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Apple's iPad: Still Not A Game Machine

If you were expecting Apple to shake up the gaming landscape this morning, you're probably a little bummed. But mismanaged expectations is just one of the hurdles facing Apple's new device.


Great, now I have that damned Ke$ha song stuck in my head again. 
I went into this morning's Apple announcement thinking that if any company is going to make the tablet market make sense, it'd probably be Apple. They're the guys that have, in the past, made complex interfaces seem sensible and natural. More importantly, I feel like I need someone to come in and tell me why a touchscreen tablet would make any aspect of what I do with technology better. Because it hasn't made any sense at all to me so far. After Apple's announcement of the iPad, I feel like I'm still waiting.

The iPad is, if you want to get right down to it, a big iPod Touch. It's got a 9.7-inch screen and a lot of the core applications you get on a Touch or an iPhone have been redesigned to take better advantage of its larger screen. It doesn't have a phone in it, but if you want to go all the way, you can get one that has support for AT&T's increasingly assy 3G network, giving you mobile data access. Though it has a faster processor than its smaller predecessors, the iPad is said to maintain compatibility with the vast majority of existing iPhone applications. It'll even blow those apps up to fullscreen, if you'd like.

I'm left wondering why, exactly, I'd want to do anything like this. While certainly smaller than my MacBook Pro, the device isn't nearly as portable as my iPhone. So if I'm going to be tethered to a product that has just enough bulk to it to require a bag instead of a pocket, I might as well lug my far-more-capable laptop around with me. Really. It's not that heavy. And unlike the demo Apple gave this morning, my laptop works with Flash. With that in mind, the way Apple bills this thing as "the best way to experience the web, email, & photos" already sounds like a fat lie. Maybe they'd do better if they billed it as "finally, an Internet device for people who don't already know how to use the Internet." I don't really mean that as a huge slight--but a closed system like this with a fairly natural interface will probably be great for the people who have no idea how to currently handle "web, email, & photos."

I feel like that extends to the iPad's gaming aspirations, as well. It's a shame that Apple chose to show off a driving game (Need for Speed Shift) and a first-person shooter (Gameloft's NOVA), because those are perfect examples of what not to do on a platform without standard controls. Driving and shooting, those are existing genres with huge legacies on other platforms. By providing that point of comparison, all you do is open yourself up to guys like me who have been playing games for a long time and won't settle for the less-precise experience offered up by a touchscreen and some accelerometers. The best iPhone games are the ones that are either casual enough to make control a non-issue or built from the ground up for the Apple-specific experience. It's something that developers learned the hard way when building games for the Nintendo DS, and later on the Wii. It's also something that developers came to terms with when working with Sony's SIXAXIS controller. Yet plenty of developers are attempting to apply their traditional game designs to Apple's devices. It's a shame to see those games continue to receive the spotlight just because they're graphically flashier than the good stuff.

     R.U.S.E.
So what is the iPad actually good for? I'm really not sure that it fills any need in my life. But let's focus on the gaming side of things here. The obvious first choice (and one that actually fits into an existing game genre) would be strategy games, real-time or otherwise. Though plenty of good and bad strategy games have appeared on the iPhone, the extra space either gives you a clearer or larger view of a battlefield. The multitouch pinch and swipe controls are a perfect fit for an RTS, though it's probably not solid enough for anything especially hardcore. I'd say if players are serious enough to discuss actions-per-minute for a game, it's probably not a great fit. So a version of Starcraft II might make sense... but the same SCII that will appear on PCs? Maybe not.

So far, my perfect example for an existing console or PC game that should make its way to the iPad is Ubisoft's RUSE, which is currently scheduled to hit later this year on PC, 360, and PS3. RUSE's pace, from what I've seen of it, would probably work fine in this environment. Also, well, Ubi was showing it off on a Microsoft Surface setup back at E3 last year. So obviously someone has already been thinking about how that game would work on a touchscreen. With Ubisoft cutting out Gameloft and starting to produce its own iPhone games (like Assassin's Creed II), I'll be shocked if this doesn't happen. Seriously, natural fit.

