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Newly-announced iPad 3 may be more powerful than PS3 and 360, but will it REALLY matter to gaming?

So it’s finally happened then. In an event about as surprising as chocolate beating poo in a blind taste test across 297 samples, Apple has officially announced the iPad 3 at GDC. Okay, so it isn’t actually calling it the iPad 3 yet, but given that the device is in fact the third iPad, that’s what I’m going to keep calling it, until Apple officially renames it the Super Hyper Mega Wonder Pad: Komplete Turbo Edition. Or Jeff, or something. 

Anyway, what can it do? Well for starters it has a mammoth 2048 x 1536 Retina Display screen, a quad-core graphics chip and a 1080p video camera. And Gears of War dev and iOS advocate Epic Games has stated that the device is in some respects more powerful than a PS3 or Xbox 360. So, it looks like the next round of “Consoles are dead, iPads are the future” discussion is due to gear up any… minute…

NOW!

Above: New iPad, yes. Important new core gaming device, no

Yeah, now. Because I’m starting it. Admittedly I’m getting fairly sick of the debate, but after hearing it for two iPad generations already, there are a few heaps of bullsh*t I feel need to be addressed. Epic boss Mark Rein has said this week (in regards to console manufacturers providing ultra-high hardware specs) that “We really are pushing these guys, because if they don't, Apple will go right past them”. The implication is that increasingly powerful tablet and phone devices are going to put increasing pressure on console manufacturers to push their tech into increasingly bleeding edge areas in order to compete. And personally, I think that’s balls. Because the fact is, while the power of these devices is comparable, the functionality and culture of their use is not.

So what if an iPad 3 can compete with a PS3 technically? A PS3 also has a proper controller which opens up a million different gameplay interactions and interface design options an iPad could never dream of. It doesn’t matter how pretty and sharp a tablet’s pictures are if the player can’t do anything deep and meaningful with them. To me, increasingly powerful tablets and phones just smack of impotent potential. Like a big-balled porn star who can’t get it up. Or an architect who promises that his building has the most beautiful interiors the world has ever seen, but neglects to install any exterior windows or doors to allow people to enter.

Yes, Epic might have blown the world away by getting the Unreal Engine 3 to run on an iPhone, but when Infinity Blade finally came out, what did we get? An on-rails, grim-dark fantasy version of Fruit Ninja. A standard issue casual gaming app template dressed up in densely textured armour in a bid to pass itself off as a serious hardcore experience. And why? Because however shiny modern iDevices can make things look, their lack of interface makes the deep, eclectic mechanics of console and PC games impossible to implement. Yes, the new Diablo-style Infinity Blade: Dungeons is a small step forward, but it really only further emphasises the need to design around the system's controls, rather than using them to simply realise a developer's inspiration as is the case on other systems.

Ditto an iPad's inability to emulate the whole sensory experience of playing home console or PC games. You can stick a quad-core processor in a toaster if you like, but if it doesn't also have a controller, sofa and TV attached, I sure as hell am not playing Skyrim on it.

Even handheld consoles seem to be holding their own, despite the last couple of years’ doom-saying in regards to their supposed impending death-by-iPhone. In hindsight, the 3DS’ early launch woes were far more a product of a weak games line-up and diabolically misguided marketing than competition from Apple. And the system is doing fine now, having sold double in its first year what the mega-hit original DS sold in its first 12 months. And even Vita, after a fairly dismal launch in Japan, is doing okay, having sold 1.2 million since December despite a whopping price point for a dedicated gaming-only handheld.


Above: In theory, Apple' success has made it impossible for traditional handhelds to survive. In reality, that's balls

Yes, I fully expect the iPad 3 to sell faster than either Nintendo or Sony’s machines, but that will be as much a result of its swiss army knife feature-set and the unquestioning upgrade addiction of the ever-rabid cult of Apple as it will any real gaming prowess. I own an iPhone. I love it, and I play a raft of games on it. But on a long train journey I still find myself just as likely to pull out my 3DS. Because it can effortlessly provide on-the-move gaming experiences that an iDevice just cannot.

Yes, I have no doubt that the iPad 3 will be a fantastic bit of kit. I have no doubt that for folk who want a strong piece of multifunctional computing tech with them on the move (and those who just want to pose with such a thing in public) it will be a fine purchase. And a few studios will put out genuinely addictive, innovative entertainment apps that make the best of its functionality to a thoroughly enjoyable end. But as a real, legitimate gaming device? Nah. It’ll just make Angry Birds look sharper. Again.

For more details on the device, check out TechRadar's 'New iPad 3 review'.

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40 comments

  • RuggedBeef - June 20, 2012 8:39 p.m.

