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The iPad: Gaming Console of the Future

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There may be two new official, video game console launches on the horizon, but if rumors pan out and Apple ships iOS 7 and the iPad 5 this fall, users could be in for a third option.

To be clear, Apple hasn’t officially announced the iPad 5, it’s still focusing on delivering the best experience it can to users of the iPad with Retina Display. However, thanks to game controller support in iOS 7 and game development trends in the iTunes App Store, it’s looking like the iPad will become a more viable alternative to dedicated devices like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Modern Internals

Apple’s A Series processors won’t be able to match the sheer processing power of Microsoft’s new Xbox One, nor will it be able to deliver the sharing features of the PlayStation 4 without taking a hit in-game play. That’s ok, since well, its likely most everyday users won’t notice the difference in processing power, and likely won’t care about sharing videos of their gaming conquests with friends.

apple-a6-schiller

Apple’s Steve Schiller unveiling the Apple A6 mobile processor last year.

Also, let’s not forget that, just like smartphones are to cameras, the best gaming console you have, is the one that is always accessible to you. The iPad with Retina display won’t be making its way into anyone’s rear jeans pocket anytime soon, but it’s still more portable than many gaming console, period.

Rumors have pegged the iPad 5 as having an even faster processor than today’s iPad, along with a slimmer body to match. If they’re true, the iPad 5 would be an even better console replace than today’s device. Those rumors also peg the device for a launch sometime this year so even though things aren’t official, by the time the next-generation of gaming consoles arrive we’ll likely be able to make a more direct comparison between the two.

Better iPad Games

If only the iPad’s processor was improving, the iPad as a main gaming experience wouldn’t be all that compelling. However, it’s the ease of which users can pick up console-worthy titles that really position the iPad as a great gaming device.

In comments with Pocket Gamer, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of the Take-Two game development company completely nails why the iPad is gaining steam as a console alternative saying that the company’s latest iOS game XCOM: Enemy Unkown, “illustrates that consumers are willing to pay a premium price for premium entertainment.”

Since game developers are able to charge users a premium for games, they are also able to reinvest that money in larger, more in-depth titles. The result is a game that might cost users $20 but, is clearly worth every penny the user. It also helps that, at $20, high-end games on an iPad or still cheaper than most one year old games for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.

There’s also the added benefit of games evolving to encompass different methods of input. The first-person shooter genre has long been a bastion for gaming consoles. To play them, users need tactile input, they need something for their fingers to press and acknowledge that their actions.

Bungie founder and Halo developer Alex Seropian told Polygon that his company can, and will revolutionize the way first-person shooters are played on touch screens, helping to bridge the gap between the iPad and Android even further.

Should that fail, there’s the added bonus of being able to plug-in the wealth of gaming controllers that are on their way to the iPad with iOS 7. These controllers aren’t hear yet, iOS isn’t expected to go out to users until this fall. Still, it’s likely we can expect companies like MadCatz and Moga to take to Apple’s iOS with as much gusto as they’ve shown third-party gaming controllers on Android devices.

One of the botton layouts for controllers that iOS 7 will support this fall.

One of the botton layouts for controllers that iOS 7 will support this fall.

All of this should add up to an iPad that pretty well equipped to take on dedicated consoles, and deliver the experiences that users want, without all the hassle of buying into a specific gaming ecosystem and expensive controllers. Yes, the iPad with Retina Display is expensive. At $499, it isn’t exactly the cheapest investment ever. However, that price tag as compared to a $499 iPad with Retina Display plus the cost of a gaming console, is a lot easier to swallow.

I don’t think that the iPad is a gaming console replacement in the sense that users will see it in the same light as a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, I do think that for some users, an iPad might be just the thing to scratch their gaming itch.

Travis Pope is a Reporter-at-large for GottaBeMobile. He's currently enjoying a romp in the dangerous quicksand that is Microsoft's Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox ecosystem.

3 Comments

  1. George

    08/02/2013 at 2:48 pm

    gaming on touch panels is truly awful compared to a pad, that’s why they’re trying to push these plug-in controllers. needs the makers to ship the tablets with them really though to make them any use.

    still can’t see the point of using a tablet as a properly dedicated gaming device. it just doesn’t cut it.

  2. Bad Ideas

    08/03/2013 at 8:59 pm

    -.- you’ll never fit the hardware of a console/pc in a tablet… good joke but no… games for these things will be limited for a very long time to flash-quality and low-quality games.. and why would people lug around an i-pad & a controller when they can pull their 3DS out of their pocket… I’m sorry but this just isn’t a plausible idea and probably will remain that way until the 2020′s

  3. Rob

    08/04/2013 at 6:45 pm

    Unless I didn’t read this in the article, the author fails to mention anything about the mirroring feature that an Apple TV ($99) comes with. Given the power of this feature will more than put Apple in the gaming industry, slap a controller on your iPhone and boom! Now you have a game consule. Look at Real Racing 3 by EA, that’s a prime example of a great racing game.

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