Talking with ngmoco's Neil Young (part 1): 'iPhone better than DS or PSP'

Inventive, original games like Rolando and Topple key to making iPhone a compelling games platform says visionary CEO

Talking with ngmoco's Neil Young (part 1): 'iPhone better than DS or PSP'

Neil Young gets it. On the day ngmoco unveils its first three iPhone titles it has become clear that the company is primed for success. In a highly competitive market, creativity and vision separate Young's company from the hundreds of shops eager to develop for Apple's explosive platform. Speaking with him about the impact of this first trio of titles and ngmoco's dedicated approach to iPhone gaming point to rising leadership in an industry desperately searching for direction.

As CEO of ngmoco, Young has outlined a three-pronged strategy for tackling iPhone: native software, diversity of games, and a richening of the platform with social features. Today, we're hitting the first two elements in depth and examining the company's ambitions to mold iPhone into a gaming device Monday. Young has much to say across the board, his excitement for what his company is doing and destined to achieve driving a wealth of visionary statements.

Rolando, MazeFinger, and Topple – the latter two which will see release before the month is out – represent the first step in activating this forward-looking strategy. "Building a successful games business on iPhone means first and foremost getting at the heart of native, natural-feeling applications," observes Young. All three of these games go directly to that point, seeing an exclusive debut on the platform with designs endemic to the device. "We want to build software specifically for the device."

For ngmoco native applications are those taking advantage of the iPhone's range of unique features. "Multi-touch, camera, accelerometer, microphone, GPS, contacts, and of course the Internet connection – we need to be using these in games to make them feel natural," outlines Young. No handheld or mobile ports to be found in the company's portfolio. Young resists the notion, "We're not porting from Flash, not porting from DS – these are built fresh for iPhone."

Despite his criticism of ported games, Young takes inspiration from Nintendo and its phenomenally popular dual screen handheld. "We admire Nintendo for understanding the customer and knowing how to take advantage of their devices."

The point is convincing. Unique devices force innovation, yet iPhone developers have yet to catch on. Young sees a bright future for the device, nonetheless. "I love my DS, but the things I can do on my iPhone are just so much better, so cooler. I believe this device can be better than DS or PSP."

Rolando makes great use of the accelerometer to control round characters through beautifully rendered two-dimensional levels. It promises invention, yet caters to a more dedicated gamer – a point Young is clear to make. Creating native applications is part of the effort, the second strategic point supporting that further by dividing games into premium and fast, micro-priced categories. The quick, casual appeal of MazeFinger and Topple classify as fast apps, while Rolando fits into the picture as a premium download.

It takes little prodding to get Young to express his opinion of Rolando, which touts as "awesome". That is of the utmost importance, naturally. ngmoco pins its success on the game being well received, but it also affects the iPhone ecosystem as a whole. "People won't gravitate to iPhone as a gaming device unless there are great games," he surmises. With over a dozen games in development, ngmoco certainly plans on tackling that issue head on.

It's difficult not to get energised by what the company promises and the vision Young lays out, particularly after getting a glimpse of first three games. "This is a rich canvas for us to paint upon," proclaims Young.

As for how ngmoco plans on shaping that very canvas, it's a topic he speaks passionately about and which we'll dive into Monday's concluding part, which you can read here.

Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.