The new iPad cements iOS gaming cred, but will it actually butt heads with Xbox and PS3 consoles?

The new iPad cements iOS gaming cred, but will it actually butt heads with Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles?

Gaming played a huge role in the new iPad announcement. For one, Apple's upcoming tablet will be hosting a dedicated quad-core graphics chip, and while every app that runs on the new iPad will see some improved quality as a result, only rich 3D games will be taking full advantage of what's available. On top of sheer processing power, the iPad's 9.7-inch display has been upgraded to Retina-quality. At 2048 x 1536, the resolution makes it sharper than anything you could see on most high-def TVs - or at least that was Apple's angle. To demonstrate the new hardware, Namco and Epic Games both had some slick-looking demoes for titles coming exclusively to the new iPad. One of those developers even hoisted the new iPad above the Xbox when it comes to performance.

Let's face it - the iPhone has pretty much single-handedly dislodged the portable gaming industry. Like a sulking child, Nintendo has sworn off doing any work with smartphones, while others, like Sony, are adapting by making game-savvy Android smartphones and adding 3G connectivity to their PlayStation Portable line. To think that the iPad will follow up by eating the Xbox's lunch may be  a little bold, but not entirely unfounded. The horsepower and the display are certainly raising the bar. Game publishers are already plenty comfortable with the iOS ecosystem, and smart ones like EA are heavily tying their mobile products to their Xbox and PS3 counterparts, as with the recently-launched Mass Effect: Infiltrator. Is there any reason consumers wouldn't be interested in something that's just as fast, sharp, connected and stocked with games as a console, but is infinitely more portable?

Well, there are a few roadblocks. For one, there's price. The new iPad starts at $499, while the Xbox 360 (which still supports excellent titles despite its age) is going for $199. (That doesn't include the price of the TV, of course, but almost anyone who buys an Xbox will have a TV already.) Given, you'll be using your iPad for a lot more than gaming, but these days, you'll be using your Xbox for plenty of home media stuff too. Secondly, there's the controls. Even when optimized for a gesture-based interface, iPad and tablet games necessarily block parts of your view throughout gameplay, while a traditional console affords a full viewing area thanks to dedicated hardware controls. Whatever advantage the new iPad has gained in displays is cut proportionally to the size of your thumbs. Thirdly, the top-tier titles will never make the leap from console to iPad with the current pricing standards. Right now, game developers regularly charge $50 for console titles; if you even tried to charge the console bargain bin price of $20 in the App Store, you'd be laughed out of business. That said, the games that have the most work put into them will always go to consoles and PC first.

With stuff like wireless device mirroring to the TV through AirPlay, I can definitely see how the new iPad might start horning in on the territory of established gaming, but I think at most it will offer a taste of high-quality fun to those that normally wouldn't shell out the cash for a dedicated gaming console. I know I've certainly been surprised by how often I've been lured away from proper gaming rigs with stupid little casual iPhone games, but I don't know if I would eschew having an Xbox, PS3 or gaming PC altogether. What about you guys? Could the new iPad get you to spend less time and money on traditional gaming? Is the new iPad a legitimate threat to the console gaming industry?

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

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There are 39 comments. Add yours.

jared52 says:

Touch and motion controls have been, for me anyway, a bit gimmicky. I like the precision at times, and maybe I'm a bit too clumsy but a separate controller would be required for me to consider dumping my PS3 altogether.

canobeano says:

I've tried and I've tried, but I can't spend more than 2 minutes playing an action, racing or sports game on a touchscreen. I NEED BUTTONS!

cardfan says:

"At 2048 x 1536, the resolution makes it sharper than anything you could see on most high-def TVs – or at least that was Apple’s angle."
Apple's angle? Nope, it really is that resolution on a 9.7" screen resulting in 264ppi. No angles.. Compare that with your usual 46" hdtv which has around 48ppi.

sting7k says:

What you see is a function of distance. If you stand 1' from a 46" TV then yes you will see the pixels and it won't look that great. If you hold the new iPad 6" from your face you will probably see the pixels as well.
The minimum recommended seating distance from an HDTV is 1.5x the diagonal of the screen. So for a 46" set you want to be at least 69" or 5.75' away from the screen and your eyes will no longer be able to resolve the pixels on the screen. Sit further back and you actually lose some definition and you enter the realm of needing a larger screen to see the difference between 720p and 1080p.
I think Mr. Cook mentioned the optimal viewing distance for the iPad is around 16" so from that distance you get the effect of a "retina display". Look at this; 9.7x1.5 is 14.55" optimal viewing distance; pretty close.
The iPhone 4/4S is moot because it's pixel density is above the magic number that your eye can resolve at any distance.