Once you get out of the strategy genre, though, things start to get a little hazy. My favorite iPhone games have been the simple ones. I'm all about card games, like Zynga's online poker game, word games like Word Ace or Bookworm, or puzzle games like KENKEN and CrossLogic. Those don't automatically benefit from a larger screen other than the obvious "well, now you can see better" thing.

I don't know, this whole thing feels like a case of mismanaged expectations. While the rumor mill always goes bananas for Apple stuff, this time it kicked into a previously unseen level of overdrive. But instead of all the wonderful and weird things people have been guessing for months, Apple delivered a bigger iPod Touch. If you need to get an Internet device that even your grandmother can understand, hey, great. But as someone who already stays up on all this tech stuff and plays games on machines actually built specifically for gaming, I'll stick with the real thing, thanks. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
227 Comments
Posted by Jeff

Great, now I have that damned Ke$ha song stuck in my head again. 
I went into this morning's Apple announcement thinking that if any company is going to make the tablet market make sense, it'd probably be Apple. They're the guys that have, in the past, made complex interfaces seem sensible and natural. More importantly, I feel like I need someone to come in and tell me why a touchscreen tablet would make any aspect of what I do with technology better. Because it hasn't made any sense at all to me so far. After Apple's announcement of the iPad, I feel like I'm still waiting.

The iPad is, if you want to get right down to it, a big iPod Touch. It's got a 9.7-inch screen and a lot of the core applications you get on a Touch or an iPhone have been redesigned to take better advantage of its larger screen. It doesn't have a phone in it, but if you want to go all the way, you can get one that has support for AT&T's increasingly assy 3G network, giving you mobile data access. Though it has a faster processor than its smaller predecessors, the iPad is said to maintain compatibility with the vast majority of existing iPhone applications. It'll even blow those apps up to fullscreen, if you'd like.

I'm left wondering why, exactly, I'd want to do anything like this. While certainly smaller than my MacBook Pro, the device isn't nearly as portable as my iPhone. So if I'm going to be tethered to a product that has just enough bulk to it to require a bag instead of a pocket, I might as well lug my far-more-capable laptop around with me. Really. It's not that heavy. And unlike the demo Apple gave this morning, my laptop works with Flash. With that in mind, the way Apple bills this thing as "the best way to experience the web, email, & photos" already sounds like a fat lie. Maybe they'd do better if they billed it as "finally, an Internet device for people who don't already know how to use the Internet." I don't really mean that as a huge slight--but a closed system like this with a fairly natural interface will probably be great for the people who have no idea how to currently handle "web, email, & photos."

I feel like that extends to the iPad's gaming aspirations, as well. It's a shame that Apple chose to show off a driving game (Need for Speed Shift) and a first-person shooter (Gameloft's NOVA), because those are perfect examples of what not to do on a platform without standard controls. Driving and shooting, those are existing genres with huge legacies on other platforms. By providing that point of comparison, all you do is open yourself up to guys like me who have been playing games for a long time and won't settle for the less-precise experience offered up by a touchscreen and some accelerometers. The best iPhone games are the ones that are either casual enough to make control a non-issue or built from the ground up for the Apple-specific experience. It's something that developers learned the hard way when building games for the Nintendo DS, and later on the Wii. It's also something that developers came to terms with when working with Sony's SIXAXIS controller. Yet plenty of developers are attempting to apply their traditional game designs to Apple's devices. It's a shame to see those games continue to receive the spotlight just because they're graphically flashier than the good stuff.

     R.U.S.E.
So what is the iPad actually good for? I'm really not sure that it fills any need in my life. But let's focus on the gaming side of things here. The obvious first choice (and one that actually fits into an existing game genre) would be strategy games, real-time or otherwise. Though plenty of good and bad strategy games have appeared on the iPhone, the extra space either gives you a clearer or larger view of a battlefield. The multitouch pinch and swipe controls are a perfect fit for an RTS, though it's probably not solid enough for anything especially hardcore. I'd say if players are serious enough to discuss actions-per-minute for a game, it's probably not a great fit. So a version of Starcraft II might make sense... but the same SCII that will appear on PCs? Maybe not.

