At today's Apple event, the company devoted a generous amount of time to various charts and numbers declaring that the iPhone and the iPod Touch offer much more in terms of gaming than the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS.
iPhone and iPod Touch games have a lot going for them. The titles are cheaper, they offer tilt functionality, and the graphics are better than what the Nintendo DS can display. All that aside, it's tough to consider the iPhone as a legitimate gaming platform until Apple can offer some sort of tactile button functionality.
First, let's get a few things straight. In terms of casual gaming, you cannot beat what Apple has to offer. There are countless quick and easy games that fit well on the Apple platform. No one is booting up a PSP game for the 15 minutes you'd sit in a waiting room or the time standing in line at the deli counter. So while that section of the gaming market seems sealed up, the same cannot be said for the more hardcore action/adventure and shooter games.
The way it currently stands, controlling such games on the iPhone or the iPod Touch is a frustrating mess. Players must navigate using a virtual D-pad, which isn't able to provide the accuracy or physical feeling an actual control pad offers on the PSP and the DS. We're delighted to see franchises like Madden and Assassin's Creed head to the platform, we just wish there was a better way to control these titles. Until that day comes, iPod Touch and iPhone games will be stuck under a glass ceiling of shake, tilt, and tapping.
There's no denying that Apple has the upper hand here. No one wants to carry around three devices when one can handle everything. As we've written before, Apple can easily take over the portable gaming market with just a few moves. The first step toward that goal--whether it be an add-on or hardware change--is to add buttons.