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September 16, 2006

iPods Branch Further into Casual Gaming

Another aspect of the big new announcements made by Apple this week regarding new services for iPods is increased video gaming capabilities for the newest version of iPod players. While the iTunes movie service I wrote about yesterday is getting the majority of the attention, Apple's extension into the gaming platform will include some of the classic "old school" games, from the addictive Tetris to the arcade favorite Pac-Man to Texas Hold 'Em, all games that are often labeled "casual games," in that they are simple games intended for challenging play but not requiring immersion in a story world as most narrative-based games do.

Kris Graft with Next Generation writes that "the move makes a stronger emphasis at Apple on portable gaming, and highlights the widespread interest on the part of digital entertainment companies to jump into the casual gaming market." (If Dr. Schneider from my undergraduate English classes ever reads this, the comma splice is Kris', not mine. I swear.)

Although Tetris is not known as a particularly graphically complicated game, this newest round of tiles--which also includes Zuma--is among the more complicated casual games and indicates renewed interest in bringing a greater number of game titles to the iPod platform.

The games will be available through the iTunes store for a $4.99 fee per game.

While iTunes cultivated its music market slowly and then has aggressively pushed television content in the past year, the new split focus at adding film and more serious video games into the mix indicates a strong belief in the iPod and iTunes brands and technology for crossing these multiple media forms.

The company has indicated plans to continue increasing the game titles offered, especially after it tests the waters with this round of games.

The implications for cross-purposing content seems pretty obvious in this case, as it creates a new audience and a new platform for gaming, especially since these types of games seem perfect for the iPod platform, with their ease in playing on a smaller screen and with limited controller options.

But it has yet to be seen how branching into the gaming world could affect original gaming titles, etc., in that games could be designed that are uniquely configured to being played on an iPod. I'm interested in seeing if a market develops in that direction.

Thanks to David Edery for passing this story along.

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