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    Analysis: Gaming on Apple’s upcoming iPad (updated)

    by PJ Hruschak on Jan 28, 2010 at 01:11 PM

    Yesterday (January 27, 2010) Apple announced its upcoming touchscreen gadget dubbed the iPad.


    At first glance it is an oversized iPod Touch complete with primarily a screen for surface area (although a wider-than-iPhone border), a Power control button, a Home button, a volume up/down button, a mute button and a bottom power-dock slot. It will also utilize online connectivity via WiFi or, for a bit more, 3G through AT&T (although no contract required).

    According to the site’s specs, the iPad will include a “built-in speaker” with 20Hz to 20,000Hz playback and simple volume controls (along with a headphone port). It also includes a built-in microphone and the “Wi-Fi + 3G” model will have a SIM card “tray.”

    Physically it will be 0.5 inches thick, approximately 7.5 in. wide and 9.6 in tall, weighs 0.68 kg (1.5 lbs. WiFi version and 1.6 lbs. 3G) and has a 9.7 in. display with 1024 x 768 pixel resolution.

    It’ll utilize a 1GHz Apple A4 chip and all-in-one processor that makes it nice for presenting videos and, according to the Appletell Live Blog, loads pretty fast. It probably helps that iTunes is built into the iPad.

    Apple also nicely enhanced and released its software development kit for the iPad yesterday, meaning developers can get cracking and creating or updating existing apps – including games – for the iPad (with an iPad simulator).

    The iPad will have an accelerometer so you can toss the thing around for motion control of games. It’ll also dock with a keyboard (included), so the possibility of PC-style games with a lot of controls is there, and will work with a digital camera (kit included).


    During the event they showed off ESPN’s X-Games Snocrosss (OpenGL ES) and EA driving game, Need for Speed Shift. Pretty much every distributor, developer and dude-makin’-games-in-his-or-her-basement will be able to make games for the iPad.

    Gameloft was mentioned as an early iPad game developer at the press event and already had Nova, a first-person shooter, ready to demo. It utilized a lot of sliding controls (multiple object targeting by sliding a box around then) and multi-finger controls (2 fingers to toss grenades and three to rotate a locked door). It’s planned to be released late 2010.

    Tentatively scheduled to be available March 2010 (WiFi model) and April 2010 (3G model), the iPad will run “virtually all” existing iPhone and iPod Touch apps out of the box either at current resolution or doubling pixels to expand the image to fill the screen. It’ll run $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB models and add about $130 to each model to run 3G.


    In terms of gaming, the two-handed hold will still be in effect with the iPad but the wider frame of the system means all of the controls will need to be rather snug against the sides. The Nova demo had the person holding with the left hand while dragging with the right for some menus with all of the active buttons on the side. This makes it rather clear that all the games with center-of-screen controls, which are easily accessible with either thumb, will need to be shoved to one side for the iPad. A lot of games will need to be tweaked to make the control areas either on each side or, even better, adjustable by the user.

    The accelerometer – which will flip the display from portrait to landscape on the fly – is certainly a must for the games already developed but, being so much larger than the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad might prove unwieldy for big-motion moves. Delicate driving might be OK but I cannot see anyone swinging it like a bat, lightsaber or bowling ball without a hefty tether and rubber grips.

    The battery is promised to run 10 hours for non-gaming use (music and video) and 3 hour while gaming with a month of standby life. That’s well below Nintendo DS’s battery charge and still less than the iPod Touch’s battery life for active gaming. It’s even less than the PSP which took two generations to make its battery life tolerable.

    Considering the web capabilities, not incorporating Flash is a mistake in terms of gaming. Certainly Apple may release an update or work with Adobe to get Flash on there. However, as I found out recently during a meeting with Zoo Games in Cincinnati, people prefer to play games in-browser (most often in Flash) instead of downloading an installing a game. Granted, they were talking about smaller titles and PC gaming but it does not appear the iPad will support games beyond the Apple App Store.


    As a game system, the iPad certainly has the screen advantage. It will be the largest screen of any handheld game device, if we can even call it a handheld device and not a netbook or tablet (or netablet?).

    It will also have the benefit of a massive library of games although a decent percentage will need to be reworked for the iPad’s size. The accelerometer makes it great for driving and balance games but the size, even light and thin, is going to be too wide, tall and slippery for swinging moves easily accomplished with the iPhone and iPod Touch.

    The battery life is not very impressive and may prove a nasty sticking point for gamers. Not being able to run Flash games is an issue Apple will eventually need to address. The biggest sticking point will be, of course, the price. Five hundred dollars is a bit much for a console let alone a handheld. Of course, with the unexpected early adoption of previous Apple i-creations, this will likely be in a lot of hands and games will certainly sell well.

    The keyboard and camera mean that, if developers are willing to put in extra dev time, we could see a new wave of complex role-playing, MMO and other console-esque genres. There is still that stigma of gaming on a Mac but, then again, this is an iPad and arguably not a Mac.

    Read [Appletell] Also Read [New York Times] Site [iPad]

    Image Source: Apple’s event video on iTunes.

    Updated: February 1, 2010, to match Apple’s posted specs.

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    • Sorryforbeingadouche said:

      It would have been nice if you had actually checked the specs on the iPad before writing this article…
      In fact, the iPad does have quite a nice little speaker, though it lacks the sd card slot you mentioned (that is part of the camera kit), and it is run by Apple’s A4 processor.
      Also, all the accessories you spoke of do not come in box with the iPad, but are going to be available for purchase separately.
      All this and more is shown on the home page of… maybe you should check it out

    • PJ Hruschak from Cincinnati, OH said:
      Avatar for PJ Hruschak

      You’re correct, the iPad does not have an SD slot, which is what I believe they said in the press conference (prior to the site’s specs). Instead, the Wi-Fi and 3G models will have a SIM card “tray.” I’ll mark that as a negative against the iPad as a gaming device.

      It also will not have a USB port but, like the iPhone and iPod Touch, will connect using the Dock Connector to USB Cable.

      The iPad Camera Connection Kit does include a SD card reader and creates a USB port.

      The keyboard and Camera Connection Kit are not listed in the “In The Box” section of but are listed as “iPad Accessories.” The language of the press conference made it sound as if the keyboard was included.

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