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Developers React: The iPad's Future

January 29, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

Finding an Audience Is Already Tough...

The iPad is reasonably priced at the low end, with the cheapest model running $499. Says Piotrowski, "Pricing is the part of the whole presentation that got me the most excited. It's right in between the iPhone and the cheapest MacBook, and it's really perfect for people who need a computer for day to day stuff, like email and organizing photos," while Seyler says, "I think we were all pleasantly surprised at the pricing. It should give the device much broader, quicker adoption than a higher price point would have."

However, PopCap's Stein isn't totally convinced. "The price, although still a bit expensive, seems quite reasonable for the technology that's packed into the iPad."

It seems likely that the nice price and Apple's clever marketing will help the iPad ride a wave of early popularity. But not everybody's sure what audience the device is ultimately going to attract -- which will affect its long-term prospects.

"The iPad targets a space between a mobile device and a home computer. I think this is kind of an odd move for Apple, who normally seems to prize an elegant simplicity," says Smith.

Piotrowski agrees with Smith about the device, but sees more potential in its position. "It's right in between the iPhone and the cheapest MacBook, and it's really perfect for people who need a computer for day-to-day stuff, like email and organizing photos. I think my mom would like one of these."

However, neither seems confident just who might buy it -- and whether that will turn into success for game developers. "I'm not sure who the exact market is, but I doubt people will be buying these things for gaming primarily, though that may not matter too much to its overall success. I really like how shiny it is, though," says Piotrowski.

"Who wants an iPad? Does it target folks like me, who already have an iPhone and a MacBook?" asks Smith. "Or does it target folks new to the Apple family, or those who don't own both devices already? I really wonder how large the install base is going to be and of what demographic it will be composed."

This ambiguity could lead to poor sales potential, says Smith. "The iPad is exciting, but it doesn't strike me as 'must have,' not to the extent the iPod and iPhone were," he says. But, he concedes, "If I'm wrong, and the install base is huge and hungry for games, then that's an exciting opportunity for us game developers."

Gingold notes that thinking about the iPad as a computer may be entirely wrong, as "consoles are another example of a computer that is just about addressing basic human desires -- in this case, play, games, and socializing," implying that the iPad will find its own niche.

"Adoption will be interesting," says Gingold. "I think that iPhone adoption started to really take off, in terms of seeing everyone around you with one, when the initial buy in price was 100 to 200 dollars, thanks to the weird subsidy thing the cell phone industry does."

He also thinks that the whole phone thing is essential to the iPhone's massive success. "I really think that people buy iPhones because they are the first cell phone without a garbage UI, plus it does lots of other cool stuff, like play games, surf the web, and be an iPod."

Unity's Seyler also thinks the iPad's user interface is significant. "The interface is what you'd expect from Apple: beautiful, intuitive, and crisp. These attributes have always set the iPhone apart from other mobile phones and I think it will do the same for the iPad."

The e-book functionality of the iPad, with its iBooks software and store, might help push the device, Gingold thinks. "I hear e-readers are rapidly growing in adoption, and they are totally at the cusp of a Model-T moment, so maybe the iPad can ride that wave. A non-painful e-reader would be nice."

Whether that will help game developers, though, is highly questionable. Pusenjak sees a direct connection, here, however, with the possibility of expanding the device to serious games. "I also feel the iPad will be very attractive to educators and we could see some great new educational apps and games."


If anything's become clear over the past couple of days, it's that there's a tremendous breadth of opinion on the device -- as these developers' reactions illustrate. There's the history of the iPhone, both good and bad, to consider, as well as the fact that Apple is hoping to create a new market for a device that slots in between a smartphone and a laptop.

To that end, Apple's marketing is so fulsome that it borders on the ridiculous. The iPad's slogan is "Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price" -- and the company's fans are instantly rapturous, as always.

On the other hand, the company is entering largely uncharted territory, here, a fact that the developers recognize. The iPad may actually have the revolutionary potential it promises, but only if it connects with an audience. It may be such a simple and appealing way to interface with the internet that it supplants computers; on the other hand, it may be such an inflexible and limited device it attracts nobody at all.

There's no doubt, however, that game developers will be pulled along by the tide until and unless the device bombs out of the market. And whether or not that happens won't be apparent for months. For now, it seems, cautious optimism in the face of serious questions may be the best approach. With a device this capable, with a future so uncertain, there's plenty room for innovation, and for failure.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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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.