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Opinion: How iPad's launch confused game developers

Next generation proving much like the old one

Opinion: How iPad's launch confused game developers

A lot has changed in the world of mobile games in the past 10 years and that's something we will be looking at in our new initiative which will see us reposting PocketGamer.biz articles from the past decade.

This week we rewind to some post-iPad launch reflections.

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When commentators talk about disruptive technologies, they're usually talking about new companies entering a mature market and shaking up the incumbents.

When it comes to the impact of the iPad on the iPhone and iPod touch gaming market however, the first two and half weeks have demonstrated the exact opposite.

It's only reinforced the maturity and status quo of the iDevice gaming market too.

The more things change

I'd argue this effect extends beyond games.

Possession of an iPad hasn't changed my life, but it has subtly changed the way I interact with social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, some parts of the internet (notably parts that don't use Flash), while the ability to get the World Service radio station live via the BBC app is another plus, at least for me.

As ever, it's the little things that grab your attention.

Hence, with the exception of getting me to read The New York Times, effectively all an iPad has done is encourage me to do what I was already doing but more regularly, seamlessly and on a bigger screen.

That's a good thing. I like it, although whether it's worth spending $500 to experience is another matter entirely.

Filler or killer app?

When it comes to games though, I'd argue in the short term, iPad's impact has been detrimental.

Sure, the additional screen size makes most games released for iPad look good. The prices are high too, which is encouraging. Even some iPhone games feel better running in the default x2 superscale mode. But looking down the list of top sellers and top grossing games generates a strong case of deja vu.

Real Racing, Flight Control, Plants vs Zombies...

The only game that stands out is as being new is Mirror's Edge, which technically was held back from an iPhone launch in February for iPad, and X-Plane - a game that has already been released for iPhone in a multitude of different versions but which never got this high into the charts. The rest of the top 20 is strangely familiar.

Rattled by the rush

Meanwhile, interesting games such as Godfinger, Warpgate, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior and CastleCraft have had their wider iPhone releases blunted as they've been delayed, sometimes by months, so as to be first released on iPad.

More generally, many other developers have diverted time and resources from ongoing iPhone projects to iPad in the hope of getting in on a gold rush that has yet to drop more than few shiny nuggets into the pockets of the already well-off.

Of course, to some degree, this is to be expected. All console launches tend to dominated by certain key titles; Ridge Racer for PlayStation and Mario (or Luigi) for Nintendo.

Developers do the relatively quick and dirty ports they hope will get them the most buck for the bang.

But the bigger question for iPad will be whether a longer term opportunity for doing a different type of gaming on the device has been lost, or whether this is just a temporary blip in the iDevice landscape.

Because aside from the likes of ABC, some book and magazine publishers, and of course Apple, I think it's hard to argue the iPad launch has been a success when it comes to apps, and especially, games


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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