So far, my perfect example for an existing console or PC game that should make its way to the iPad is Ubisoft's RUSE, which is currently scheduled to hit later this year on PC, 360, and PS3. RUSE's pace, from what I've seen of it, would probably work fine in this environment. Also, well, Ubi was showing it off on a Microsoft Surface setup back at E3 last year. So obviously someone has already been thinking about how that game would work on a touchscreen. With Ubisoft cutting out Gameloft and starting to produce its own iPhone games (like Assassin's Creed II), I'll be shocked if this doesn't happen. Seriously, natural fit.

Once you get out of the strategy genre, though, things start to get a little hazy. My favorite iPhone games have been the simple ones. I'm all about card games, like Zynga's online poker game, word games like Word Ace or Bookworm, or puzzle games like KENKEN and CrossLogic. Those don't automatically benefit from a larger screen other than the obvious "well, now you can see better" thing.

I don't know, this whole thing feels like a case of mismanaged expectations. While the rumor mill always goes bananas for Apple stuff, this time it kicked into a previously unseen level of overdrive. But instead of all the wonderful and weird things people have been guessing for months, Apple delivered a bigger iPod Touch. If you need to get an Internet device that even your grandmother can understand, hey, great. But as someone who already stays up on all this tech stuff and plays games on machines actually built specifically for gaming, I'll stick with the real thing, thanks.
Staff
Posted by Sil3n7

Not interested at all in this technology

Posted by Ender7884

Not excited for this...I'm sure some people are though. 

Edited by SleepyDoughnut

I would like to be the first to say, iPad is a fucking dumbass name.

Posted by Xander51

Your thoughts mirror how I'm feeling about it. I'm not entirely sure what this product is for, or what market it serves. Most folks would be better off with a laptop. And, I'm saying this as an iPhone owner and a strong supporter of owning superfluous technology.

Posted by Renahzor

I will not be buying a giant ass ipod.

Posted by Rallier

I have a laptop with a keyboard.
 
Guess that it would be fun to play OSU! a Ouandan PC clone on it but other then that i see this being of no other use then being shiny.

Posted by Hitchenson

...Why not just get a laptop?

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

The combination of iTunes and iBooks is tempting, but I'm not sure I'll take the plunge on this generation of technology.  Much like the iPod, I'll probably wait at least a year or two.
Moderator
Posted by Dark_Lord_Spam

iWon'tbebuyingthis

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Posted by SBYM

Bravo on using the term "assy."

Edited by FartyMcNarly

But now I can watch movies, tv and with wireless controllers and a jailbroken ipad play console games, while I poop.
 
EDIT: With a bigger screen!

Posted by VWGTI
@Hitchenson said:
" ...Why not just get a laptop? "

Posted by handlas

looks cool.  But for a graphic designer (me) I'll stick with my macbook pro.

Posted by ThatFrood

The iPod was a big deal, the iPhone was a big deal... but the iPad doesn't feel like a big deal, despite all the marketing behind it. It doesn't seem innovative. I like pcs, I'll admit it. I like them more than macs, but that isn't to say that means I dislike macs. The only thing I dislike about apple is their marketing department, and it feels really prevalent here.

Posted by SippyCupNINJA

Google Nexus One has a 1Ghz processor too. I can fit it in my pocket. it does what i need it to do and what i want it to do without any extra useless features and I don't have to sell one of my kidneys to actually get a competent version. The best version of this IPad is going for 830 bucks. I bought an Amazon kindle and a smart phone and still it was less expensive than this thing.

Posted by Zaph
Posted by Andorski

iShat myself when I saw this.  A complete 'swing and a miss' for Apple.

