July 11th, 2008 by Kenan Farrell
Denizens of Activision Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (yes…it’s official!) know that the Dark Portal connects Azeroth to the Hellfire Peninsula. Is a new, far more powerful, portal about to open between Azeroth and Cupertino, CA, the heart of Apple headquarters? Unless you’re living in a furbolg cage, I doubt it’s news that the new iPhone arrives today, July 11. More importantly, the 3G has been touted as “the most suitable mobile handset yet for virtual worlds and MMOs, given its fast data speeds, slick user interface, and ability to give applications access to its full processing power and other features.” This creates an easy-to-use entry point with wide appeal, giving virtual worlds and mmo games more exposure in the mass marketplace.
“Reliable sources” have been chattering about World of Warcraft on the iPhone since the phone’s release, some casting doubt on the iPhone processor’s ability to run the game. But with over five hundred software applications ready for tomorrow’s iPhone 3G launch, optimism abounds that this iPhone can bridge the gap. Keep in mind that WoW’s (or any other virtual world for that matter) first foray into the mobile market doesn’t necessarily have to be the full game experience…how about access to the game mail system or guild chat? Access to the in-game Auction House would satiate a whole legion of WoW fans and probably boost the already thriving game economy. Or port the creation platform for Second Life so people can edit prims on the subway?
But could the lack of action by Activision Blizzard allow competition to stealth in and claim the gold? Heavyweights EA and Will Wright (of Sim City and The Sims fame) are keen on Spore Origins, the iPhone’s port of their much-anticipated Spore release.
Peak Virtual Entertainment, (“PKVE”), has announced the open beta for its brand new massive multiplayer online web-game: “The Legacy of Holy Castle.” It looks to be leading the race to becoming the first web-browser MMO Strategy Game that is fully playable on both smart phone devices and on PCs.
Or how about Parallel Kingdom, a fascinating tool that invigorates real-world Role Playing games by using GPS to place the virtual world on top of the real world? Parallel Kingdom describes itself as the first Mobile Multiplayer Trans-Reality Game (MMTRG). I’m going to need more time to wrap my head around the implications of that. I’m curious to see what happens when hardcore roleplayers start questing out in public (if they aren’t already…maybe that explains the things I’ve seen on Market St.?)
Does a juggernaut like World of Warcraft even worry about these new games or are they just happy to let someone else carry the load of innovation for a change?
Social virtual worlds aren’t left out either. In February, Massively covered a sort of proxy Second Life running on the iPhone (YouTube video) and the faster network behind the new 3G iPhone can only enhance the social 3D experience.
Third-parties like Boxfab are creating hardware that will turn your iPhone into “a Virtual Reality display device which uses the iPhone as the viewing plate so that it becomes a wearable virtual headset simply by clipping on a special attachment.” Combine this with the new neuroheadset technology and the iPhone becomes an ever more powerful tool. With a potential new market having the size and enthusiasm of the iPhone community, it seems for now that there may be plenty of room for innovation from all sides.
How about the real-world impact of increased gaming and virtual world access on the iPhone? Will kids pay attention in school? (Have they ever?) Will automobile accidents skyrocket as drivers play Gran Turismo at stoplights? “Gaming While Driving” laws were proposed starting last summer…they may need to be revisited if these games take off. Paris Hilton single-handedly forced California to take cellphone driving seriously and it was formally prohibited last week. The rest of the country may be following suit under the weight of increased accident statistics and ballooning insurance premiums.
Sooooo…who’s getting the iPhone 3G???
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