PocketGamer reported today that Apple will create a "premium" area of the iPhone app store for games priced at $19.99, and will restrict distribution to a "number of large publishers, rather than the thousands of smaller developers currently selling their titles on the main App Store." The move is reportedly to help combat the race to the bottom that I wrote about last summer. To me, it suggests recognition by Apple that there is some benefit to a managed platform.
This is something that the console manufacturers learned after the tidal wave of bad content killed the market in the '80's, resulting in the famous "ET in a landfill" period of the video game business. Nintendo brought the market back with tight gatekeeping of 3rd party publishers and the quality of the content they distributed. Since then, the symbiosis of platform management and marketing combined with publisher quality and standardized economics, produced an order of magnitude greater business opportunity than the more "open" PC gaming platform.
There is an article of faith in the venture community that open eco-systems create more valuable companies, and the example of the internet certainly gives credit to that viewpoint. But, as I've said before, the App Store itself is the "killer app" for iPhone -- the 15,000 apps available on the App Store primarily benefit Apple, rather than any single publisher or developer. It is extremely difficult to build sufficient market share to create enterprise value for a company when there are 20 free, me-too products in every competitive category.