In-Depth: iPhone Devs' Big Hopes For Verizon Deal

Gamasutra speaks with key figures from Ngmoco, Subatomic, Epic, AuroraFeint and others about Verizon's adoption of the iPhone, as one exec forecasts U.S. mobile games to "double in revenue this year because of this deal."
As the largest mobile carrier in the U.S. finally adopts Apple's iPhone, iOS game developers tell Gamasutra they are highly confident that the greater reach will mean bigger business. Verizon Wireless on Tuesday confirmed it would start selling the iPhone on February 10, ending competitor AT&T's iPhone exclusivity deal in America, which began when the device launched in mid-2007. Analysts have said Verizon, which has roughly 93 million subscribers, could sell 9-13 million iPhones this year, with a significant chunk of AT&T's roughly 15 million iPhone users possibly jumping ship in favor of Verizon's network. However the Verizon-to-AT&T iPhone ratio ends up, iPhone game developers who spoke to Gamasutra are predictably excited about the prospect of reaching consumers who might have been waiting for Verizon's support before jumping on the iPhone train. "Inclusion of iPhone in the Verizon Network is an exciting boost to the iOS development community," said Sergei Gourski. He's CFO of independent iPhone game maker Subatomic Studios, the developer responsible for Fieldrunners, a tower defense game that was released in October 2008, just a few months after the launch of the App Store. "This move is yet another validation of Apple’s success in growing and improving their developer-friendly platform," Gourski added. "At Subatomic Studios, we are incredibly excited about this announcement as it will allow us to reach an even broader audience." "This is not to say that the increase in install base will not bring its own hurdles, changes and challenges to the iOS ecosystem," he continued. "From a development standpoint, Fieldrunners and our new titles will see an increase in growth potential from the freemium, social and ad-driven revenue." One leading advocate of "freemium" games is mobile developer is Ngmoco, known for games including We Rule, Word Fu and Touch Pets, which are available for free from the App Store but charge small fees for optional additional content. The rapidly-growing Japanese mobile and social gaming firm DeNA purchased Ngmoco last October for $400 million. "Apple's iPhone and iOS radically reshaped the mobile landscape when it launched in 2007," said Ngmoco CEO Neil Young in a statement. "It's wonderful to see that it has started to proliferate across networks so that as many people as possible can own this incredible device. We're looking forward to even more users being able to experience our products and ultimately our Mobage [social game] service later this year." Gears of War developer Epic Games recently made its popular Unreal Engine available on iOS -- so a greater iPhone install base could mean more engine royalties as well as game sales. "It is great to see iPhone coming to Verizon in the USA," offered Epic VP Mark Rein. He expects Verizon customers to pick up Epic and subsidiary Chair Entertainment's first iOS game, Infinity Blade. "I think a lot of people have been waiting for this for a long time." Peter Relan, chairman of AuroraFeint's OpenFeint, a social platform that game developers use to connect mobile game players, said, "Adding 13 million more potential gamers on the iPhone is going to be a watershed moment for mobile gaming." Relan continued, "I wouldn't be surprised if the U.S. mobile gaming industry doubles in revenue this year because of this deal." Semyon Voinov, chief creative officer of Zeptolab, which created the recent breakout iOS hit Cut the Rope, shared the optimistic sentiments. "We expect to see a positive effect on sales, which is surely a good thing for every iPhone developer," he stated. But perhaps it's Kris Piotrowski, cofounder and creative director of Toronto-based Critter Crunch and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP developer Capy, who made the boldest forecast regarding the Verizon-Apple deal: "I think Angry Birds is going to do extremely well on Verizon."

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