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Search For Satisfaction: the Lack of Full-Featured iPhone Games
The Search for Satisfaction
Nobody really expected the App Store to be such an enormous success. There are currently over 41,000 apps in the store, and more than 12,000 publishers. (These stats come from our sister site, 148apps.biz.) Since its debut, the App Store has produced games that scorn typical expectations of "mobile gaming" and present polished, cheap entertainment in an easily accessible form. Apple has taken advantage of the iPod Touch and iPhone's gaming abilities, and is pushing gaming apps in its ads. By all accounts, the iPhone is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of handheld gaming.
But while the App Store is booming, there's a sad lack of real games in the App Store. I'm talking about games that draw you in with knotted narratives, games that you can really sink your teeth into. I'm talking about games that could make the folks over at Nintendo and Sony fret over the futures of their precious handheld consoles.
Just look at the Top 100, and you'll see what's missing. At the time of writing, the #1 game is Stick Wars—a "good" game, perhaps, but hardly an overwhelming demonstration of the iPhone's capabilities. The #1 free app is the "Urinal Test," which speaks for itself; the #1 paid app overall is the Moron Test—that's high-quality stuff right there. Two more examples: Doodle Jump and Flight Control are bestsellers that have met with both popular and critical acclaim, and for good reason; they're wonderful casual titles. But their success is a testament to a marketplace that craves casual play, a marketplace where the cheapest often wins. iPod Touch and iPhone owners tend to buy games as if they were candy: sugary snacks that can be consumed mindlessly, and thrown away once the sweetness has been sapped. Those aren't the kinds of games that will catapult the iPhone to true greatness as a gaming platform.
And that's what we gamers would love, really. The diversionary games are wonderful, but serious gamers are still lusting after real games. Imagine a world where your PSP or DS has been made obsolete by your phone. That's the world I want to be in; why carry two devices when you can have one? I want quality titles that will last more than a few hours. As a New York Times article lamented, "Those searching for a deep, meaningful, narrative-driven experience will generally have to