Six years ago, an article in Wired held popular gadgets to a gold gaming standard: Can it run Doom? The article left open the question of when Apple’s iPod would achieve this technological feat.
That day is coming next week, when Doom: Resurrection goes on sale for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Using many of the same textures and sprites as Doom 3 for the PC, the handheld game will lead a wave of 3D titles designed for either the iPhone’s 3.0 operating system or the new, more powerful 3G S model.
The only problem is, Doom: Resurrection isn’t your typical 5-minute time-waster that usually flies through the App Store. It’s a five-hour game that took a lot of effort to build. John Carmack and Escalation Studios haven’t announced a price, but given that a remake of Wolfenstein 3D costs $5, I’m guessing — wildly, I’ll admit — that the new Doom won’t cost any less than $10. If I’m right, is Doom’s star power enough to justify the premium?
Practically, it’s too late for this, but maybe now’s an opportune time to bring back gaming shareware. I’m talking about a substantial chunk of the game, not a one-level demo. Instead of swapping discs in the old tradition, players could spread word of the game virally by messaging the download link to their friends. What gamer worth his or her salt wouldn’t download free Doom?
Once a critical mass is established, surely some of the players will spring for the full-featured game, which would include (in my mind) new weapons, more episodes and online multiplayer. With OS 3.0’s capabilities for downloading new content from within the game, it’s certainly possible. As more iPhone developers push the hardware, they’ll need more than a few screenshots, a price tag or even a brief demo to sell their product.
In the 1990s, shareware was a great tool for bedroom computer game programmers who had no other way to market their work to the masses. With the iPhone and iPod Touch, we’re seeing a resurgence of these small-time developers, looking to strike gold in an increasingly crowded playing field. If there was ever a time to bring back gaming shareware, this is it.