Time for Apple to update their Texas Hold'em game to stay competitive?

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    Sep 16, 2020, 8:51 am180 pts

    Apple's Texas Hold'em app will always be remembered as one of the most significant products in the mobile gaming industry. Texas Hold'em was part of the launch of the App Store in 2008, making it many people's first experience of the gaming potential of iOS devices. After spending many years in the wilderness, Apple brought back an updated version of Texas Hold'em in 2019. While the power of nostalgia could be high for long-time Apple users, can the game still claim to be one of the leading releases for mobile poker play?

    The history of the Texas Hold'em iOS game

    Cast your mind back to 2006, when the iPod was the world's favourite device for consuming music. Those classic iPods still used the iconic click wheel for navigation, and it was those devices where Apple's Texas Hold'em game made its debut. As you might expect for an iPod release, the gameplay options weren't too complex.

    They weren't particularly complex either when Texas Hold'em arrived on the App Store two years later. Given the massive popularity of poker across the world, it made a natural choice for Apple's foray into the business of mobile gaming. Available for $4.99, the Texas Hold'em proved a massive hit with iPhone owners who enjoyed the strategic challenge of playing cards.

    poker cards

    Poker has been one of the world's favourite physical card games for decades, so it's no surprise that Apple made it the focus of their app in 2006.

    The app garnered plenty of critical acclaim, with users praising its realistic animations and its stripped-back gameplay that got to the heart of why poker is so popular. It seemed like Apple had a real hit on their hands, with an app that was going to be around forever, and ev- oh wait, in 2011 Apple removed Texas Hold'em from the App Store.

    Nobody is entirely sure why Apple made this decision, although at the time reports from MacRumors indicated that perhaps Apple had realised that they no longer needed to produce original gaming content for iOS users. After all, heavyweight names from the gaming industry, such as EA and Gameloft, were now producing their own titles for use on Apple devices.

    Given that its presence at the launch of the App Store has pretty much immortalised Texas Hold'em in Apple folklore, it's not a surprise that Apple decided to bring it back as part of their celebration of the App Store's 10-year anniversary in 2019. You did read that correctly and yes, your maths skills are better than Apple's; the App Store's 10-year celebration should have taken place in 2018.

    Texas Hold'em returned without too much fanfare on Apple's part, but it has been present on the App Store since July 2019. Apple tinkered with some of the app's features and modified its mechanisms to make it compatible with modern devices, but it still retains the same feel as that original Texas Hold'em app. The app is now in rarefied company as one of the few to be available for download in three different decades, but how does Apple's Texas Hold'em hold up in 2020?

    The pros and cons of Apple's poker app

    You have a choice of locations and opponents in the updated version of Texas Hold'em.

    While Apple's newest version of Texas Hold'em has used modern technology to improve on the technical qualities of its 2008 predecessor, there is a mix of pros and cons.

    Pros

    • A rating of 4.7 from over 33,000 ratings on the app store reflects a generally positive user experience.
    • The updated version is free to play, which was not a feature of the earlier iteration of Apple's Texas Hold'em.
    • Players have the choice of taking on 24 opponents in the app, while they can also take on up to 8 friends with its multiplayer functionality over Wi-Fi.
    • There are 10 distinguishable locations (including Paris and Las Vegas) that are realised with good graphics, meaning that the Texas Hold'em doubles as a virtual tour of the world.

    Cons

    • The updated version is a hefty 1.5GB, so you'll need plenty of space on your mobile device.
    • It is only compatible with devices that run iOS 12.0 or better.
    • While there are 24 in-game opponents, there is no way to play against real talented poker players from all over the world.
    • The gameplay options are limited, given that Texas Hold'em remains the only variation of poker facilitated by the app.
    • There is no ability to switch to wagering real stakes in order to add a competitive thrill to the action.

    The battle to stay competitive in the poker app industry

    Apple's updated Texas Hold'em app only lets you compete against a fixed range of computerised opponents or a handful of friends.

    A lot changed in the world of mobile gaming during Apple's eight-year Texas Hold'em hiatus. The iOS Texas Hold'em returned all shiny and new, but with most of the same features at its core. In that time, other poker apps have emerged that boast plenty of qualities missing in Apple's Texas Hold'em, which poses a real problem for Apple if they want their app to stay competitive.

    The best app to compare the iOS Texas Hold'em with is the 888poker app. Despite its updates, the Apple app feels a little bit like it is stuck in 2008. That's not the case when playing poker at 888poker, with their app showcasing a snazzy yet easily navigable interface. Action in the 888poker app can switch seamlessly between money play and practice play, which means it caters to both competitive and casual poker fans.

    Apple's Texas Hold'em only has casual poker players in mind, while its gameplay has barely evolved since 2008. While the app is of course advertised as having a focus on Texas Hold'em, it would have been easy to integrate other poker variations into the app before Apple brought it back to the store. Its offerings are highly limited when held up against other poker apps, with 888poker's iOS app including the Omaha Hi-Lo and 7 Card Stud variations of poker alongside Texas Hold'em.

    At the time of its initial release, simply offering a Texas Hold'em game on iOS devices felt ground-breaking. That is not enough anymore, with the lack of competitive action and poker variations ensuring that Apple no longer provides the most appealing poker title on their own App Store. While the updated version from 2019 will be comforting to those who remembered the app from a decade prior, the iOS Texas Hold'em may need further updates if Apple wants it to be anything more than a nostalgic novelty.


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