Monday, April 19, 2010

The iPad could be the next blockbuster gaming console. Seriously.

by Anand Ramachandran. This article first appeared in OPEN magazine.

While the jury is still out on the iPad's impact as an e-reader on the publishing industry, there's one area where it's already being touted as a certain game-changer. The videogames industry has welcomed Apple's self-described 'magical' new tablet with open arms, and almost all major publishers are looking at the device as a serious platform for growth.

Why are developers and publishers all agog about the iPad? The reasons are multiple. The iPhone, with its multitouch capability and accelerometer, proved to be a terrific gaming device, but its small screen size meant that the range of games that were well suited to it was fairly limited. The iPad, with its faster processor, larger screen area and improved accelerometer opens up possibilities for a far wider range of genres to work effectively on the device.

Sure enough, some genres will work better than others. Former GameSpot editor and celebrity gaming journalist Jeff Gertzmann has already said on Twitter that the iPad sucks for playing action games. Action games have always needed quick, responsive controls - especially in terms of simultaneous directional (run, climb) and instantaneous (jump, shoot) input, not the kind of control scheme that touch screens are ideal for. Additionally, mucking about with your thumbs and fingers directly on the screen tends to obscure the action itself, which interferes with the split-second decision making that is an integral part of action gameplay. However, action games such as Call of Duty, NOVA and Mirror's Edge are already doing fairly well on the iPad, and smart designers might yet find a way around these problems that works better than the ubiquitous 'virtual joystick' compromise.

However, genres such as strategy, roleplaying, adventure and puzzle games stand to benefit greatly from the reduced abstraction levels afforded by direct touch-screen input. A cursory glance at the iPad games library reveals a number of heavy-duty strategy franchises already (The Sims, Civilization Revolution, Command and Conquer, Plants vs. Zombies). It's a great fit - since most strategy and tactical combat titles involve constantly clicking on different parts of the screen as the primary user interaction. This works beautifully on the iPad - intuitive, smooth and accessible. Ditto for adventure and puzzle games. In fact, the iPad might just revolutionize standard board games as well. Place it flat on your table and Voila! - an instant scrabble, chess, monopoly or parcheesi board. The iPad's larger screen and ability to register multiple touches also makes it ideal for two-player games such as air-hockey.

Driving games are also enjoying great success on the iPad, thanks to its improved accelerometer making steering completely natural. Need for Speed : Shift, Real racing HD and Asphalt 5 have all had stints in the top seller lists.

Within weeks of its release, games are already the most downloaded apps on the iPad. Over a third of all iPad exclusive applications released are games. Publishers are hoping that the iPad will follow a success path similar to the one enjoyed by Nintendo's Wii - where millions of people who never realized that they were gamers suddenly discover the joy of gaming because of an innovative and intuitive control mechanic. Add a range of affordable games available through a proven digital distribution model (the App Store), and we could be looking at the next blockbuster handheld gaming console.

1 comment:

  1. iPad can be used to play action games ..IF.. apple decides to crank it up a notch with a built in gyroscope like the one in iPhone4. Gameplay would be saweeeet! like this -