iPad Doubts: A Gamer’s Problems With Apple’s Wonder Machine

iPad Doubts: A Gamer’s Problems With Apple’s Wonder Machine

The Apple iPad may be great for web-browsing. It may be the best slate on which to list half of the 10 Commandments since solid rock. But, for gamers, well, thou shalt have some legitimate doubts about this thing.

Why might the iPad not become the next great player in games?

(Bear in mind, we’ve now played games on the iPad.}

Uh, It’s A Giant iPod Touch: If our man in San Francisco is sitting at Apple’s press conference, waiting for Apple to announce a revolutionary way to play games via the iPad, well, I hope he lifts his feet when the janitors come by to sweep the floors. The wait could be long.

As best we could discern from today’s announcement, the button-less, tilt-sensitive, touch-screen iPad offers no game-controlling interface improvements over the button-less, tilt-sensitive, touch-screen iPod Touch. In fact, the iPad doesn’t appear to even have a camera, which has been supported by some iPhone games. The iPad just shows games bigger. It shows them beautifully, of course, but Nintendo convinced the world a few years ago that graphical improvements are not the key to modern game machine success.

The Third Pillar Might Not Stand: Back in 2004, Nintendo was preparing to release a new gaming device, the DS. The two-screened system is a hit now, but back then it seemed about as unnecessary as a third shoe. Nintendo claimed that the portable DS would become a “third pillar”, as crucial a strut to Nintendo’s fortunes as the home console and the portable Game Boy. But that didn’t make much sense, because the DS, which could play Game Boy Advance games seemed like it would need to supplant the Game Boy line to be successful. Why, really, would someone need two portable Nintendo machines?

And so the question can now be asked of Apple: If your consumers still need a computer and a phone, needs which you already can fill, what room in their wallet, their bag and their life is there for a semi-portable, semi-desk-ready tablet computer? For gaming or otherwise?

App Apprehensions: It’s wonderful to hear that the iPad will run iPhone and iPod Touch games, but those games were made to run on a screen the size of an iPod Touch, not a screen a little bigger than a Superman comic book.

Do you want to run iPad games in a window while you multitask on the iPad? That would be the closest you’d get to having App Store gaming available on a computer you can sit down with. Well, no can do. You can’t multitask on an iPad. Plus, we’re talking about games that either won’t fill the iPad screen or will have to be blown up by users to play at bigger than their native resolution. We’re told that the iPad supports “pixel-doubling” which will compensate for that, but it’s hard to get that excited about the concept of playing iPhone games, but larger. The best hope here is that the early announcements of iPad-enhanced games such as Nova and Need for Speed Shift will swiftly give way to announcements of iPad-original games.

The Cost: You could buy an iPhone 3Gs for $US299, a Nintendo DS for $US129, a PSP for $US169, a Wii for $US199, an Xbox 360 starting at $US199 or a PlayStation 3 starting at $US299. Or you could buy an iPad starting at $US499, gamers. Tough sell?

Versus PC Gaming: You can look at the iPad as a super-sized iPhone. You could look at it as chunky big brother to the DS and PSP. Or you could look at it as the most gaming-ready computer Apple has every released. In that last respect, the iPad is a nice advance for the prospects of being able to put an Apple product on your desk and play games on it.

But in that last context, the iPad must be compared to, well, Windows-based computers. The barrier to entry for developers is low for either: Make an App for the iPad. Make your own game for the PC. Grassroots developers could flourish on either platform. But we’re likely to be seeing sized-up portable games on Apple’s iPad for a while. They will be compared to fully-realized PC games that can be run with controllers, keyboards and mice. Advantage, Windows gaming… for now and for a while, it seems.

Room For the Little Guys? One of the best stories about gaming on the iPod Touch and iPad has been how the App Store allowed the smallest developers to vie in the marketplace against the biggest game publishers. The result of that competition has been wonderful games from the littlest crews to the biggest, everything from Tiger Style’s Spider to some of EA’s best.

The bigger screen size of the iPad, however, may raise expectations for the quality of graphics on iPad games – and smaller studios may find it more challenging than the EAs of the world to create games that are as visually pleasing as they were on the iPod Touch and iPhone.

Inherited iPhone Issues Some models of the iPad will run over Wi-Fi. Others can run on the 3G network, which raises questions about whether they will run into the same networking issues that plague games played over networks on the iPhone.

Another possible problem involves Apple’s control of software for its devices. Gaming on the iPhone/iPod has been hampered by Apple’s sometimes-unpredictable moves to remove some games from the store due to rights complaints. It’s Apple’s right to do so, but those who disagree with Apple’s decisions could come to look at an iPad as another gaming device that is firmly controlled by its platform holder, just like an Xbox 360 or Sony or Nintendo machine. We’re not talking about a market as free as Windows gaming or even Facebook gaming, for better or worse.

Hard To Handle?: Do gamers want to grab the short ends of a magazine and then pretend they are gaming? The original Xbox controller wasn’t even that broad and it was a bust. Or would you rather trace your finger on a placemat? Those seem to be the two most likely postures for iPad gaming, an experience devoid of buttons and control sticks. iPhone game developers are still figuring out how to make games fun with some of the same feature restrictions. The iPad’s added size looks to make such problems with iPhone gaming controls and comfort even more pronounced.

