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Apple "so far ahead" with digital platform

Rivals will need to act quick - Rolando man.

Rolando creator Simon Oliver reckons Apple's App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch is "so far ahead" that rivals Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft will have to react quickly or risk being left behind.

"The thing about the iPhone is that the distribution is phenomenally good as well - the cut that Apple takes is great, and is so streamlined. You compare it to WiiWare, or even XBLA, it's such a streamlined process. You can do it via computer, via your phone, it's very easy and the automatic updating system is just fantastic," Oliver told GamesIndustry.biz.

"Nowadays, I think there's a certain amount of response from guys like Sony and Nintendo to this, and there are rumours of what's going to be on PSP 2 in terms of digital downloads, plus there's the DSi and DSWare, WiiWare, etc.

"But I think Apple's placed so far ahead that there's going to have to be a rapid reaction from the others - just in terms of the sheer amount of the content that's produced," he said. "Obviously there's not the same level of quality control that you get on XBLA or WiiWare, but I think you'll get so many more interesting games on the iPhone because the barrier to entry is so unbelievably low."

The fallout of this emerging competition to DS and PSP, Oliver argued, will push each company down different avenues in search of the winning formula.

Oliver went on to reveal that he looked at XNA and PC development platforms for Rolando, but had his mind made up when Apple announced the iPhone SDK, which anybody could use and cost just USD 99.

"All these people with ideas, people that have been wanting to make games for years - like me - they can finally realise that idea and get it out there," he said.

Another key selling point for Oliver is that the App Store is "infinitely large", meaning Apple doesn't have to remove smaller games to make way for the big hitters.

"Obviously there's a certain amount of space in which they can showcase products, but I think due to the nature of the way that digital distribution works now, it means that the effect of people picking up on a unique and interesting game, once it catches on it has the ability to go absolutely huge via word of mouth, blogs, social media - people can discover things, and they can be a wild success," added Oliver.

"A lot of games that people are developing, they're not necessarily doing it to make loads of money - they're doing it to share their content. In the indie scene the process of creating and sharing is just as important as financial success. There will always be people doing interesting things out there, even if they don't become million-selling games."

Rolando publisher Ngmoco confirmed two sequels for Rolando when speaking at the Game Developers Conference in March. Rolando 2 will arrive in June and Rolando 3 is planned for November. Meanwhile, in between, we'll be treated to more free Rolando levels.

Rolando was released at the beginning of the year and looks a bit like LocoRoco - proving that iPhone games can compare to the best on DS and PSP. Head over to our Rolando review for an in-depth analysis.

Alternatively, head over to GamesIndustry.biz for the full interview with Simon Oliver, in which he talks about taking an idea from brain to the App Store.