    I wish they would come out with an actual separate handheld controller for IPad. Why is it so hard? I would actually buy games for it if I had one. Touch screen is awful for shooting games and such.
  • Slimewowgrogga - June 11, 2012 12:28 a.m.

    Just for the Record. I have a Ps3, Pc, iPad 3. I play my iPad 3 the most! There are thousands of games for the iPad 3 including FPS, MMOs, RPGs, action, simulation, racing etc. You name it! It's there! Have a look at order and chaos for an MMO that is a WOW clone, that has depth and lasting play and is as cheap as chips. Playstation are yet to match that on a portable. The iPad can simulate buttons or even have some additional hardware like iCade for real buttons, or for the iPhone an accessory that makes the phone just like a handheld made by the same people. The iPad has emulators of c64, turbo graphix 16, Amiga games, Atari, pinball, Sinclair spectrum etc. Playtation where are you on this? This doesn't even need much processing power. the games on iOS beat a consoles games in price hands down all the time and in fact some games gain popularity on iOS and then later port to ps3. Just because you don't have one, or have used one, allows you to show your ignorance and hubris publically without critism. Infinity blade is hardly like fruit ninja. Playstation Vita has come the touch screen way. A perfect example of iOs devices influence. You thinking of eating poo probably explains the crap coming out of you mouth. I bet it won't be long and your mobile tab up the top splits and becomes an android tab and a separate iOS tab. These platforms are growing exponentially as it is where the money is. Ask your mum for an iPad for chrissy! Become a good reviewer rather than a judgmental ignorant ranter! Glean some experience and knowledge before you post crap, and maybe you critism might mean something. This message was posted on an iPad!
  • RuggedBeef - June 20, 2012 8:42 p.m.

    You are dumb. Please stop.
  • nhowell14 - April 9, 2012 12:51 p.m.

    Just to clarify, the exact quote was "more memory than the PS3 or 360" No where and i mean no where, did Epic saying anything about which platform had more "power" To give perspective, if you say the ipad 3 is more powerful than the PS3 or 360, then you're saying the Vita is more powerful than both by far. ipad 3 hardware teardown: 4 core PowerVR543 GPU, 1GB RAM, and a dual core A-9 Cortex CPU. Vita: 4 Core PowerVR543 with dedicated 128MB VRAM, 512MB of RAM, and 4 core A-9 processor. Vs the systems that are actually far more capable: 360: Rv7 GPU with 10MB eDRAM, 512MB RAM, 3-core hyperthreaded CPU, so 6 theoretical cores. PS3: Nvidia 7950GTX GPU (highly modified) with 256MB GDDR3 RAM, PowerPC hyperthreaded core with 8 synergistic processing elements that act almost as if they are standalone CPUs, with 256kb of memory on the chip die, along with 256MB of XDR memory, what used to be the fastest. So, if you included yeilding one SPU on the cell, and one dedicated for the OS, that is STILL 6 Cores of processing power. I'm sorry, but infinity blade only looked as good as it did due to pre-rendering. Epic is a very lazy company who has been very good on promoting engine tech at the cost of developers. Sooo....Just a recap: PS3>360>Vita>iPad3>iPad2>Xbox
  • Montebello - March 9, 2012 12:30 p.m.

    The lack of physical buttons kills it for me. There are some nice games in AppStore that I can't stand playing just because of that.
  • DualWieldingIsNotFeasible - March 8, 2012 8:23 p.m.

    Personally, I play a ton of games on my Droid...via emulators. The fact is, simple smartphone games get old unbelievably fast, because they're all one-trick ponies. Once I've knocked over one pig-filled shack, sliced a few pieces of fruit, or showered one alligator, I've exhausted the potential of the game. Whereas I can play a ton of huge, deep RPGs on an emulator, any one of which is able to hold my attention far longer than any mobile game.
  • usrevenge - March 8, 2012 8:10 p.m.

    yes, games on a 5 inch screen... oh wait i have a 39 inch tv.
  • Orren - March 11, 2012 8:39 a.m.

    Sweet, must be a little heavy to carry around though...
  • ChaosEternal - March 8, 2012 3:14 p.m.

    It would be nice if Apple didn't release new versions of their hardware every year. I'd rather see a large change every few years rather than a few mediocre changes for the same full price every year. :P
  • Person5 - March 8, 2012 3:32 p.m.

    What you just described would be nice, but in reality the few mediocre changes actually allow them to charge an extra $100 for the iteration
  • Orren - March 8, 2012 6:12 p.m.