There are some reason to be excited regarding the experience of playing games on the iPad. Modern Apple products generate an enthusiasm that few other devices do. But Apple still has a long way to go before it can boast that the iPad as an option of first or even second resort for those who want to play video games.

When it was just a theoretical device, the iPad had the potential to be a must-have for gamers. Right now, it appears to be more of a “maybe”, one that, from the get-go, instils as much doubt as it does enthusiasm about the newest way to play video games in the 21st century.


  • I have never considered my iphone a gaming gadget. Where people have tonnes of games on theirs (which they will rarely if ever play), I don’t. Same deal with this tablet, I just don’t see it being anything more than a seldom used time killer when it comes to games.

  • I agree totally to this, another question is, will the costs of games be the same, if the game is exclusive to the iPad? since you will most likely have more cost involved to make the new assets for the game.
    Are people willing to spend more money, then the average of 1-2$ per game, for a iPad game? I say no.

    • The iPhone has proved to be a gaming platform as legitimate as any other. That alone is reason enough to cover the iPad announcement in terms of its gaming potential. Gotta say, I’m baffled how you could think otherwise.

    • Yes, its too big to be a PDA and its too small to be a laptop. Being that its designed to surf the net it wouldn’t be wrong to compare it with a netbook.

  • Too expensive.

    If it was $400, and an open system to allow for open source/freeware, then it would be a neat “internet device” to have handy.

    As it is, it is not as portable as an iPhone, not as powerful as a macbook, and not as open as any mobile with windows on it.

  • Can I plug it in to my PC and use its screen like a LCD graphics tablet?
    Otherwise Im not interested in the slightest with this thing.
    I dont see where this thing is suppose to fit in. Whats the point of it?

    Its good that Apple are spearheading this sort of thing, but I think its a long way from practical.
    The iPhone fits a purpose. The iPad doesnt have a purpose.

  • i want 2 see a real gaming handheld PC, it would have a mouse pad of a laptop
    and touch screen, bepenindg on size, a small keyboard with WASD twice the size of the other keys.

    It must be able to play hl2, which is pretty much a bench mark

  • I would of been interested if it was capable of WACOM-quality graphic tablets use; then I would carry it around instead of my sketchbook, store photos/reference images for, well, reference and when I’ve got an artist’s block, go watch a movie/tv show on it.
    Currently though I see no reason in getting one.

  • Yeah, if it had the option to run it as a wacom pad with a stylus and high sensing in that mode I’d buy it in a second.
    If it had a gamepad layout of buttons to allow gaming the way I like it, I’d buy it in a second. As it is, I’ll be waiting for the second revision of this. I like it, I like the idea of having a keyboard dock at work and at home and just carrying the ipad around, but it isn’t quite there yet for me.

  • Here’s an additional thought. Sturdy though it may be (and I haven’t heard anything to confirm or deny this), but if you’re playing a frantic tilt game and lose your grip….

    At least with the iPhone, it’s a lightweight thing that a) doesn’t fall with too much mass and b) is easier to maintain a grip on.

    I had a touchscreen mp3 player once. It fell to the floor a week after I got it, and although the insides were still fine, the touch and the screen decided they were not going to speak to each other anymore.

    Clumsy/overenthusiastic gamers will want to be careful waving a few kilos of extremely expensive electronics through the air. (I’m nervous enough about my Wii remotes, and they’re strapped to my wrist!)

  • Yeah I agree with Johnathan tree. Gaming news please or are we going to start talking about board games and hopscotch next? Cause we might as well!

  • How are we to conceal pr0n with this over sized thing? It doesn’t even fold like a netbook/laptop does to hide our discretion- and besides, with the iPhone you can hold it in one hand… This is way too cumbersome, for gaming and er… otherwise, yes.

  • The device has a huge amount of potential, but with Apple being complete tight-arses in regards to what you can and cannot do with their products, I’m skeptical as to whether that potential will ever be realized.

    I think I’ll save my money for an Android-based iPad knock-off (preferably something with the Tegra 2 chipset!).

  • There are a some gem games for the iPhone – TapTap Series, FIFA, Tiger Woods, GTA:CTW, Monkey Island, to name but a few.
    I think RPG styled gaming will be great on the iPad, the control systems can be imagined as fitting quite well. Not sure about the other genre’s though. For instance the shooters on the iPhone i feel look fantastic for the most part, but having your fingers covering up a large percentage of a small screen has a large impact on this type of a game – playing them on the much larger screen of the iPad could be the factor that makes these games go from barely playable to fantastically enjoyable.
    I don’t see how one can suggest that this is not valid gaming news, especially if they had alreay read Wildgoose’s response to the first person to stupidly suggest it. Some people don’t consider the gaming console to be a valid platform in comparison to their beloved PC, but you wouldnt even dream of them suggesting that an article on one of said gaming consoles to not be true gaming news.
    I think this is a very well written article, although i would of liked to of seen something mentioned on the graphics engine, cpu, etc, as one would think that the bigger the screen gets then the more pertinent these things will become.

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