In the midst of all the new hardware that was released, it would be easy to miss the fact that it is now possible to download games for your iPod from the iTunes Store. While older iPods have a few games included, they, to put it bluntly, suck. Their graphics are incredibly plain and the games themselves aren’t anything to get excited about either. The best thing you could say about them was that they were free. In fact, they were so uninspired that you would be forgiven for thinking that the iPod isn’t capable of playing decent games. But you would be wrong. (More after the jump.)
Apple has made 9 games available for 5th generation iPods (they are counting the “enhanced” iPods released today as still being 5th generation, so basically any video-capable iPod can play the games). The games available are: Vortex, Tetris, Pac-Man, Cubis 2, Zuma, Texas Holdem Poker, Mini Gold, Mahjong, and Bejeweled. Their graphics are pretty impressive. They seem to be similar to what you might find on the Palm OS or Windows Mobile.
I downloaded Zuma since I’m pretty familiar with it. I’ve logged quite a few hours with the Xbox Live arcade version on my Xbox 360. I’ll have to say that the iPod version looks very similar, and the sounds and music appear to be idenitical. I did notice a couple of hitches in the sound, but for the most part it plays very well. The controls are a different story. While the iPod’s scroll wheel would seem to be perfect for the game, and it does perform pretty well if you use your index finger, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to match the precision I can get with the Xbox 360’s analog controller. Still, for casual players it should be fine.
The addition of downloadable games to the iPod is big news. Assuming that they keep adding to the library available, the iPod could become a major gaming platform. The main problem seems to be the controls. Most of the games available now are ones that lend themselves to the control wheel, but of course not all game genres can be shoehorned into using it. Still, there are so many iPods out there that I believe it could rival the market for PDA or mobile phone games, if not the Game Boy or other dedicated consoles. If future models include a touch screen, there would be almost no limit to what the game makers could do. I’m looking forward to it!