Around the world, geeks are preparing to wear out the CTRL and R keys on their keyboards tonight, frantically refreshing the liveblogs of Steve Jobs' keynote speech at Apple's WWDC show.
Why? Two words: 3G iPhone.
The second-generation model of Apple's handset is due to be unveiled during Jobs' speech tonight, and the blogosphere has been buzzing with rumours about its new features (in a nutshell: 3G, GPS, possibly video chat).
However, tonight is also notable for the likely launch of the iPhone App Store, which was announced earlier this year. It'll be a store for downloadable iPhone applications, which you'll buy and install through iTunes.
Games are a key part of that, too. This time tomorrow, potentially, iPhone owners could be buying games on iTunes to download to their handsets. So what can we expect?
We had a guess last November, but the intervening months have seen much more information leak out, so we thought it was worth having another bash. Read on for our hopes and expectations for iPhone games…1. Big publishers on board
This isn't just a hope: it's a fact. In March, when Apple unveiled its SDK for iPhone, both Electronic Arts and Sega showed off their first games for the device, in the form of Spore and Super Monkey Ball, respectively.
Meanwhile, Gameloft has announced it's making more than a dozen iPhone games for release this year, while Glu boss Greg Ballard says his publisher is diverting resources into iPhone development originally meant for expansion to DS and PSP.
In fact, every big or medium-sized mobile games publisher is making iPhone games, from I-play and IG Fun through to LemonQuest and PopCap. But they'll face unexpected competition, because…2. Apple's making games too
One of the games shown off at the iPhone SDK launch was called Touch Fighter, developed in-house. It's a space-based 3D shoot-'em-up that uses the accelerometer for moving your ship, and the touchscreen for shooting, apparently.
However, there's a wider importance, which is that Apple (hopefully) intends to play a platform-owner's role when it comes to iPhone games, releasing its own titles to stretch the platform and show what's capable.
Just like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo do for their consoles (and for that matter, Nokia for its N-Gage platform).3. Whizzy 3D graphics
Judging by the demos of iPhone games that we've seen, it's not half bad at pushing those polygons around. 3D visuals are going to be present from day one and, for once, developers can't moan about having a postage-stamp shaped screen to display them on.
That's not to say there won't be good-looking 2D games available for iPhone (there will), or that 3D graphics by definition make a game good (they don't). But it nevertheless means we'll be seeing a large number of 3D titles.4. Motion and touch controls…
The thing that's got us most excited about iPhone gaming is the way developers and publishers are clearly running with the technology, particularly the iPhone's built-in accelerometer and its touchscreen.
So Sega has already talked about how Super Monkey Ball will be entirely controlled by tilting your iPhone, while EA's Spore will also make heavy use of motion controls. Neither accelerometers nor touchscreens are exclusive to iPhone, of course.
But the fact that millions of them are in people's hands will be more encouragement to publishers to develop games around those features, whereas they're being more cautious in supporting them in their other mobile games.5. …But no keypad!
There's a flipside to the iPhone's sexy touchscreen, which is that there's no keypad. Nobody's really talked about this publicly, but it's going to be a big challenge for developers to make certain genres work on the device.
Racing games, shoot-'em-ups, and football sims are three genres off the top of my head. It's not that they can't work with purely touchscreen controls – just that their control mechanics will need to be rethought.
This could result in some truly innovative new games, but it could also mean a fair degree of clunky ones as developers get to grips with thinking touchscreen.6. First-person shooters. No, really
One of the interesting aspects we've noticed in recent months is how many developers are making (or talking about making) first-person shooters for iPhone.
And a number of other developers have also talked up their plans for iPhone FPS games. Hell, 17 separate bedroom coders are probably working on iQuake as we type.
The jury's out on whether motion and touchscreen controls can handle this genre, but we're going to get plenty of chances to find out in the coming months.7. Connected games
Amid all the blather about 3D, touch- and motion-sensing, few people have mentioned connectivity as an important feature for iPhone games. Yet considering the second-gen handset is going to be 3G at least (and there's been rumours it'll be HSDPA too), we're sure to also see some connected games.
Parallel Kingdom is one MMORPG already announced for iPhone, but there are sure to be others, as well as less geeky forms of connected gaming. For example, will EA let you battle your iPhone Spore creatures against other players', like the Java version?
But we're still wondering what plans (if any) Apple has for wrapping some kind of connected service around iPhone games. An Xbox Live / N-Gage Arena type thing, with unified player IDs, high score tables, achievements…
It would certainly be a welcome curveball if Steve Jobs was to unveil something along those lines tonight, but we're not holding our breath.8. Location-based games
This is more speculative still, but given the strong rumours that the 3G iPhone will have GPS or Assisted-GPS built-in, we could see more games using location in some way as part of the gameplay.
Forget the time-honoured pipedream of running around the city streets playing games against people near you. If there is a GPS function in the iPhone and developers can access to it, the initial potential is more likely to be including the local weather in golf games, or perhaps unlocking certain items or features depending on your location.
In the long-term, though, there may be entirely new kinds of games that spring up around location data, falling between traditional gameplay and Alternate Reality Game style treasure hunts. The fact that this stuff can be done with Google's Android platform too will make it less risky for developers to work on these concepts.9. Flexible pricing
Apple hasn't talked much about the price of iPhone games, although it's thought that the company will take a hands-off approach, allowing developers to set their own prices (in stark contrast to their 79p flat price for music tracks).
LemonQuest has already suggested that this will be a cue for publishers to charge up to 17-18 Euros for iPhone games, thanks to the improved quality on offer (and the need to recoup greater development costs).
However, we could see iPhone games selling for less – or even being free. Whether Apple will allow ad-funded iPhone games is more doubtful, however.10. More successful own-IP games?
One of the things developers are particularly excited about is selling games through iTunes, rather than mobile operator portals. The theory: they won't be squeezed out by Apple, so their games will be free to compete with those of the big guys.
Apple certainly made the right noises about consumer choice when unveiling the App Store, although it's unclear whether the company will treat games differently to general applications (certainly when choosing people for the SDK programme, Apple was selective).
However, the prospect remains that a developer could make a really original, high-quality and addictive own-IP game for iPhone, and it could become a big success on iTunes, where there'll be more space to showcase its features.
That's the theory, anyway. And until Tetris spends a year at the top of the iPhone iTunes chart, we're sticking to it…