Apple should release an iPod game SDK

Summary:A nice feature of the new iPod update is support for games but the downside is that you can only buy them from Apple. There's a movement afoot by the HomeBrew community to pry open Apple's proprietary iPod game package (.ipg) format and reverse engineer a way to load third-party games onto the device.

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A nice feature of the new iPod update is support for games but the downside is that you can only buy them from Apple. There's a movement afoot by the HomeBrew community to pry open Apple's proprietary iPod game package (.ipg) format and reverse engineer a way to load third-party games onto the device.

Nine iPod games were released on 12 September 2006 that work on all 5th generation iPods but not on the iPod nano. Previous 5th generation iPods can play the new games after installing iPod software version 1.2. iPod software updates are now downloaded directly through iTunes 7 instead of the Finder.

The games cost US$4.99 each from the iTunes Store and work on the iPod only - you can't play them in iTunes. Apple wrote two of the titles in house ("Texas Hold'em" and "Vortex") and the rest are from partners: "Tetris," "Mahjong" and "Mini Golf" (Electronic Arts Inc.); "Pac-Man" (Namco Networks America Inc.); "Cubis 2" (FreshGames, LLC); "Bejeweled" and "Zuma" (PopCap Games, Inc.).

GamePro has a pretty good review of the new iPod games, including my favorite, Texas Hold'em.

I am not much of a gamer but one game I really enjoy is Texas Hold'em and Apple's version is very playable and extremely fun. After a few games of Apple Hold'em I made it to the second round unlocking a new level. One cool feature over the Hold'em that I usually play (Concrete Software's Aces Texas Hold'em for Treo) are the tells that the Apple players make. They're Hilarious. And I'm pretty sure that some of the developers make cameo appearances as players in the game, too...

Sure, it's missing multi-player support (the iPod has no networking) and it doesn't play out hands after you fold, but the good graphics make it a very serviceable Hold'em game for the iPod.

Although the games sold on the iTunes store are pretty good I wish that there was more of a selection. While the clickwheel controller is a definite limitation it would be great if Apple published an SDK so that more game developers could get in on the action and release even more titles. Don't hold your breath though, HomeBrewed iPod games are a way off. The iPod checksums every file in the bundle and then looks for an Apple-signed certificate before it will execute any code.

I hope that Apple re-considers and allows developers to easily write and distribute games (and other applications) for the iPod. Maybe in Xcode 3?

Related: OS News.com's Top Ten Requests for Future iPod Games

UPDATE 2006-0919 09:20 ET:
RDM has posted an excellent article on the topic: Hacking iPod Games: How Apple's DRM Works

Topics: Apple

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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