Apple recently celebrated the iPhone App Store's first birthday.
And what a year it has been: In that span, Apple became not only the hottest mobile platform in the world -- which around 15,000 developers have made software for, and all of its major rivals have tried to replicate -- but arguably the hottest gaming platform in the world. No other platform has had such a rush of developer and consumer interest in the last year.
Games represent the largest category in the app store -- 10,000 titles, 18% of all apps -- and also include some of the most technically innovative and financially successful titles.
Apple's platform has attracted heavyweight gaming shops such as Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Sega. And it has allowed important new studios to blossom from scratch, such as Ngmoco, whose Rolando franchise -- including the new Rolando 2 -- may still be the best example of iPhone-unique gameplay, via the phone's multi-touch display and motion sensor.
The year ahead promises to be just as interesting in the iPhone gaming field -- thanks especially to two new features in Apple's iPhone 3.0 software.
- Head-to-head and over-the-network gaming will become more widespread thanks to a new peer-to-peer app feature in the iPhone software, and network gaming efforts like Ngmoco's new Plus+ social gaming service, which we called the equivalent of Xbox Live for the iPhone.
- In-game commerce, which will not only make games more interesting -- buy a new house for your Sims, or a new toy for your virtual pet -- but will also make the iPhone economy more interesting. This will allow iPhone gaming companies to grow revenues after the point of sale; an important feature.
We're also excited to see what kind of iPhone hardware accessories might come out for gamers -- perhaps a game controller or "Guitar Hero" plastic guitar, or something like that -- but we assume those will take longer to develop.
The challenges for iPhone gaming companies: Standing out in a field where there are tens of thousands of competitors, and maximizing profits in a store where 99-cent apps tend to reign supreme. Premium games still seem to have the ability to sell at $9.99, but only a small percentage of games can expect to sell in any large quantity at that price.
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Dan Frommer is a senior editor at Business Insider.