Coming soon: Grand Theft iPhone

Yesterday we brought you news of how the iPhone can be used to fight crime (albeit crime that was provoked by the phone itself.) Today crime comes to the iPhone.

Rockstar has announced it will be bringing its DS game Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars to the device via the iPhone app store.

The company says the content of the game will be identical, though some textures in the graphics will “look low-res” in comparison to the console versions. It also said the control system will be slightly different (and closer to full-size consoles) in that there will be an on-screen representation of a control stick which will be controlled by the player’s thumb.

Rockstar staff haven’t spoken out yet about the technical work involved in translating the game from the DS (and the PSP) to the iPhone. If the process isn’t too onerous, and if the game gets good sales and reviews, there could be a serious market for similar conversions.

The pricing of the game will also be interesting. The DS edition had a list price of $34.99, which would seem far too high for even a desirable iPhone app. In theory an app version should be much cheaper because there’s no need for packaging or physical media, but as legal music download sites have shown, that doesn’t always lead to as much of a discount as you might expect.

Patrick Klepek at G4TV makes a good point on the subject: unlike with console games, the iPhone distribution set-up means a developer can instantly change the price. That could mean it’s worth Rockstar trying a high price and then lowering it if sales start poorly.

As always with iPhone apps, there’s the question of the approval process. As overblown as many criticisms of GTA’s content are, it’s clearly an adult game and, while that should now be workable thanks to adult content filters on the device, you can never be sure what will raise red flags with the vetters.

CNET reports that Rockstar “had no trouble with Apple’s App Store policies and that the game will be made available as is.” However, it’s not clear if that means Apple has approved it, or if Rockstar simply believes the game should meet the rules.

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