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Developers React: The iPad's Future

January 29, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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."

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hanno hinkelbein
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i think the keyword regarding the ipad is accessabilty. i know a whole bunch of people who own a computer but just can't adjust to the way they work, still having trouble with the simplest things after working with them for years.

like the wii opened the console market for a lot of people who didn't want to mess with "complicated" controls the ipad makes the digital world accessible for people who have trouble with things like attaching pictures to emails (they are around - a LOT of them!!!)

the question is if this will be as revolutionary as apple intends - how will it change budgets and goals for the gaming industry? will the industry focus on casual apps in the future because complex games are not selling as big as they used to or are getting too expensive? and of course the same as in iphone apps: is there any kind of money to be made for a team larger than 3-5 people?

Jeremy Reaban
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Part of the trouble is that the iPhone audience seems to like cheap games, $9.99 is the max, even when they are identical to $30-40 PSP/DS games. Ironically, since it's mostly a device for the well off. Can developers provide upgraded graphics and still charge that little? I imagine we'll see the $14.99 price point emerge, since that's not too uncommon for XBLA/PSN games

Michiel Hendriks
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I see more future in games for (Windows based) netbooks than for the iPad.

Elandar Leenas
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"A non-painful e-reader would be nice."

As an avid ebook fan, I can't stress this point enough. But even if you forget the ebooks, it will very likely become THE device for reading PDF's and all those annoying PowerPoint-sheets.

It's going to be a "meeting"-device.

For that its perfect. (do you remember the marketing campaign for tablet pc's from Microsoft back in 200*?) This might be the product, I was hoping for, when I bought my X41 Tablet. (which is nice, but a fu@%ing pain to navigate)

Based upon this hypothesis, two conclusions can be drawn:

First, no, its not going to be big for gaming

Second, if it's going to be the next mainstream ebook reader, you can set prices like 9.99$ an App. Why? Because ebook Buyers are used to such prices for creative content. And if you target adult readers with ebook/game-hybrid programs like Point&Click Adventures... this might be a way to go.

Mike Lopez
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My $0.02:

- I think the iPad will be very successful, though not as incredibly so as the iPhone/iPod. Regardless of if one loves/hates Apple (or maybe you have a love/hate relationship with them), anyone who counts them out so soon best revisit the history of consumer electronics over the past decade.

- I suspect the iPad demographics will be different than iPhone (at least after the early adopters/Apple fanboys get their fill). I feel the age range will be even wider (young to old) and gender appeal more balanced than traditional consumer electronics (which weigh much more to men). I have no idea how wide or narrow the socioeconomic appeal.

- I suspect the iPad users will expect apps with more content than iPhone (but less still than console), which means larger budgets and (hopefully) less total crapware.

- I agree with one of the quotes that fine accelerometer control will be greatly de-emphasized as an input model for most apps since it will be pretty awkward and tiresome to hold that large unit and do anything repetitive more than a periodic shake of the device; the Need for Speed demo looked cool as a steering wheel input but I suspect after 5-10 minutes of holding/rotating the device the players hands will be ready to fall off.

- In the gaming arena higher content/budget expectations will also mean a shift away from the massive weighting of the casual genre (some will still be there, but not the majority as now). I also suspect pricing will be higher and would not be surprised to see top apps go for $20+.

- Also in gaming I expect we'll see even more games in more genres, especially those with massive content (open-world, MMORPG, etc.)

One thing I am 100% sure of: The adoption and evolution of the iPad will be interesting!

DukeJake R
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Looking at the tech specs at first I thought i'd be better off with a netbook. But looking at it again it looks ideal for lounging on the sofa and surfing the web, watching a film, etc. Netbooks aren't too great for that, the screens are not good enough quality and an iPad would be easier to hold. The iPad keyboard add on makes it good enough for long periods of data entry. Overall I think it looks very promising and when iPad release the v2 (hopefully with camera, multitasking, more memory, etc) it could really come into its own.

Michael Wenk
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I don't think the iPad will fly as a gaming device. It is just too expensive and delivers little vs the competition. If Sony couldn't make the PS3 work at its initial price point than there is little chance Apple will make this one work. I think EA is nuts to support this as enthusiastically, but EA has not been acting very rationally lately...

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Gabriel Kabik
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I don't really understand the comparison between the iPad and the Wii. The Wii wasn't successful outside of the gamer demo just because it was more "intuitive" for a non-gamer than traditional consoles, it was successful in those demos because its game library featured plenty of content that was also accessible and allowed people to do physical things while playing a game. The iPad has the former, but will not have the latter. I mean if the Wii came out and all it had was FPS games, do you really think it would have appealed to anyone besides non-gamers?

