Image courtesy of Wired
OK, so Gear Diary (along with every other tech site) has been full of (mostly somewhat negative) opinions about the iPad since yesterday’s launch. My thoughts are not so much about anything Gear Diary has already covered here or here or here or here or here or here or here (whew!), but rather goes back to something I started talking about last September when Apple touted the latest iPod Touch as a DS & PSP killer of sorts, and I called it “hubris and arrogance”.
I guess I could make this short and say ‘nothing has changed’. The unveiling of the iPad seemed to simply mean ‘more of the same’ in terms of what gamers could expect. I’m sure that sounds odd – isn’t the iPhone / iPod Touch an amazingly successful platform for games? Yes, it is – but only for certain types of games and only at extremely low price points.
The article I cite attalks about ‘the iPod gaming ecosystem’, and how iPad games might grow from current iPod standards to DS type games to eventually something more like current PSP games. The problem is that even at the high end of iTunes App Store pricing, a game like GTA: Chinatown Wars costs $10, which is 50% less than the DS version is selling 9 months after release. That is simply not a profitable price point for new games of any substance – and the increased screen area and resolution of the iPad will only make things worse.
Yet there IS something that is different – Steve Jobs talked about the blistering fast 1GHz Apple A4 CPU, but that doesn’t really tell the tale. The folks over at BrightSideOfNews have discovered that the A4 is pretty much a SOC (system on a chip) consisting of what is essentially an ARM A9 Cortex CPU paired with a ARM Mali-50 series GPU and slightly tweaked by Apple-bought PA Semi.
So what? Well, remember earlier this month I reported that a 500MHz version of the ARM A9 Cortex kept pace with a 1.66GHz netbook, and that one didn’t have any sort of GPU!
I am not claiming that the iPad is a threat to traditional PC gaming by any stretch of the imagination. I still feel that the touch-only control system is inferior to physical controls for the majority of traditional games, and even games where it makes sense get killed by the ‘I can’t see the screen because my fingers are all over the place’ problem (see my review and re-review of Air Hockey). Of course, it is quite possible that the larger screen will help those issues, but that remains to be seen, and currently the precision of virtual controls lags physical ones.
However, with a serious CPU/GPU combination that easily outpaces any netbook without an ION GPU in it, Apple has certainly delivered the potential for ‘indie’ developers to make some innovative games for it that will play very nicely. So while it is not likely a game-changer for the majority of hardcore PC and console gamers, it looks like there is a possibility that Apple can continue to wedge video games into more hands than ever before.