iOS 8, “the biggest iOS release ever” is coming to a device near you, soon. As we’ve learned in previous years, “Apple likes to announce new iPhones on Tuesdays, make new iOS updates available to download on Wednesdays and, depending on availability, start selling or taking pre-orders for new devices on Fridays,” saysTechRadar. Assuming Apple follows the same pattern they have in previous years, iOS 8 should be released on September 10th, following an Apple developer event in San Francisco on September 9th.
Both users and developers are excited about the next iteration of iOS because it includes design updates, Android-like extensions, and the ability for parents to set devices to “ask” for approval to make an in-app purchases. Apple also crammed in new tools for developers into the iOS 8 SDK, including: SpriteKit, SceneKit, and Metal; along with support for their new programming language, Swift. Here’s a link to the complete iOS 8 Developer Preview.
Which devices are compatible with iOS 8?
We’ll have to wait until September 9th to find out if there will be an iPhone 6 (or two), as well as the rumored “iWatch.” For now, we know iOS 8 will be compatible with the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, the 5th generation iPod Touch, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini, and the iPad mini with Retina display. iOS 8 is not compatible with the iPhone 4 (or older iPhones) or the original iPad.
What are the experts saying about iOS 8?
To get a broader perspective on what game developers are most excited about in iOS 8, I interviewed the team at NativeX, asking everyone what they’re hearing from developers. Here’s what some of them had to say:
Thougths on iOS 8’s SpriteKit, SceneKit, and Metal
Nate Dykstra @natedykstra, Game Developer Relations Team Lead
It remains to be seen, of course, but when it comes specifically to game development I see the addition of SpriteKit, SceneKit, and Metal as big boons to the industry. SpriteKit brings a built in engine for 2D game development (similar to Corona or Cocos2D) while SceneKit a 3D game engine (similar to Unity or Unreal). Most of these other engines require the developer to buy a license or pay a subscription fee and also potentially learn the intricacies of a new platform and/or language. Having these built right into the iOS development platform will definitely streamline things for some existing and plenty of new developers. I also believe the addition of Metal into iOS 8 is going to continue to raise the already high bar of high quality games we see on the platform. I can’t wait to see what developers create with these new tools!
More on SpriteKit for iOS and OSX app development
Ryan Weber @mnvikingsfan, Co-Founder and SVP of Product Management
I’ve done a lot of research on Cocos2d lately, and how it relates to SpriteKit. Cocos2d is now the 2nd most popular development framework after Unity for building games. Unlike Unity which is closed source, Cocos2d and SpriteKit are open source projects. Developers who love Cocos2d because it is free, open source, and light-weight, with a much smaller footprint than Unity, will likely explore SpriteKit because it is so similar. Cocos2d-iPhone was originally for iPhone only but eventually it branched out to other devices and platforms in a new version, Cocos2dx. Apple is promoting SpriteKit as a tool to build for iOS and OSX. However, since it is open source, I expect we’ll find a solution eventually to port these games to other platforms. If Apple puts a lot into the development of this project, it could serve as another viable, strong 2D game development engine and rival Cocos2d.
Localization becomes easier on iOS 8 with Bing Translate
Erik Radtke @erikradtke, Business Development Manager
In the development cycle of today’s mobile games, studios must take into account the international scope of the app community. Often, text heavy games struggle to do well in non-native geographies where tutorial instructions or dialogue windows, written in the developers native language, are a barrier to fun. Solving this problem is expensive and has historically fallen solely on the shoulders of the game studio. For instance,Kabam has an entire division in Berlin that works to localize their games. With Apple’s upcoming release of iOS 8, developers now have a way to start tearing down that barrier, Bing Translate. As an embedded feature in iOS 8, foreign text can now be translated into the player’s native language. Whether your studio makes games in Helsinki, Beijing, Chicago, or Sao Paolo the tough questions developers ask themselves about their game’s playability in international markets just got a whole lot easier. Translating the content of an app isn’t a replacement for localization but it is enough in many cases. With iOS 8 the world is flatter.
What about the App Store?
Rob Weber @robertjweber, Co-Founder and SVP of Business Development
Expect a completely new App Store this Fall in iOS 8, with updates to Search (Explore, Trending Searches, scrolling search results, and related searches). Getting featured has always been a top tactic for app developers to drive user acquisition but now if your app is featured, your App Store listing will permanently receive an “Editor’s Choice” mark, further magnifying the impact of being featured. So how to get featured? That’s a topic in itself so check out our previous blog post with recommendations.
Despite enhancements to search, charting is still going to be the prevailing way to drive user adoption of your game. Rankings in search and categories still appear to be driven principally by your velocity of downloads, that’s why it’s important to include CPI advertising in your marketing mix. Game developers should consider allocating at least part of their marketing spend to CPI campaigns in the form of either burst or sustained buys us to increase their likelihood of charting.
Preparing for iOS 8
For the best user experience on iOS 8, you should make sure you’re using the latest version of our SDK. Versions older than 5.3 will run without bugs but the UX isn’t optimal. If you haven’t tried out NativeX for monetization, give it a shot as you prepare for you next App Store submission. The latest NativeX SDK is available for you to download here, in our self-service.