Abrante says:

I can't see the individual pixels on a 1080p TV when watching a BD or when playing a PS3 game. The extra pixel claim on "the new iPad" is overkill. When considering the difference "to scale" they would have been a-okay with less pixels than what a traditional 1080p TV offers. Now, consumers do like to sound prestigeous when comparing devices so from that part, Apple had no choice but to go a step further. The PlayBook "technically" has a retina display when you consider the pixel density and the scale of the screen size in comparison with the screen of the iPad(s).

SteveW928 says:

And besides that, there is a big difference between DISPLAYING that kind of resolution, and actually USING it for 3D objects and effects. With all the CPU & GPU power the consoles (MANY times that of an iPad), notice that most games still utilize 720p, even though they are capable of displaying 1080p. There is a reason for that! The iPad isn't even in the ballpark.
So, it really comes down, more to what kinds of games and gaming we're talking about. Are we talking Angry Birds, Pacman, and Chess? Or, are we talking something like Battlefield 3 or Gran Turismo? Of course, some day, the latter type games might be possible on the iPad 8, but then we'll be also talking about the PS7 and XBox 666.
The controls issues some have mentioned are certainly valid. A serious gamer isn't going to try and play directly on the iPad. However, adding a BlueTooth controller of similar quality as a PS3 or XBox (OK, well not the XBox, as it's kind of junk) would only require building and designing one.

BWFC says:

When comparing prices don't forget a good game on iPad is £5, on console £45 so their is a balancing effect. The iPad cost is pretty much all upfront. Just my thoughts.

frozencloud says:

yes, but most of the games on iPAD are more like mini games than an actual full length game. That and I cant see myself holding the ipad for hours playing game.

glazedfaith says:

THIS! THIS! A thousand times this.
There are three reasons the iPad, in its current form, will never sway anything but the most casual (peggle, angry birds, etc.) games.
You will NEVER get the kind of results with software controls that you can with hardware without completely obscuring areas of the screen with your fingers first, and your finger grease later.
You don't realize how much the iPad weighs until you hold it out in front of you for 20 minutes playing a game at a comfortable angle.
More Positioning:
If you do decide to rest it, say, in your lap, or something so that your arms don't get tired, you've got to hang your head to see it. That kind of stress on your neck adds up quickly.
Best case, you end up with an established user-base of "time-wasting-game" players, with repetitive stress disorders in their hands and necks.

Yngwie says:

Yea but how can you compare angry birds or even infinity blade to console games ?

Tony says:

You can't, and that's why iDevices will never be comparable to consoles. Not to mention controls.

Michael says:

The iPad will never take over the console gaming market, especially for hardcore gamers. There is much more to a video game than just its graphics--it's the story, the immersion, the audio, the physical controls. That's why so many gaming peripherals sell. I could never see myself playing an RPG on the iPad. I'm playing UMVC3 right now and I could never play that on an iPad, either. I think for most people, as someone stated above, it's about the physical controls. I played the X-Men game from Konami on my phone and the virtual directional pad was difficult. There really is no substitute for a physical controller and the other things that come with hardcore gaming. For the casual gamer? Yes, definitely. But for the people who actually play games this is an impossibility.

Dev says:

Price, controls and dev support are big issues, but you missed an equally large roadblock:
4) Storage. The install size of one of the most popular new xBox titles, Mass Effect 3, is 14.6 GB. -- and that does not even count the assets that are played off the disk on demand.
That is too big to stream, and too big to install on your iPad. I would bet that it would not play satisfactorily with the iPad loading games on-demand from a Mac on your LAN, but, even if it did, then you a) have to buy a computer as well as an iPad to play games, and b) add a step to gaming that would almost assuredly be less convenient than popping a disc into a slot.
iPad gaming can still cut heavily into the console market, but, until the iPad offers a means to vast quantities of local, fast-accesible storage, it will not be a replacement.

Simon Sage says:

Good call. Do you think Apple could get around this by simply introducing an SD card slot, or are read/write speeds not good enough to run games, or at least store some of their assets?