    It's just the same this way (almost) as you have the choice to upgrade every year or 2 or 3 or what ever you want. This way when someone who doesn't own an IPAD buys one they get up to date tablet power. You can skip generations. If you have an IPAD 2 wait for the IPAD 4 and you'll get a nice upgrade. Or since the products tend to hold their value quite well you can sell your old one for a reasonable price on Ebay and use the money to get a nice discount off the new one. The only disadvantage from them doing it this way is (AFAIK) some games won't play on older IPAD's but I don't think its many that have that issue. Even if the IPAD 3 is more powerful than a console hardware (Which I doubt) developers are wizards with the Xbox 360 and PS3 now so they can push them very far in terms of graphics detail. Probably more than IPAD developers will push the IPAD 3. Until apple make a wireless control pad for the IPAD it will never complete with consoles/handhelds anyway.
  • TurtleAssasin33 - March 8, 2012 11:07 a.m.

    Agree completely. Apple makes products that have great time passing games, but when I really want to play a game, you'll find me in my comfortable chair with a controller in my hands, not a tablet. I think we all agree that Ipads are not a gaming platform.
  • NotBraze - March 8, 2012 11:03 a.m.

    Personally, I think iOS devices are important for gaming, however, statements that they'll replace console gaming are obviously absurd hyperbole that feed into the whole image Apple was going for at that Keynote: "The iPad does everything, and it does it the best." A multi-touch tablet will never ever be an honest threat to full scale console or PC gaming, we're all smart enough to know that so there's no point in getting our feathers ruffled when someone claims they will just dismiss them as either an idiot or someone who wants to sell you something. However, not everything has to be a war. If we can take a step back and stop treating mobile gaming as a threat to console and PC gaming (which, as we've discussed, it is anything but) we could realize that it has an important place in the industry in which it can co-exist with everything else. I love my iPod touch and I love playing games on my iPod touch. From Infinity Blade to Plants vs. Zombies to The Secret of Monkey Island and, yes, even Angry Birds. They're all fun game experiences that I enjoy having with me wherever I go. And to be honest, gaming on an iOS device scratches an itch that handheld gaming never could for me. It's a great gaming experience that I can easily enjoy on a lunch break or a car trip or a waiting for a movie to start and I don't have to worry about arriving at a check point or completing a level; when it's time to stop I just exit the app, and when I get some more time I can pick it up exactly where I left off. The iOS devices *are* legitimate gaming devices, and as an article on GamesRadar once said, anyone who denies that fact is kidding themselves. It's simply home to a different type of gaming than is home on a console. I wouldn't want to play Mass Effect 3 on an iPad, but on the same token, I wouldn't want to play Infinity Blade or Plants vs. Zombies on my 360.
  • Person5 - March 8, 2012 3:36 p.m.

    While this is a well thought out post and I agree with 98% of what you said, I have one thing I don't agree with, and I'd rather play Plants vs. Zombies on my PC rather than an iPad, for some reason I felt I really needed to tell you that
  • Ravenbom - March 8, 2012 10:54 a.m.

    I think Infinity Blade is more Punch-Out than Fruit Ninja but I recognize hyperbole in making a point. Also, the recaptcha on this site sucks. It's gotten better, I don't have to have a Cyrillic keyboard to make a comment anymore but it still really makes you work for every comment you make.
  • theatticusera - March 8, 2012 10:17 a.m.

    I wholeheartedly agree. I've had an iPad 2 for a while now and I don't play a single game on it. I use it for web browsing and comics. Not a damn thing more!
  • CombatWombat101 - March 8, 2012 9:37 a.m.

    This article is the reason why David Houghton is my hero. I've heard the ridiculous "iDevices are going to make consoles obsolete" argument so many times it's beginning to make my head hurt. When I worked at GameStop, someone came in to show off to my boss that Unreal Engine 3 "walking around an empty castle" simulator, proudly proclaiming this "THIS IS THE FUTURE OF GAMING." I just don't get how people were ever impressed by this. Congratulations, you have a handheld device that can render a moderately good-looking castle, but only as long as there's nothing actually going on inside of it.
  • garnsr - March 8, 2012 8:22 a.m.

    If people were willing to buy new consoles every year like they do with Apple products, or PC components, consoles would obviously be as overpowered now. But one of the appeals of consoles is knowing that the system you have will get improvements in game quality by developers getting better, not by us having to constantly fork over more money.
  • ultimatepunchrod - March 8, 2012 9 a.m.

    This this a thousand times this. The benefit to having a console over a PC is that you know it'll be supported for at least 5 years and the only thing you HAVE to buy are games. You can buy add-ons (cameras, peripherals) but you don't need them to play the best games. I don't want to buy a new console every year and the games industry would die if they started asking people to.
  • Person5 - March 8, 2012 3:38 p.m.

    that and when a new console generation comes out the changes will be huge, relative to the small changes between Apple devices

Showing 1-20 of 40 comments

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