Neil Young of Ngmoco Speaks of iPhone’s Promise, Details Nglabs

At the recent iPhoneDevCamp 2 in San Francisco, Neil Young of ngmoco delivered his keynote presentation iPhone is Greater Than… in which he shared his thoughts on the significance of the iPhone platform in mobile gaming and his vision, from a development standpoint, for realizing the device’s potential.

Young is a former Electronic Arts executive who left the game giant after 11 years to form the iPhone-focused game company ngmoco.  During the presentation Young likened the iPhone’s potential for revolutionizing the mobile games industry to the manner in which the famed British home computer, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, did just that for home gaming in the UK back in the early ’80s.  Compared to the current mobile gaming kings, the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, the iPhone offers the gamer far more, Young indicated.

“This device is about as powerful as a Sony Playstation Portable but unlike a Sony PSP it has a whole host of other functions. You can deliver new types of gaming experiences–converged gaming experiences that use the surface of the device in different ways.

You have frictionless direct distribution–no more carriers to go through. And it’s a simpler device to address. If you’re making video game for a cell phone today, more than 60% of the cost of that is spent on porting and more than 90% of the man-hours are spent on porting. If you compare and contrast to the other mobile gaming platforms, the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, this device is connected. You have a direct relationship with a customer.

If you make a game today for the DS or PSP, you submit it to Sony, it’s manufactured, it goes into a warehouse, its shipped to a store, the customer goes to the store, they try to find it and they bring it home. Its [the iPhone] extendable. That software that you make for the PSP or Nintendo DS–once it’s done, it’s done. You’d have no opportunity to change it, you have no feedback loop with the customer. You can’t extend that software over time."

Young feels that developers should look to Nintendo and its extremely successful DS, which has trounced the more technically capable Sony PSP in the mobile gaming market, as a guide for how to build the right games with which to realize the iPhone’s full potential.  He further expressed a belief that iPhone developers can tap into the PSP, DS, and cell phone game markets to create an $8 billion per year “uber market" for iPhone games.

During his presentation, Young announced the creation of nglabs, a program through which the company will fund the development of 10 free iPhone games that are progressive, social, and could only be done on the iPhone.  Each accepted application will receive $10,000 in funding and ngmoco will work closely with the developers to help produce each idea to its fullest.  Ngmoco will publish and promote the finished products and the developers will keep the intellectual property.

iPhoneDevCamp 2 was a not-for-profit gathering to develop applications for iPhone and iPod touch using both the native SDK and web standards. It was a follow-on to last year’s iPhoneDevCamp.