Carmack: iPhone Powerful as PS2, Xbox

Among the hardcore gaming crowd, John Carmack’s work with id Software is legendary for producing 3D gaming works such as Doom and Quake. Although Carmack is clearly comfortable pushing the limits of PC hardware, his latest interest appears to be in mobile games – and his sights are now set on the Apple iPhone.

"We wanted to do something for the iPhone, but we just didn’t have the scheduling or the resources available," Carmack said to Forbes. "I really regret not having something at launch."

The launch that Carmack referred to was the launch of the App Store on iTunes, which coincided with the release of the iPhone 3G. The App Store allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to download and install applications and games for use on their mobile device.

While Carmack won’t have the usual dual-core CPU and blazing AMD or NVIDIA GPUs on tap, he seems more than confident that the iPhone is capable of delivering the graphical goods.

"The iPhone, as a device, is in the same generation power-wise as the PS2 or Xbox," he said. "The graphics are a little lower but the RAM is a lot higher. … You could easily spend $10 million on an iPhone game, but the market just can’t support that yet."

Anna Kang, president of id Mobile, explained that the game for iPhone would be based off an existing id property, meaning that it could be from id’s roster of first-person shooters, the old classic Commander Keen, or even the lesser known Orcs & Elves game from the Nintendo DS.

Carmack isn’t letting on what type of game it’ll be, but he intends to impress. "We have a title we want to develop exclusively for iPhone," he added. "I’m not announcing anything specifically, but it would be a graphical tour de force."

Of course, PC faithful need not worry that Carmack is moving away from making shiny, flashy 3D engines. These mobile games are likely side projects that he does in his spare time. His next engine, called id Tech 5, will power the game "Rage" and is set to push the modern graphics and game consoles.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • lobhob
    I could see it as powerful as a psp, which can more or less sort of simulate ps2 graphics, but not as powerful as a ps2 because it wouldn't have a powerful enuf processor in it without it at least having heat problems for the iphones size. I don't see where ram can improve grphics as it says in the article, just load times idk.
  • martel80
    What about Doom 2 level 1 deathmatch over bluetooth-ed iPhones? :)
  • It doesn't say that ram improves graphics. It says that the graphics aren't as good but it has more RAM.
  • Carmack is dreaming gagain...pure lol
    Iphone has so far even from PSP's capabilities...uncomparable...not to mention PS2 or the Xbox, heh
  • grieve
    I have to agree with yuko, I have a 3G, PSP and a long time ago I had a PS2 (have PS3 now).
    My Iphone 3G occasionally has lag not even gaming, the graphix are awesome (for a phone) but it certainly is not capable of Quake death-matches.

    I dont doubt for a second Id Software could make a PS1 type game for the 3G, but not PS2 or PSP unfortunately. Furthermore the touch display is fantastic but I cant see it functioning well for many types of games, in particular a first person shooter.
  • The_Blood_Raven
    Sounds like more accessories for the iPhone... so you can play decent games...
  • waxdart
    Dear all the above.

    For argument's sake - Lets say the graphics are the same or even better than a ps2 or xbox.

    ok - "The graphics are the same or even better than a ps2 or xbox."

    How long will the battery last? No good having a phone if you've used the power on a 15min death match.

    Yes its a pain having to carry all these bits, but when one runs out of juice, I can still use the others. I for one, am a naysayer till they fix the issue of me having to remeber to charge everything up all the time.
  • bydesign
    Carmak has lost his mind. For a while now he been spewing absolute nonsense. The next time someone reports something about him hopefully it's about him checking into a rehab clinic.
  • JonathanDeane
    LOL ByDesign agreed he has been on a binge lately, although not as bad as Romero's hmmm maybe they could convert DaiKatana for the iPhone lol

    I like the iPhone and want one so bad I have been looking at Chinese clones (but the quality is probably far far lower then Apples)
  • jaragon13
    yukoCarmack is dreaming gagain...pure lolIphone has so far even from PSP's capabilities...uncomparable...not to mention PS2 or the Xbox, hehYeah,but I guess you cannot still play on a Mac.