IPod Gaming: Some Good Games and a Better Interface

Everybody knows what an iPod is. Between word of mouth, envy, and Apple’s catchy marketing, the iPod has become synonymous with portable music. There are a variety of models, from the screenless(and downright tiny) Shuffles to the larger flash-based Nano(featuring it’s own screen, and still rather small), all the way up to the grand daddy, the hard drive-based iPod Video. The iPod Video does music, photos, movies, and now even games, all of which utilize the simple and efficient click wheel. However, let’s be perfectly honest. Playing all but a few games on the clickwheel interface is a chore.

I think it’s rather obvious that Apple is keeping a close eye on the handheld gaming market lately, and in fact, has taken steps to turn the iPod into a slightly more game-friendly device. I think that Apple needs to go a step further to make the iPod into a serious contender in the gaming market. The biggest hurdles right now are the interface and the limited library of software. Ms. Pac-man may be great fun, but I don’t know if I would call it a real system seller these days.

The software side is easy. There are countless indie developers making games all the time. Hire some to write software for the iPod, Apple. In fact, there are many developers working on software for iPod Linux all the time. If you install Linux on an iPod, you can play a port of Doom right now. This has been possible for a while now, even before Apple released the iPod Video and the subsequent games for this iPod.

The hardware is easy as well, all things considered. Apple, design a gamepad that plus into the dock connector and slides onto the iPod. D-Pad on the left, four buttons on the right, maybe even some shoulder buttons. In other words, make a USB controller that hooks onto the iPod and write software to support it. USB pads are quite cheap these days, with many under $15 dollars. It’s such a simple thing to do, and I have no doubt that Apple’s crack team of designers can handle it.

Back to the games…The iPod has a decent spec processor, but it’s no powerhouse. It can’t realistically be expected to do PSP or DS level games. But that’s not a big deal. Get some decent Game Boy or Gameboy Advance games running on the iPod. Who wouldn’t pay five bucks to play Street Fighter on the iPod? And the beauty is, Apple already dominates the portable music market. Adding gaming capability won’t break the bank, and even if the gaming portion doesn’t take off, Apple can always fall back on the dedicated iPod audience for revenue. After all, they’re the ones buying iPods in the first place. Why not drop a $15 or even $20 dollar dock gamepad for the iPod Video and put out some good, cheap games on the iTunes music store?

It’s really simple. Just make it happen, Apple.