For anyone who doubted that the iPhone was to be taken seriously as a games platform, and there have been many, the release today of Grand Theft Auto as an iPhone app should seal the deal that the iPhone is the real thing as far as being a games console is concerned.
OK, it is only the 'Chinatown Wars' version of the game, which has already been out on Nintendo DS and got a pretty luke-warm reception from fans of the full on GTA console game. But, despite the limitations of the platform and the distinctly retro top down look and feel of the thing, it is still GTA on a damn phone! It still manages to look really cool, and play really well. How incredible is that?
Probably not as incredible as the price point. Here in the UK the App Store is asking £5.99 for the game, while in the US it is $9.99 and that's rather important as it means that a proper big boys game has broken the ten bucks barrier. If it's going to stand a chance of making a real impact in terms of sales then a game has to be below ten dollars.
Sure, it may not appeal to your average gamer but perhaps that is not the target market for Rockstar. I reckon they are going for the occasional gamer market as well as (and I know I am stating the obvious here) the iPhone grab the latest app crowd. But the fact that Rockstar Games could bring GTA onto the iPhone platform and, one has to assume, still have enough margin to make it profitable at that price point could mean that there will be exciting times for all 'pocket gamers' in the months to come.
Certainly both Nintendo and Sony must be keeping a slightly more serious eye on Apple now, having pretty much dismissed the iPhone as being any real competition to handheld consoles very early on. I doubt, at least on the evidence of this particular game anyway, that Xbox 360 or PS3 fans will be rushing to download it, no matter how cheap or portable it is though.
Perhaps the group of people to be most excited about all this, ironically enough, are the one man band games developers who have been producing innovative and addictive games for the iPhone since day one. With the arrival of the GTA franchise the platform gets taken seriously by gamers, and that means the potential not only for more sales but also of more exposure within the industry itself.