Developers Weigh In
Of course, game developers who have experience in the iPhone market have their own take on what the device may mean. And "developers", in the context of the iPhone, can range from majors like EA and Gameloft, who got early access to the device from Apple, to startups like Neil Young's ngmoco, to one-man shops. This leads to a number of interpretations of what the iPad's launch might mean.
Ngmoco was co-founded by EA veteran Neil Young with the express aim of entering the iPhone market. It's little surprise, then, that Young is "very excited" by the device.
"In many ways it is a large format iPod, but that's in fact what makes it interesting. The display surface is now big enough to be a really engaging and immersive interface and it's an in-home venue device as much as it's a mobile device. I think that Apple just found a way to get into the living rooms without having to build a dedicated game console," he says.
"We're going to put a lot of support behind the iPad and try to help it become as successful as the other iPhone OS devices."
PopCap's director of mobile business development, Andrew Stein, describes the iPad as "an amazing piece of technology." He also makes the iPod connection.
"While it is obviously based on the iPhone, having a much bigger, high-resolution screen does get us thinking about the new experiences we could create that just aren't possible on the much smaller iPhone screen." He also likes the fact that it ties into Apple's App Store, calling it "a good thing in my opinion... It's one of the best shopping experiences available and users have proven that they like it and use it very extensively."
Kris Piotrowski, creative director at Capy (Critter Crunch) is sanguine about the "giant iPod" claim, saying that it "isn't necessarily a bad thing." At the same time, he says, "I'm a bit hesitant about making big statements about the 'revolutionary gaming possibilities' that the iPad may or may not offer for designers."
That seems to be more due to the current state of the market, not the device's inherent capabilities. "When the iPhone/iTouch came out, I was absolutely nuts about what the device could do, and what types of games I'd be able to make and play on it," he says.
"But I've had the iPhone since day one and I've downloaded around 200 different games on it, and I'm pretty jaded when it comes to games based on touch controls, and games created for a 99 cents to $2.99 marketplace. I hate nearly every app I own, so the idea of playing bigger, more touchy-er iPhone apps on shinier iPad isn't incredibly appealing to me at the moment."
Randy Smith, co-owner and designer at Tiger Style, is an experienced developer with a major publisher background, but also knows what success is like on the iPhone -- his game, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, is an award-winning top download on the platform.
Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor
While iPad's leap in screen size and processor power over the iPhone "makes higher production values possible," says Smith, he wonders about market realities, too. "If we made a killer game for the iPad with a $1 million budget to show what the new device is capable of, would we have any chance of recouping that investment? We'll have to wait and see how large that market becomes, but for now it's clearly not something Tiger Style can pursue."
Regardless, he sees iPad's potential in terms of game design. "We specifically designed Spider for 'bus stop play,' meaning that it's worth breaking out and playing even if you don't know if you'll have three minutes or 30 minutes to spare. If we feel less demand to nail that criterion, we can explore a wider range of concepts."
Indie resources also make market fragmentation a concern for Smith. "We already develop for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPhone 3GS, which have important technical differences. Putting the iPad into that lineup will require a bit more stretching of our development process, again for uncertain recoup."
To that end, Kimmo Vihola, managing director of Minigore developer Mountain Sheep, plans to follow a strategy we expect to see a lot of in the early days of the iPad -- tuning existing iPhone games, rather than moving into new projects immediately.
"We obviously want to make a high-resolution version of Minigore just for the iPad and fine-tune the controls to account for the larger display area and the weight of the tablet," he says, something Mark Rein sees as inevitable across the board: "At this point I don't see why anyone making an iPhone game wouldn't want to make a up-sized version for iPad as well."