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…


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'.


  • Peguin - March 8, 2012 5:07 a.m.

    Great article dave I completely agree, the audience of ipads and consoles are different. Ipads will never replace consoles and im very happy about that.
  • sboy9999 - March 8, 2012 5:10 a.m.

    What if a controller is made for the bottom slot? They already have keyboards that work in the same way, why not controllers?
  • GR_DavidHoughton - March 8, 2012 5:20 a.m.

    They could. But you'd still be playing hunched over a small screen, trying to balance it propped up on some kind of stand, with mandatory headphones if you didn't want crap sound. Basically, not how I want to play a 15-hour cinematic epic. Like I said, it's not just the interface that the iPad fails to emulate. It's the overall experience. Yes, you could use a TV-out connection too, but really, at that point you might as well just use a PS3 at half the price and save yourself all the faff. And that's before you even get into the issue that splitting developers with non-standard peripherals for your system always leads to a dearth of support for said peripheral. An add-on controller just would not take off as a system standard.
  • komadose - March 8, 2012 7:38 a.m.

    "An add-on controller just would not take off as a system standard." This, sadly. Devices like iControlPad are only good for some emu... *ahem* legacy gaming. No-one makes new games for them. I don't know if it would help if a company like Apple would make their own official, sleek and high-quality add-on pad (with a mount) for the phone from the get-go, and would try to push devs more to support it. It just MIGHT get enough attention then.
  • komadose - March 8, 2012 7:53 a.m.

    replying to myself since i can't edit... Apple could have a title like Shadow Complex 2 by Chair as an exclusive. how's that for a kickstarter? i'd SO buy it... just dreaming here.
  • Zaphod Beeblebrox - March 8, 2012 6:17 a.m.

    Then its not exactly a potable tablet if u have a controller and keyboard attached.Why not buy a PC with higher end graphics, better games catalogue for the same price?
  • Manguy17 - March 8, 2012 5:13 a.m.

    YEah that!! for i art intellect to not be that which i wish
  • shawksta - March 8, 2012 5:56 a.m.

    This. This is pretty much it in a nutshell. People overexagerate over the idevices in the most idiotic way. Yes, they are awesome, but they wont be better devices for gaming simple as that. I have been irked so many times over all the articles that overexaggerate that ”Sony and Nintendo will leave the market” and all that crap when its all utter crap.
  • MasterBhater - March 8, 2012 6:10 a.m.

    The new iPad is 500 dollars. The Wi-Fi/3G PS Vita is 300. Yet people are still going to buy the iPad and say the Vita is too expensive. Good job consumers!
  • shawksta - March 8, 2012 6:58 a.m.

    Exactly, but point in mind, NOBODY buys an iPad to play games, its just there, which is why it will sell millions because of how useful an iPad can be.
  • azureguy - March 8, 2012 6:21 a.m.

    If the Ipad or other iDeviced had a way to plug in a controller (or connect it via Wi-Fi) and allow to display their video output on TVs or monitors (heck, at least on Apple TVs!), THEN we can talk about taking over consoles and handhelds. But this is not happening, so the others still have better confort. Heck, the Steam Box is a better hybrid device than the iPad 3, and that thing still exists in theory only!
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - March 8, 2012 6:23 a.m.

    Great read Mr. Houghton. Someone give this guy a raise. I own an iPad2. The device is great. It can access the internet from anywhere in my apartment, I can read comics off of it on a bright screen, and I can play some interesting but shallow games on it. Basically it is a jack of all trades, master of none and it fits that role perfectly. It does not handle complicated games as well as a controller or keyboard/mouse setup. It never will no matter how often those jackass IGN editors claim that it will take over gaming. Just like with Kinect, the iOS devices can offer up some fun experiences from time to time but they will never replace fully featured games because they lack the degree of consistent precision buttons provide. I'm looking forward to getting an iPad3 when it releases but it won't be my primary gaming device, nor should people who work for gaming sites champion it as such. Sure, I can surf the web on my PS3 but that doesn't mean I will go around claiming that it will "kill" the iPad just like people shouldn't go around claiming the death of dedicated gaming machines just because tablets can play games as one of their swiss army knife features.
  • ncurry2 - March 8, 2012 6:48 a.m.

    Definitely still the best editor on the interwebz. Also, according to the guy that replaced Steve Jobs, iProducts are at the point where they are making PCs obsolete. He obviously has no idea what the hell he is talking about.
  • Thedigitalg - March 8, 2012 1:14 p.m.

    What do you expect him to say? "Actually guys, our shit is really just a low-grade system in a pretty case for three times the price"?
  • JADENkOTOR - March 8, 2012 7:07 a.m.

    Great stuff. I agree 100%. Why doesn't apple develope console? They are a powerhouse now and have the means to do it. I would like to see what they would come up with even if turned out to be a bit crap.
  • rainn'sgaydar - March 8, 2012 7:21 a.m.

    iPads sell like they do because they appeal to the casual market. 3DS/Vita aren't threatened by iPad because they have a different market in mind. On point, Dave.
  • DannyMB - March 8, 2012 7:27 a.m.

    Somebody needs to port these games to the iPad: Fallout 1 + 2 XCOM UFO Defense Theme Park Theme Hospital Age of Empires 1 SimCity (the proper version) Grim Fandango Diablo 1 + 2 Civilization Oddworld: Abes Oddysey Heres the dream list: Pokemon All the 2D Zelda games
  • larkan - March 8, 2012 7:29 a.m.

    I guess if you want to brag that your new device coming out in 2012 has technology that is almost up to par with 7 year old consoles, you can do that. It really makes you look stupid though Apple, because you're still charging top dollar for technology you claim is top of the line, yet can be bested by laptops and desktops at the same prices point. Oh well, good thing you have a fanbase populated by idiots that keep stuffing your wallets, but remember, it won't last forever :D
  • Jasman - March 8, 2012 7:37 a.m.

    I have to agree. People consistently make the mistake of directly equating technical grunt to sales success. Does Joe Bloke know or care that his new ipad 3 is as powerful as his Xbox? Do people suddenly expect him to abandon the dozens of hours he's ploughed into Call of Duty on console to start playing a watered down, fiddly controlled version on tablet? And even then - like you said - he'll have to play hunched over a small 9 inch screen, without a controller (and rumble), using crappy speakers, and most likely away from his Xbox Live friends. The ipad will sell as much on its style as it will its function, but gamers are still savvy enough to know that the true console experience goes way beyond a dazzling screen and raw horsepower.
  • chrisbarker1980 - March 8, 2012 7:49 a.m.

    Dunno about anyone else. But I certainly wont be replacing my 7 year old Xbox with a iPad as main main gaming platform any time soon.

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