Is gaming the iPad's 'killer app'?
Opinion is divided as to whether the tablet-style form factor will take off among consumers. But could Apple's plans to transform the iPad in to a casual gaming platform be the feature that wins over the sceptics?
Alongside the usual selection of bloggers, journalists, analysts and Mac fanatics at Apple's special event yesterday was a new group of technology commentators -- the video games press.
Apple's invitation to "come see" its latest creation was extended to video games publications, a clear sign that Apple sees its new iPad tablet computer as a serious gaming platform.
Games have proved to be one of the most successful application categories in Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch, and the company already sees those devices as viable alternatives to the offerings of Sony and Nintendo. It's a natural progression for gaming to lie at the heart of the iPad, too.
Apple was at first surprised by the success of mobile games on the iPhone and iPod touch, but it's not hard to see why it's such an attractive proposition for consumers -- the innovative use of multi-touch and accelerometers, and the processing power of the devices themself, help to create a slick gaming experience.
"The games you can play on these devices are unlike any other, because of the accelerometer and the touch-screen display," says Greg Joswiak, a senior executive at Apple.
"It goes way beyond what you can do on a device like [the Nintendo DS], which is old-school gaming. Devices like the iPod touch are redefining the future of gaming. We have more games than the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP combined, and then some."
The price of the games is also key: the low cost of digital delivery and comparitively low development costs meant dozens of top notch games from the likes of Electronic Arts could be downloaded from the App Store for less than a fiver -- a revelation for gamers used to spending £40 on a video game in the shops.
“That changes the economics, it changes the entire business," says Joswiak. "The prices of our games are so much lower [than Nintendo or Sony]. When you’re getting games for just a few pounds, people tend to experiment more, because it’s not such a major investment."
It's these crucial ingredients, say experts, that could help to make the iPad a must-have gaming platform for casual gamers, and therefore a must-have device.
Developers are already excited about the device's potential. The tablet has a 9.7in, high-quality touch-screen, and Ge Wang, co-founder of Smule, the company behind popular iPod touch games such as Ocarina, believe the extra screen real-estate could open up the possibility of multi-player gaming on the tablet.
"Developers are going to start devoting resources to developing for the bigger format,” says Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. “The larger screen really plays to the imagination and clearly gives app developers a new kind of canvas.”
Many of the games already available for the iPhone and iPod touch scale fantastically well on the iPad, delivering a compelling gaming experience, and developers are said to be working on iPad-specific titles that make even more use of its speedy processor and crisp display.
If Apple can persuade the legions of gamers to take the iPad seriously as a home gaming device, it could have a hit on its hands.