Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has doubled the maximum size of iOS apps, a change that could manifest itself in dramatically improved iOS games.
Previously, iOS apps were limited in size to 2GB -- an amount that was more than enough for standard apps, but severely limiting when it came to mobile games. The new standard -- 4GB -- isn't perfect, but a major step in the right direction, and should help strengthen Apple's iOS as a gaming platform.
BioShock looks better on the Xbox 360
A great example of the limitation in action is Take-Two's highly regarded first-person shooter, BioShock. The game, originally released on the Xbox 360 in 2007, was ported to Apple's iOS last year. Gaming publication IGN created a comparison video between the two versions, showing that, while BioShock on iOS is perfectly playable, its graphics are noticeably worse than the original Xbox 360 version.
The discrepancy is partly a byproduct of size -- BioShock on iOS comes in at 1.64 GB, just shy of the 2GB limitation in place when it debuted. BioShock for the Xbox 360, at 4.66GB, is almost three times larger.
To be fair, Take-Two may have also taken power into consideration when porting BioShock to iOS -- although the processor found in Apple's current flagship devices is capable of console-quality output, chips found in older models are far less impressive. In an effort to give it a larger market, Take-Two may have held back, ensuring that the game would be stable on older iOS devices, such as the iPhone 5.
But as a rule, more graphically impressive games require more storage. Games released for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 can take up as much as 50 GB of space, while the games released for their technologically inferior predecessors generally run less than 10 or 15 GB.
Mobile games may need more space to mature
The size limitation has not -- at least so far -- been a huge limiting factor for the mobile game industry. The most popular mobile games to date -- Candy Crush Saga, Flappy Bird, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood -- are less than 100 MB, a far cry from the current 4GB limit.
But for the industry to become a viable alternative to console gaming, larger apps will be necessary.
It's understandable why Apple enforces a limit -- given that its iOS devices do support physical media and are limited in storage space, an uninformed user could download a few large apps, rapidly blow through their data plan, and quickly fill their device, resulting in a poor experience all around. With modern iOS devices sporting as much as 128GB of storage, however, a higher limit makes more sense.
The update may seem like a minor adjustment, but given that games are among the most popular and highest grossing apps on Apple's app store, and that Apple's strong slate of exclusive mobile games gives it an advantage over rival mobile ecosystems such as Android, it's eminently relevant to the long-term viability and desirability of Apple's mobile operating system.
A 4GB cap is still too small to support console-quality games (The Witcher 3, for example, a game coming to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this summer, is rumored to clock in at around 50GB) but should be welcomed regardless.