Posted by Dan_CiTi

The fact that you cannot multitask, cannot use Flash, doesn't have widescreen, nor does it have any cameras(among other things) basically make it a joke. Though it is kind of cool, but I don't see myself buying one.

Posted by hookem1883

I usually don't agree with Jeff's opinion, but he couldn't be more right on this one. I think apple made a mistake here. 

Posted by roofy

worst name for a consumer electronic device this century. seriously, prove me wrong

Posted by MAN_FLANNEL

Hey guys, now we can play video games 4:3 again!

Posted by AndrewB

In case I haven't been abundantly clear, I'm stunned. There were so many things the iPad (*cringe*) could have been, and it turns out to be none of them. The saving grace may come from the software side. With the right applications, there may yet be a somewhat unique use for the device. As it stands, I'd much prefer buying an iPhone and keeping my laptop on hand. After all, my Macbook 13" isn't exactly heavy.
 
Oh, and I actually can't wait to see if someone hacks the OS to put it on regular ole' computers, Google Chrome style.

Edited by tumes

If Apple struck a deal with textbook manufacturers and could get them to sell their books for significantly less than the 200 they usually cost (This is coming from a scientific textbook background*, your mileage may vary), I'd say Apple had a home run as far as a target market. As it stands, I want to like it, but I'm not raring to buy one.
 
* It's such a fringe thing, but  they'd also be heroes if they struck a deal with the people who print classical music for students and orchestras. I'm constantly amazed at what my wife has to pay for what is essentially a 10 or 20 page pamphlet.

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Posted by Jimbo

Now I can flirt with Denise Richards across the classroom.  Finally.

Posted by JoeH

Anyone who buys this version of it is either insane or rich. If your thinking about getting one, wait. Otherwise you'll be annoyed when they bring out the better looking, thinner, more capable, sexual favours enabled iPad.

Edited by sorryawkward

I'm interested. It'll take the place of a netbook. Most of the time where i just answer emails, casual browsing, basic typing, and reading ebooks (which i do alot) this Ipad will do it. A/V editing and any other super horsepower stuff, which I occasionally use, I'll lug along my over sized and heavy duty laptop. But most of my internet and computer use, could be done on an Ipad. An iphone is too small to type and read a book comfortably. And a laptop is way overly bulky when all you want to do is read a book. 
But thats just me. I'd be the type to buy it (the 499 version is all i'd need). I'm pretty sure I'm the demographic they're appealing to.

Posted by iGaboru

Very popular to bash Apple stuff around here I see.

Posted by BenderUnit22

Yeeeaaaah.... I dunno. For all I've been reading about this revolution, I don't see the appeal of a hardly portable not an iPhone that'll blow up the graphics of iPhone apps to ugly proportions. I also wonder what the battery life of this big screen is gonna be.

Posted by Regal
@VWGTI said:
" @Hitchenson said:
" ...Why not just get a laptop? "

"
Because Steve Jobs told you to get this. He later said that you could get a laptop too if it meets the condition of being a macbook. 
Posted by ThatFrood
@iGaboru said:
" Very popular to bash Apple stuff around here I see. "
oh shut up. People saying "you hate it cuz its popular" is getting just as old as what you think you're criticizing. Sometimes a product doesn't meet the expectations of the consumer, especially when coming from companies with expectations as high as those surrounding Apple.
Posted by Ally264

I think this could be quite cool if you had tonnes of money to spend and you had to use in the living room while watching TV or something...maybe. 
 
Also the name iPad looks like someone at Apple spelt iPod wrong one day and they ran with it.
Posted by DukeTogo

The iPhone was simply too good.  You can't compete with something that does everything when your product doesn't, especially when you're trading portability for "ooh bigger picture".  The only thing I see this being flipped into is a Kindle-like reader for magazines and books with color, like an iBook.  Do that and make it $200 and it will be a big deal.
 
