10 reasons gamers should be excited about iPhone 3.0

New software, new potential

10 reasons gamers should be excited about iPhone 3.0

iPhone 3G S may be going on sale this Friday, but actually tomorrow (Wednesday) is just as big a day for iPhone and iPod touch owners. Why? Because the new iPhone 3.0 software is due to be released.

It was first unveiled back in March. We've been eagerly awaiting the new software's debut, while developers have been getting to grips with its new features to use them in their games.

What's the big deal? Here's ten things to look forward to with a gaming focus (plus some more non-gaming features at the end).

1. P2P gaming

You can already play local multiplayer in iPhone games using the device's wi-fi connection, but iPhone 3.0 makes it easier for developers to do this using Bluetooth, and Apple's existing Bonjour technology.

This means local multiplayer will become a much more common feature in iPhone games. It'll also allow Pokemon-style item or content swapping between two iPhones.

Again, this can be done now with wi-fi, but it'll become more common thanks to iPhone 3.0's P2P API.

2. iPod library access

Currently, iPhone apps can't access the music stored in the device's music library. Under iPhone 3.0, they can.

At the simplest level, this means games will be able to properly use your tunes as their soundtrack - rather than just making you boot up the game with an album playing to continue hearing it.

EA has already announced that this feature will be in an update for The Sims 3 on iPhone, letting you play your own songs on your Sim's stereo, and more will be sure to follow.

However, it also lets your music be used for other gameplay elements - something we've seen already on traditional iPods. For example, Square Enix's Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes used your songs to generate warriors.

There could be an impact on music games too - think Guitar Hero style rhythm games played with your own collection of songs. Which for those of us baffled by Tapulous's inexplicable decision so far to not launch a Black Crowes Revenge game, is good news,

3. In-game voice chat

A few bad experiences on Xbox Live has left this journalist slightly distrustful of voice chatting within games (yeah, okay, so it was taunts from 13-year-old Americans as they slammed seven goals past me at Pro Evo).

Even so, the ability to communicate through speech while playing iPhone games is intriguing, and one that looks set to make its debut with ngmoco's online first-person shooter KillTest.

While Call of Duty style squad shooters look set to benefit, we're hoping there are some other innovative uses for this particular API. If Apple could ensure full-of-themselves teenagers are barred from using it when playing over-sensitive British journalists, that'd be a bonus...

4. Push notification

Under iPhone 3.0, your apps can reach out to you via push notification, alerting you to events, messages or other new content.

The way Apple has implemented it is designed to be un-spammy too, via discreet red numbers on app icons - as seen already on the iPhone's mail app.

What does this mean for games? You can be notified on your iPhone's Home screen when a friend has sent you a challenge or beaten your score, for example.

Games running high-score contests or offering new downloadable content can let you know about them, while even single-player games like Car Jack Streets could pop up a notification if - in that specific case - you're about to miss your latest gambling debt payment.

It's particularly exciting for the social games who've used these kinds of features on Facebook for some time, but as long as it's not abused, push notification could bring a new dimension to any game with online elements.

5. Google Maps

Apple's announcement that iPhone 3.0 includes a dedicated Google Maps API might seem to have more relevance to location-based apps and social networking rather than gaming. Mainly because it does.

But access to mapping data could spur some innovative new game ideas, too. In fact, Nokia has been banging the drum for this since the middle of last year, albeit in its case focused on N-Gage games and Nokia's own maps division.

Expect some nifty location-based games, but also look for developers turning map data into game content - for example, the game knows you're in the centre of Brighton (for example), and turns the surrounding map data into a level or character.

6. Stereo Bluetooth

Pretty simple this one, but a boon to those of us who'd like to listen to our game audio through wireless headphones. Not to mention music - the main beneficiary of this new feature.

7. In-app purchases

This is such a big feature in iPhone 3.0, we already wrote a whole feature about it. The ability to buy new levels, items, tracks and other content within iPhone games is making developers very excited, just as it is in the console world.

The popularity of such micro-transactions in social games on Facebook (not to mention an increasing number of PC-based MMOs) shows that when done well, gamers are happy to pay for stuff within games, particularly if it extends the experience.

However, as the comments on our previous feature made clear, gamers are wary of being "nickel'n'dimed" by developers - forced to pay for features that should have been in the original game. It's a warning that iPhone games firms will need to heed.

8. Rumble API

Another pretty simple new feature that's good news for gaming: developers now have full access to the iPhone's vibration feature.

Okay, so it won't turn your iPhone into a DualShock controller (yet), but it'll definitely add something to a number of games, as developers implement the feature.

9. Accessories that control apps

Under iPhone 3.0, accessories for Apple's device will be able to control applications. Initially, this looks set to be used for apps like GPS navigation and in-car music.

However, it opens the way for devices like the Zeemote JS1 to launch for iPhone, providing external game controllers with, y'know, physical buttons and analogue sticks.

At least, that's the theory - we're still a little cloudy on whether Zeemote would then have to release the games itself too, so they could be accessed by the controller.

Meanwhile, if you're getting really silly ambitious, someone could launch a dedicated Guitar Hero controller for a music game, or a Nintendo-style pulse-rate peripheral for use in games.

10. Parental controls

What? Age blocks? Boo! But actually, if you're a parent who's passed an old iPhone onto your child, you may well welcome the new parental controls in the iPhone 3.0 software.

They let you specify what music, videos and apps your child can access on the device (thus providing them with hours of entertainment trying to figure out a way to get around the restrictions).

Yeah, we know, if you're a 16-year-old whose dad just stopped you from playing Amateur Surgeon, life sucks. But if you're a 12-year-old whose mum is now happy to pass on her old iPhone, life is marvellous. Right?

And some non-gaming reasons...

Other new features in iPhone 3.0 include MMS, a beefed-up search function, landscape keyboards for the Mail, Messages, Notes and Safari apps, a cut'n'paste function, internet tethering (at a price), voice memos, Safari running faster, and the ability to buy films, TV shows and audiobooks from the iTunes Store.

Which is nice.

Stuart Dredge
Stuart Dredge
Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)