If you’re reading these words right now, it stands to reason that you’re a fan of mobile gaming. Or you just took a wrong turn from Google. And even if that’s the case, you’re likely still familiar with what Apple’s App Store is. It’s the place where you go on your Apple mobile device to buy apps. It feels weird even giving it a basic explainer like that, as the App Store has just become a regular part of our everyday lives. And now Apple’s groundbreaking platform is getting ready to celebrate its ten year anniversary next week on July 10th, and Apple has put together a really neat feature that goes over the history and some of the major milestones of the App Store over the past decade. You can click here to read the feature in full, and while it certainly has an air of Apple PR fluff about it, it’s also a really neat recounting of some major aspects of the App Store that we just take for granted in this day and age.
It really can’t be stressed enough just how much the App Store changed everything. It removed barriers for users to install software and didn’t require any complicated installation instructions to get new applications (apps!) on their mobile devices. It also made paying for software incredibly easy by tying into existing iTunes accounts, and Apple customers who were already comfortable buying music and movies digitally from iTunes fell right in line with buying and downloading mobile apps. Perhaps most importantly, the App Store removed barriers for developers themselves, allowing even a single person with a great idea and development skills to create and deploy apps into the App Store to be sold right alongside apps from giant companies with massive development teams. The iOS App Store certainly wasn’t the first digital storefront, but it was far and away the most ubiquitous and really brought all the benefits of selling apps digitally to the mainstream.
Of course, a massive part of the success story of the App Store is gaming, and as much as Apple puts out mixed signals about how they feel towards gaming, they do mention it several times in this new feature. I mean, how could they not? For the section on companies that built their entire business with an app-first approach, Apple reached out to Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova of Imangi Studios, the creators of Temple Run, who are also celebrating their own ten year anniversary as a studio this year. They say of the App Store:
“The App Store and iPhone changed our lives. Our first game, Imangi, launched the day the App Store opened. Fast forward 10 years, and we’ve created over 10 games, including Temple Run, which has been downloaded over a BILLION times. Our studio has grown from the two of us to a team of 35. None of this would have been possible without the App Store."
For a section dedicated to the explosion of gaming on mobile platforms, Apple reached out to none other than Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo, creator of Mario and one of the most legendary game designers in history. Nintendo has famously been standoffish about joining in on the popularity of the App Store and mobile devices, but a few years ago it got to the point where they just couldn’t ignore it anymore. While Nintendo has pretty much revitalized themselves with the Switch in the past year or so, they’ve also made a respectable side business out of their mobile games, and have utilized the App Store as a way to connect people with their brands and hopefully point them in the direction of their own hardware. It seems to be working! As Shigeru Miyamoto says of the App Store:
“We are very happy that we are able to deliver Super Mario Run, a new Super Mario experience that could be played with just one hand on iPhone, to hundreds of millions of consumers because of the App Store. The App Store allows us to share the joy of Nintendo games with many new audiences, and we will continue striving to provide unique and new game experiences to App Store customers."
Last year Apple introduced a pretty dramatic overhaul of the App Store which featured special content that changed daily that would highlight some of the behind the scenes stories about the developers and the games or apps that they make. I actually love the revamped App Store and the Today section, and I think Apple has done a tremendous job showcasing many interesting stories from the world of app development. In regards to that, they reached out to Dan Gray, the head of Monument Valley creatores ustwo Games, who had this to say:
“We built our entire team around the App Store, and we’ve been able to have millions of people around the world play our games who never would have considered themselves gamers. The App Store refresh has shown players the creators behind the apps they enjoy everyday. Humanizing apps can only be a good thing and showcasing how they’re made will inspire the next generation of creators from every corner of the world."
I really can’t believe we’re celebrating ten years of the App Store. I remember when the App Store first opened, it felt like such a magical place. Here I had this tiny computer with a beautiful screen and these crazy multitouch capabilities in my pocket, and I was able to browse a selection of different apps and games and within moments beam them onto my device seemingly out of thin air. Or I guess it kind of is out of thin air? Either way, it was such an exciting time as a lifelong gamer who had grown very tired of the PC and console space. Mobile gaming felt fresh and weird, kind of like how the early console days were for me a quarter century prior. With the barriers of entry lowered, all sorts of unique and strange experiences began releasing on the iPhone. Things have balanced out in the past ten years, with major companies and more traditional “console-like" experiences becoming normal on mobile, but there’s still that punk rock ethos that courses through the world of mobile delivering experiences you just can’t find anywhere else. It’s still magical to me ten years later, and I just can’t wait to see where things will be in the next ten years.