Apple needed to be taken down a few pegs, they got too fucking smug and turned what was once a way to promote computing to the masses into boutique brand douchbaggery.  I like hippie Apple, not Gap Apple.

Posted by ryanwho

So they made a netbook with touch screen, then removed the keyboard. Genius?

Posted by fynne

Yep...I'm totally underwhelmed.  It's basically a big iPhone....without the phone.  I'm much more excited about the Lenovo U1 which can be both a tablet and a laptop.

Posted by Dooftastic

My girlfriend uses iPads.  She doesn't like the feel of iTampons.

Posted by Yakow_93

This thing will fail so hard.
I cant imagine anyone buying it.
As Jeff said its better to bring your laptop.

Posted by Th3dz

I seriously cannot see the use of this product... 

Posted by ThatFrood
@DukeTogo said:
" The iPhone was simply too good.  You can't compete with something that does everything when your product doesn't, especially when you're trading portability for "ooh bigger picture".  The only thing I see this being flipped into is a Kindle-like reader for magazines and books with color, like an iBook.  Do that and make it $200 and it will be a big deal.  Apple needed to be taken down a few pegs, they got too fucking smug and turned what was once a way to promote computing to the masses into boutique brand douchbaggery.  I like hippie Apple, not Gap Apple. "
Yes! I miss hippie apple. The apple that was chill and did stuff. I'm not saying the complete reboot Jobs gave the company was bad, but I feel like Apple could have kept its laidback feel, it didn't need to become the marketing-centric company it is today.

Maybe I'm the only one, but I actually don't like Apple's shiny white-shiny black look. I'd like to own an apple product that wasn't entirely curves and polish.
Essentially, I want my ridiculous colors-of-the-rainbow iphone:
Edited by SuperIntendentChalmers

I recently just got into iPhone gaming apps and I'm finding them perfect for mobile games. Quick entertainment, but some games can get really hardcore (Alive 4 Ever or Zen Bound, try it if you have an iPhone). It's just released, so the app community hasn't adjusted to the iPad. With it's larger screen, they'll have more screen real estate to play with. Who knows what kind of fund stuff people can make. Remember PS3 had a slow start, but now it's picking up, I know a little late in the game. PS3 had Xbox 360 to compete with. Who's competing with iPad? 
  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anyVECZxBJY
Posted by RHCPfan24

Jeff, couldn't agree with you more. Looks like a piece of garbage to me.

Posted by ahriman22

God that  thing is so damn ugly. I agree that Apple had something with the iPhone, but this thing is so big and bulky and not to mention the interface looks way too much like that of the iPhone and iPod touch that it seriously doesn't seem worth it.

Posted by wrecks

I'll buy the 2nd generation version.

Posted by AllanIceman

It's just a giant iPod Touch.

Posted by strangeling

The main reason I'm not interested in Apple stuff, is there are so many limitations with it, and it's always so expensive.  

Posted by Bigbombomb
@Jeff said:

" …Apple delivered a bigger iPod Touch. If you need to get an Internet device that even your grandmother can understand, hey, great. "

 Jeff took the words out of my mouth. The iPad is just a bigger iTouch for grandma who has a hard time seeing. You know, like those huge T.V. remotes with the big numbers.
Posted by Magresda

This device looks pretty awesome for everything except games. Regardless of what Apple's marketing team will tell you, its not a fucking gaming machine.  
 
The internet browsing looks awesome, Apps are as good as ever, work related stuff such as iWork and Calendar looks nothing short of amazing and the bookstore will likely blow Kindle and every other competitor out of the water. However, as Jeff said, it's not for games. 

Posted by RedFive

I really like my iPhone, but part of what makes it awesome is that it is tiny and in my pocket. Why do I want a gigantic iPod touch? Why do I want to pay AT&T *another* $30 a month for data? It's a confusing product, to be sure.

Posted by Ben_H

If I needed a tablet type device I'd just wait until that laptop with a removable touchscreen monitor they showed at GDC comes out.  It would be way more powerful and actually useful.

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