Let's Stop Pretending iPad Gaming Isn't For Gamers

It's impossible to read a Kotaku comment thread about iPhone or iPad games without wading through a bevy of grumpy dissenters — disgruntled gamers who say things like "iPad games aren't real games!" and "lol iPhone".

This isn't exactly surprising. A few weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed about how Apple's ubiquitous devices won't win over the living rooms of hardcore gamers. They just don't have the controls.

But what gamers don't seem to get is that the iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices don't need to replace our consoles. They're separate entities. And they're good enough on their own.

Look, I totally understand where the dissenters are coming from. Just a few years ago, I was one of them. I'd grumble whenever Japanese developers like Square Enix created games like Final Fantasy IV: The After Years for mobile platforms. I'd sigh at the thought of kids playing games on phones and tablets while riding the bus to school. Why weren't they gaming on DSs and PSPs?

Then I got an iPhone. And slowly but surely, I started to realise how much gaming potential it really had.

Sure, many of its cheap games are mindless timewasters. Games like Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride have found success with the "pick up and play for 30 seconds or two hours" model. And it can be hard to sort through the junk ripoffs and clones and other nonsense on Apple's iTunes Store.

iPhones and iPads are now a playground for independent developers

But it's becoming clear that the iOS library goes way deeper than that. Deep, original games like Chaos Rings and Sword & Poker 2 have stolen quite a few hours of my time. Ports like Final Fantasy Tactics and Secret of Mana prove that even the classics can work well on touch screens. And the upcoming iPad remakes of Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II are two of my most-anticipated games of the year.

What's better, iPhones and iPads are now a playground for independent developers. The iOS model does not resemble console or handheld gaming — it resembles PC gaming. Developers have the flexibility to experiment with form, mechanics, and price. And although I've heard some not-so-great things about the iTunes Store's review process, it certainly beats catering to the whims of a deep-pocketed, bureaucratic publisher. At the way-too-reasonable asking point of $0.99 a pop, games can find a level of tremendous financial success they'd never see on the Xbox or PlayStation.

While console makers struggle to find ways to eliminate used games and usher their customers into the digital age, iOS is already there. Mobile developers don't have to worry that GameStop is running its own garage sale with their products. Every iTunes purchase is a new purchase.

As for the iTunes Store's biggest advantage over GameStop? Shopping there won't make you feel like you need a shower.

It's important to note that iOS games aren't going to kill consoles anytime soon (and that it's silly to even have that conversation). But as gamers, we'd be remiss to ignore mobile and tablet gaming as an alternative to our standard consoles. And if you're not playing games on a mobile or tablet device, you're missing out on some wonderful experiences. So please, stop pretending iPhone and iPad games aren't real games. You're only fooling yourself.


    Lol iPhone.

    But seriously, I am playing Bards Tale and Tactics on my iPad and loving it. I was going to buy a 3DS but decided on an iPad and have not regretted it. If apply can release some type of physical controller setup, that would ice the cake.

    OK. But we can still dismiss on-screen analogue sticks, right? Because those are awful

      Absolutely. If your game uses on screen analogue sticks, then you've done it wrong.

        Yes those are horri-bad. Its a relic of a previous platform. Instead of innovating a new way of using the interface they decided to 'play is safe'.

        Dont mistake developer laziness to the platform's lack of potential.

    "Handhelds are DEAD iPhones are direct competitors and better!" "Stop comparing and dismissing iPhones guys :("

    There's certainly a place for devices that play 10-15 year old ports and $2 popcorn games, but they're really not on the same level as handhelds - which is why gamers are somewhat worried about proclomations of these being the future of gaming.

      My thoughts exactly. I have no problem with the games available on smartphones, but neither the hardware nor the type of games offered are on the level of the games that I enjoy.

      Also, if all the hype is true and smart-devices are going to entirely replace current gaming systems, then I might actually stop playing games completely because I can see no way that they will offer the kind of experiences I am looking for.

    Obligatory: Lol iPhone.

    Also, I think the point is: If I'm out and about and want to play games, I have my phone. If I'm at home, I have my PC or whatever console. So... why make time for gaming on a pointless device that has no real purpose?

