “Cider” (DirectX –> OpenGL abstraction layer, allowing “Windows games” to be developed once and deployed simultaneously on OS X) development, to console companies and newcomers to the gaming world, virtually everyone is very excited about the future of game-style entertainment on Apple devices.

Cute little arcade games like those we see on the Classic iPods are all well and good, but a modernized Breakout with 3D graphics can only keep you amused so long; even Bejeweled gets old after a while.

Today’s gamers want rich graphical environments, fun smooth gameplay, and a captivating storyline. See the Ratchet & Clank series, or the recent post-movie “Simpsons Game” for the kind of game we love to play.

EA’s recent Cider-driven offerings Battlefield 2142 and Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars are incredible to play, but you need the absolute latest Macintel hardware (no GMA950 or X3100 integrated Intel graphics owners allowed) and ATi or nVIDIA GPUs to join the Cider revolution and there’s still a significant performance hit versus running the same games (from the same install discs, even!) under Windows on your Intel Mac on these early-adopter Cider games — but hey, simultaneous release on OS X with nearly zero effort involved on the developer’s part is no small thing!

The kind of games that still draw tons of players on “last generation” hardware like Nintendo GameCube, the original Xbox, or Playstation 2 are great candidates for the iDevices. They require a lot less muscle than “modern PC” or PS3/Xbox 360-class console games, and many are adapted to small-screen devices like the Sony PSP so a move over to say the iPhone is a relatively logical one if the technical aspects can be overcome.

A lot of game developers are waiting for Apple to release its iPhone SDK next month, but others don’t want to wait for Apple to even get started. Many have found ways to either reverse-engineer the needed tools to begin developing for the “multi-touch iDevice” family, and others are quietly seeking to get their games onto the AppleTV platform either with or without Cupertino’s blessing.

Obviously, any product that tries to deploy on an iDevice like the AppleTV without Apple’s direct blessing and assistance is risky to say the very least! Apple could easily decide to break whatever technique the game used to get around Apple’s near-total lockdown of the iDevices’ application/system memory spaces, APIs and so forth.

Most companies interested in deploying to iDevices spoke to Rumors on condition of anonymity, and the embargo of many details of their products. But one developer, a former employee of Bungie prior to its buyout by Microsoft to launch the original Xbox with the original Halo and a very good friend of this site since its birth in 1995, has spoke with us in great depth about his plans to release a series of “mini games” starting with web-based offerings for the iPhone and eventually expanding into native games for any iDevice that Apple will let him deploy on legitimately.

Stay tuned for that interview coming up in the next few days; in the meantime, we have one other tantalizing tidbit on this topic to share…..

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