What does the iPad mean for gaming?

As much as we love our DSes and PSPs, the handheld FPS genre hasn’t really taken off. Metroid Prime Hunters is, in our opinion, the best example (stylus/button control is very close to mouse/keyboard) and it’s just about four years old at this point. If the Nova experience grows, and developers find a touch-only control scheme with a bit more precision, we could see a massive uptick in fully online, iPad-exclusive fragfests. The extra power, the huge screen and the massive audience could easily lead to a simplified (but no less entertaining) Halo-lite.

Above: Doom is already four-player. An official iPad Quake could kill

Granted, a laptop is more powerful and already offers plenty of FPS options, but most people don’t have a gaming laptop. A custom-built, iPad-minded FPS would clean up. Imagine an iPad Call of Duty with serious thought put into it. The name recognition is already there. Build a great game and people will absolutely bite.

We loved the piss out of Mass Effect 2, thanks in no small part to the engaging cast of characters. Jacob and Miranda, two highly important pieces of the ME2 puzzle, are detailed in the iPhone-only Mass Effect Galaxy, a top-down shooter that’s as light on talking as Mass Effect is on concise explanations. Galaxy was a cool, interesting way to preview characters and events well before the main game was released, and with the iPad’s increased (and somewhat alleged) power, there could be more viable side stories in our future.

Above: Jacob’s already starred in his own iPhone game

See also Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles, a prequel to the 360/PS3 original first released on Nintendo DS, where it was met with a 58 Metacritic average. It’s fairing much better on iPhone, thanks to a second pass by the developers. If spinoffs are prospering now, don’t be surprised if we start seeing more and more of this type of stuff as the iPad/iPhone App Store swells.

Both machines have touch screens and both are in millions upon millions of homes around the world. But lately, more and more third-party games look and play better on iPhone, or at the very least are available, meaning someone with an iPhone interested in games doesn’t necessarily have to buy a DS. Chinatown Wars, Rock Band, Super Monkey Ball and just about all sports games are making waves on Apple’s devices. That’ll only continue as iPad owners sniff around for more interesting fare.

Above: Chinatown Wars - $30 on PSP, $20 on DS, $10 on iPhone

However, we don’t believe for a second Nintendo will sit back and let the handheld market slip away. They’ve ruled it unchallenged since 1989 and aren’t about to cock it up now. Expect a new gaming device from Nintendo by 2011, possibly one designed specifically with the iPad in mind.

Naturally all this speculation assumes the iPad takes off like the iPhone. Did the entire scene change because of the MacBook? Or the ancient Newton? Not really. The majority of the world’s computing is still done with PCs. Just because Apple tosses a shiny new thing out the door doesn’t mean 100 million people will line up to buy it. Everyone’s assuming a lot with the iPad, and while we think there’s definitely potential for Nintendo and Sony to lose some ground to Apple’s continued advances, we have to acknowledge that neither company is hurting in sales at the moment. If 70 million iPhone users aren’t stopping the DS from soaring past 100 million units sold, we don’t think the iPad will change that. Our advice? Sit tight, see what the iPad v2 brings to gaming.

Jan 28, 2010

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Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.