    It's not about whether they're real games or not, it's about the fact that they're trying to occupy a niche where gaming more is easily satisfied by other more practical existing devices.

    So explain to me why I would buy an iPad for gaming when I already have a smartphone, a gaming PC and a console. Because it has a touch screen? Please. Anyone considering themselves a "gamer" is already going to have these things so anyone buying into the whole "you should get an iPad for gaming" idea is just drinking Apple's marketing cool-aid, or trying to rationalise their own stupidity in buying such a thing for gaming in the first place.

      For exactly the same reason - why buy a 3DS or PSP when you have an iPhone or iPad, that can also do so much more.

        By this same token, we should all be using the N-Gage.

        I don't own an iPhone because I don't support companies that treat their customers like dirt. Apple has the exact same business model that sent sega's console market to the grave, yet people support it. I don't understand. I don't understand. I don't understand.

          Wow you aren't supporting apple. They must be really worried!

          Do you apply your ethics to everything to buy? If you do you would be living naked in a cave.


            You know the quickest way to ruin your own argument?
            It is to default to a stance of petty antagonism is word slinging.

            Who said anything about ethics, I spoke on customer satisfaction, which apple does not provide me. Yes, I apply this to everything I buy, I don't buy MW games, iPhones, iPads, and a whole myriad of products because I don't feel that I, the customer, is treated with an appropriate amount of respect.

            Why even bother commenting if you're not going to be constructive? Go back to flaming on youtube.

        Different games and interfaces?.

        Those three 'platforms' have different style of games and interface mechanism. Its not an XBOX vs PS3 where the games are 80% (exaggerated) the same barring a few niched out titles. Its more like comparing the Wii to Xbox and PS3 where the games and interfaces are different and for the most time will never ever meet and should probably never ever do.

        Just because salads are so much better for you and can do so much more for you - doesnt mean you should completely forgo the occasional burger and fries.

        Disposable income FTW

    I'm quite happy that mobile (iPhone, iPad & Android) gaming is growing - Gaming is becoming more accessible for entirely new markets. Game development is also more accessible as the cost to entry is much lower. Much like blogs let anyone be a journalist, anyone can teach themselves to code a passable game. Distribution is also much easier through iTunes, Google Play or Steam.

    But I'm concerned that mobile gaming seems to be the only direction of gaming at the moment. Instant noodles are great, but I'd like a steak every now and then. I just hope developers remember how to make one.

    I'm very keen for mobile gaming scene to become something I'm interested in. I've been buying iPad games for years, but I have never once found anything with the depth I require to keep interested. Sim City and I go way back, an dI like the iPad version, it works well with touch, but it's SO simple. All the games are! Mass Effect was watered down into swipes and taps. Occasionally I'll find a gem such as Osmos that has complexity, but it's too rare to consider mobile gaming for core gamers "here".

      Theyre just getting started.

      And one of the big difference is - most iOS/Android game developers are actually just groups of people or small small companies - they dont have the clout to push anything too big yet. Not to mention the technology that they use and interfaces are fairly new - so they cant afford to be too creative just yet just when they can barely walk. Give it a couple of years and it will start to show its true potential. Remember - the touch devices have only been out for 4 years, and 2 years for tablet devices. Yet i can already see a couple of promising games on the horizon... http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/starcommand/star-command-sci-fi-meets-gamedev-story-for-ios-an
      The tech is new and the community of developers around it is still in its infancy, give it time.

        I love how no one remembers Bill Gates introducing tablet devices almost a decade ago... but not really. Makes me sad. :(

    I don't say it's not for gamers, I say it's not for me. Y'know reading the title I was sure this would be an Owen Good article.
    I don't enjoy the controls.
    I don't find the games hold my attention or immerse me in the same way dedicated consoles/handhelds do.
    I don't like that my phone dies a whole lot faster if I use it for games.
    I don't like *most* interface schemes.
    And I don't understand exactly why other people find mobile gaming just as good as dedicated, but that's entirely within their rights.

    iPhone and iPad games are simply not up to the standard of console or handhelds, it's that simple.

    I have three pages of games on my 4s. They're fun, they're nice and they delay boredom for a short time, but at the end of the day, they're just mediocre games that suck your battery dry.

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