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Opinion: iPad games need to be greyer, slower, flatter, more thoughtful, more social

So please don't bothering porting your iPhone shooter

Opinion: iPad games need to be greyer, slower, flatter, more thoughtful, more social
It's surprisingly how iPad has polarised opinions.

Surprising - to me at least - is the number of developers who are personally lukewarm, although happy to support it, while even some self-styled Mac fanboys are fairly unexcited.

The Kindle crowd are spitting feathers of course.

Conversely there's a solid chunk of - and let's name them properly - hardware geeks, who are positively moist at the thought of another piece of consumer electronics.

Get your inbetweener

What's certainly the case is that despite its lower than expected price, the iPad is expensive, purely because it's not replacing another device. It's an additional $500+ strain on personal finances in a period when people are hording smaller amounts.

What is becoming clearer though is its purpose is not to be a larger iPod touch.

So while it might magically transform itself in a way that the iPhone, and particularly the original iPod touch, did in terms of tapping into a largely unexpected audience ripe for gaming, the conventional wisdom is the iPad will be primarily a browser-based device.

This means websites, newspapers, e-books and other literary-focused applications more than games; things that will match its more educated, richer and older launch demographic.

Don't expect to do a Pocket God on iPad unless your target audience is grey and they play it with their kids/grandkids.

Indeed, there should be a concern among developers that iPad gaming will be more likely to make free Facebook gaming more portable and popular rather than persuading people to spend $10 buying games that use that lovely screen to handle fastmoving 3D graphics.

If current speculation is anything to go by, the iPad hardware won't be able to handle it anyhow.

Thinking about success

Instead, the type of games that are going to work well will use the screen in a more thoughtful way.

Imangi Studios' Natalia Luckyanova has already pointed out it will be great for local multiplayer games, notably board, card, and tables sports games.

Or as Bolt Creative's Dave Castelnuovo puts it: "iPad is the ultimate virtual chess board".

Other options that make sense in terms of the device and the audience include strategy games, the revival of the line drawing genre on a larger scale, point-and-click adventures, train tycoon games - in fact anything that enables thoughtful, indirect control.

At arm's length

Still, I'm sure there will be plenty of examples of twin-stick shooters, first person shooters or platformers released, but I don't expect them to work well or do well.

Yet it's not just technology or audience that will define iPad games.

You also have to think about ergonomics. You won't hold an iPad as you hold an iPhone. Rather than it being in the hand or held between two, it will be laid down, on knees, lap or table. It will be located further from the face, at arm's length, and your hands won't be gripping it by the edges but typing on it.

Games that manage to deal with these challenges in terms of user interface, pace and genre will do well, hopefully even maintaining a price premium compared to iPhone titles.

In contrast, porting existing games from iPhone will demonstrate a complete lack of market understanding, and in most cases be unsuccessful.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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