There are definitely a certain number of people around the world who will buy the iPad. Apple knows this already. But if they're relying on taking over the netbook market, they're not going to do that. Maybe people who bother to get really into feature comparisons between netbooks and iPads like you and I could see the benefits, but the casual user (i.e. nearly the entire netbook market) does not want to look at what they think is a computer and see an interaction interface that is totally foreign to them in that context. The first thing the casual user is going to say when they see an iPad being offered to them in lieu of an EeePC? "Where's the keyboard?" Even if they're familiar with the iPhone's screen keyboard, they're not going to think of that as a great alternative to a real, physical keyboard. I mean essentially Apple is targeting the same non-existent market that was targeted during the UMPC craze of a few years ago. That era proved that even early adopters don't want feature-crippled laptops mixed with the clunkiness of a giant cell phone. And in high tech, if you don't get the early adopters, you fail. Of course it will move a few hundred thousand units. It's Apple. They could put a USB port on a ham sandwich, call it the "iHam", sell it for $300, and every kid on the L train would have one. But it won't be revolutionary.

David Peterson
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iPhone games have sold way more than I think anyone was originally expecting. Nobody buys an iPhone as a game console, and neither will people buy iPads in order to play games. If they buy it, it will be for other reasons, but games will be a bonus, and a large percentage of iPads will have several games on them. The question is, how many will there be out there?

However, if you already have a game running on iPhones, it seems like getting it working on an iPad will take minimal effort in a lot of cases. In that case, why not expand your market that little big further if it's easy to do?

Logan Foster
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I don't have the highest hopes for the iPad for gaming and if you read between the lines of some of the comments that have been made here in this article and its comments I think you are seeing that most other developers, both large and small, are thinking the same thing but simply do not want to speak out about it because they are afraid of upsetting Steve Jobs and Apple.

Here are my thoughts on why it won't live up to being more than just an oversized iPhone for gaming:

1) Anyone who has worked with OSX will attest to the attrocious "hackity" half-done implementation of OpenGL is for the OS and as such I have a great concern over how bastardized the OpenGL ES drivers are for the iPad and whether or not they will be able to deliver what is needed without causing signifcant pain and frustration for developers.

2) I honestly do not see the hardware specs running the device being that much greater. Yes its better than a 3GS device, but that isn't saying a lot.

3) Keeping games under the 10mb limit (especially with the Apple compression bloat) will be difficult if you want to best support both the iPhone and iPad screen resolutions nicely. I dont care what Apple claims, you cannot blow up pixels without some sort of unwanted distortion. So with that said, we will see more and more 100+mb games that really arent that impressive in nature and sadly these are the good AAA ones.

4) Bigger does not mean better. The device looks awkward to hold and even with the extra screen size I still do not believe that the virtual control overlay will succeed. Worse yet the device is not very mobile and for the most part almost every Game on the appstore is designed around the "5 minutes of casual" play logic (especially considering how lackluster the devices are for doing anything more than this).

5) AppStore prices. I find it odd that ebooks will go on this device for near retail prices, yet games for the AppStore will continue to get the royal hose job and still come in a $1 or $2 for the cheap-ass Appstore crowd. As such even if the device has the hardware and non-Apple screwiness to make it into a decent gaming platform will we ever really see games that utilize it best and present anything more than what we have already? I think not.

So with that said do I think the device will be a flop? More than likely? I think right now its best usage is as a coffee table device for casual web surfing at home. Its too big to be mobile and too lacking to be a real computer that people will use for traditional real-world usage (aka games and business).

Lastly, is it just me or does anyone else find it odd that neither Epic nor Unity recieved an iPad to work with yet EA and Gameloft did? You're talking about two major engine developers that had to sit on the outside like the rest of us. Thats absolutely rediculous. Apple should have hired these guys as consultants to find out what they need and want in the device (like MS and Sony do), not the other way around. This just reeks of more "Apple doesnt give a shit about game developers" problems that have plauged Apple for the past 20 years.

Simon Tai
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As far as Apple is concerned, gaming just another aspects of the apps. From the genearl strategy point of view, create the platform and give enough support, then everything else will fall in place, or that's how the innovation text books will tell you these days. Perhaps, it would be easier to see it as another console or platform if you will. With fixed hardware spec, the platform usually defines spectrums of games and its audience. In the case of iPad, the hardware does seem to drive the games into a new realm of multi-touch mechanisms, which I hope to see many new innovations in games. Then again, it would be much easier just to port games from 10-15 years ago, e.g. StarCraft, and make money from established titles.

Dolgion Chuluunbaatar
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Im not sure the iPad will do well as a gaming device, but it sure has so much potential for other uses. Businessmen will love it, students will love it, and people who just want the web and movies in their laps will love it. No mouse, no keyboard and so thin, it has a lot of plusses over a netbook IMO. People can get used to soft keyboards easily and navigation is simply more intuitive with a touchscreen.

I think this is serious competition for the netbooks (and therefore for Chrome OS, anybody thought of that yet?).

Btw I find it funny that Mr. Jobs boasts of 1Ghz CPU in his iPad when Google came up with a 1Ghz Android phone BEFORE the iPad is even launched. :D

Richard Cody
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It could work as a stay at home mom's computer. I don't see this working as Apple says -as a middle man- but as a new age computer designed for simplicity I think it's a start.

Games will sell once it establishes itself as a legitimate home computer. A webcam, (maybe) a more comfortable method to type outside of the dock, a digital ink type screen (imo, that's why e-readers are so appealing), and an easier way to base media out of it (as opposed to bringing it in from a home cpu).

After those issues are solved I'd say gaming has a chance.