iPod Games: Boon, Bust, or Test?

In September, 2006, Apple surprised the world by introducing “iPod Games,” a collection of nine titles that could each be downloaded for $4.99 from the iTunes Store. Nearly six months later, Apple’s library has increased by three to 12 total games – all of them reviewed here – and user comments have been varied. Some have praised Apple’s decisions to keep iPod games simple, relatively inexpensive, and appealing to casual players. Others have complained about the size and quality of the game library, problems with the iPod’s controls, and the inability of “iPod Games” to play on iPod nanos or within iTunes.

We wanted to get a picture of what our editors and readers thought about the current state of iPod gaming, so we asked for each of our editors to provide their honest views and experiences – positive or negative – on the topic, and published them below. Now it’s your turn: please add your take to the comments section at the bottom of the page.

iPod Games: Boon, Bust, or Test?Jeremy Horwitz, Editor-in-Chief, United States: “I’m a life-long gamer, so I was simultaneously excited and disappointed when Apple introduced iPod Games, mixed feelings that haven’t improved since then. Prior to last September, I played more Solitaire on the iPod than I care to admit, but only for lack of better options. But even now that there are a bunch of titles out there, I’m not enthusiastic about the catalog. It’s hard enough to get excited over such old titles – even the popular ones – and seldom do the controls feel right. I’d gladly buy a $20 controller accessory if it meant I could actually enjoy games rather than struggling with them.

I’m only half-surprised that people are upset that iPod Games won’t play on iPod nanos. That’s no great shock for those aware of how limited the nano’s video hardware is, say nothing of the screen, but it’s interesting that people would even care that much about this slate of titles. Thanks to the games’ controls, there’s no guarantee that they’ll ever work on touchscreen iPhones, next-generation iPods, iTunes, or Apple TV, and Apple hasn’t made any reassuring promises about their future viability. It’s hard to invest in a gaming platform with such a limited guarantee of forward compatibility.”

iPod Games: Boon, Bust, or Test?Bob Levens, Contributing Editor, United Kingdom: “I fear that I am a luddite in the iPod world: games are not something I spend time playing. In all the time I have owned an iPod, I can probably count on both hands the number of times I have actually played the free iPod games. I used to play Tetris and Mahjong quite a bit on a PC, so if I was to buy any additional games they might be choices, but at £4 (almost $8) a game I’d have to play them a lot. For me that screen size is not conducive to playing something like Tetris which needs a reasonable sized image to get the blocks to fit.”

iPod Games: Boon, Bust, or Test?Dennis Lloyd, Publisher, United States: “I have played a couple of the games. I like the old school games like Pac-Man, but the controls took some getting used to. I don’t play them often.”

Larry AngellL.C. Angell, Senior Editor, United States: “I’ve never been a mobile gamer. Always having a console and big-screen TV at home, I never saw the point. The iPod Games are no different. If I’m seriously delayed somewhere or waiting in line, I’d much rather just listen to my music or watch a video podcast than try to make a 5 x 5 pixel Pac-Man make his turns using an anything-but-intuitive iPod Click Wheel.”

iPod Games: Boon, Bust, or Test?Christina Easton, Contributing Editor, United States: “I have a 60GB fifth-generation iPod, but I’ve personally never wanted to try an iPod Game, even the ones built in to the iPod. I don’t think the iPod was meant for games given how well-developed the Wii, PS3, and Nintendo DS are for games; the iPod is a storage device by comparison, and worse-suited to portable gaming than even a cell phone. Other devices at least have directional pads and separate buttons. The Click Wheel wasn’t made for anything other than menu navigation.”

iPod Games: Boon, Bust, or Test?Jerrod H., Contributing Editor, United States: “At their original debut, I purchased a few iPod games simply to try them out, but I’ve hardly touched them since. As with video on iPod, I’m simply rarely ever in a position to use them. For me, the problem is that they’re strictly foreground activities, while the iPod’s music features I can use all the time while I’m doing other things. However, perhaps with the software-rich, web-enabled Treo 700 on my belt keeping my occasional dead time occupied with other such foreground activities, I’m just not a part of the target market.

Regardless, I’m interested to see what Apple does with the category over time, although I secretly hope Apple is using this as an experiment in building good working relationships with quality mobile developers, and that the idea will be later leveraged for Apple-sanctioned iPhone applications to be sold in a similar way.”

iPod Games: Boon, Bust, or Test?Jesse Hollington, Contributing Editor, Canada: “I’ve been impressed with the iPod Games, but then again I’m not a power-gamer. PSPs and Gameboys have never held much appeal for me, and therefore the games that are available on the iPod are reasonably my speed. Apple made some odd decisions by including games for which the Click Wheel was most definitely not the optimal control interface, and anybody thinking of purchasing an iPod game should give some serious thought as to whether they could picture themselves playing these on a device like the iPod. Those who are traditional console gamers will find Apple’s offerings to be somewhat underwhelming, but for somebody who would otherwise be playing games on a Blackberry or Palm device, the iPod’s offerings really aren’t a bad way to kill some time.”

Your comments and thoughts are appreciated below.

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