Dev says:

Absolutely no idea :)
It may be impossible given the design constraints Apple intentionally built into the iPad, and I do not think Apple cares. It is hard to argue they should compromise those design choices when iPads designed around those constraints are flying off the shelves.
As they said about the Wii when it as launched, it targeted a new type of consumer, opening up a "blue ocean" in living room gaming, leaving SONY and MS to fight over the "red ocean" of hardcore gaming. Apple sees the same opportunity in the iPad, and I think they would rather explore the space they have created than shift gears so dramatically to attack and already crowded market space.

sting7k says:

I'm very curious to see some of these games. Very few xbox/ps3 games render at full 1080p. Most render at something just below 720p and developers upscale using the consoles and applying anti-aliasing to smooth out edges.
Although it won't be replacing my Xbox any time soon. I need dual analog sticks; real ones.

ricbon says:

no never, nothing like my couch with ps3 controller in hand on the hdtv on a friday night!!

Blue says:

You guys are overlooking something. Smartcover stand. And Bluetooth 4.0 controllers.

mikos says:

Who wants to play Mass Effect 3 on a 10" screen? I have a 47" HDTV for a reason. iOS games make a lot of sense but to beat a console, umm no.
Now what they should do is take all the old back catalogs from previous console generations and optimize those for iOS and release them. That way they can compete on price and also the file size won't crush your storage.

NoleScream says:

Consoles have a clear superior advantage that I haven't seen mentioned yet.
A broken $60 controller that was tossed across a room is a lot better than an iPad that was tossed across a room in a fit of gamer rage. :)

chris.lenderman says:

Calling Nintendo a sulking child, is like calling pot calling the kettle black. One could say that Apple, like a sulking child, has refused to allow their OS software to be ported onto other manufacturers hardware. Nintendo's product is a direct competitor of the smartphone market, releasing games on smartphones = drop in HW sales.

MINKIN2 says:

POLYGONS! Polygons to you all ;)
It seems as though people have onver looked these when they heard the words "High Res"
Take a lush looking mobile game such as mass effect and you will see that the objects on screen have quite a low number of polygons. Granted they are covered in hig res bitmap images for texturing but still the objects have very few faces.
This is a common trick used by companies to keep the low foot print of the instal to a minimum and reusing textures too.
It is impressive what they can acheive but consoles still win on this front too. They can render millians more poly's and texture them individulally as they have more processing power and storeage to hold them. If you think you are getting the same or better graphical experience on a tab, LOOK again.
As a disclaimer: I'm enjoying mobile gaming, the last 2/3 years have been like the the previous 20 console years condensed.

Carioca32 says:

As others have point out, the iPad has serious issues trying to compete with consoles, among them low-res graphics - yes, don't confuse a high-res screen with high-res graphics (polygons) - low storage space, and bad sound. The only reason the iPad performs well is because its graphics are 10 years behind console graphics. Air Supremacy reminds me of MicroProse's F-15 Strike Eagle 3, 90's PC game.
Consoles are used by gamers of all ages, and gamers know there is just no comparison between Mass Effect on a PS3 and Mass Effect on an iPad. It is a gimmick, almost a demo, very far from the "real" thing.

Ryan says:

If you blow up modern console games on a massive screen or television, those graphics will suddenly look 10 years behind as well. Perspective matters, in relation to the screen size.

Ryan says:

While I can kind of see where iMore is coming from in this article, it's kind of dumb -- and I mean that with respect. I don't recall Apple (or the game developers) propping the iPad up as a direct competitor to console games -- I think they were merely making a comparison to them. Sony stated the same similar idea with the new Vita -- that we could expect PS3-like graphics...but it's not a replacement. In the market of portable gaming (DS, Vita and now iOS) - this new iPad is most certainly a solid competitor. It carriers many (or more) of the same specs as the competition, and the games can be equally rich. And to the guy that said Nintendo isn't sulking - they most certainly are. Sony is in the hardware and software business too, and they have their own proprietary software they use for their OS. However, they support Android gaming. Nintendo could do the very same thing. Nintendo is inching it's way to being another SEGA. Didn't their stocks fall?

Carioca32 says:

I disagree. When someone on a major Apple keynote says that the iPad has more resolution and more mamory than a PS3 or a XBox360 they are clearly positioning the iPad as a console competitor. Apple gave precious keynote time to game developers and they did not show casual games, but games simmilar to the ones being used on consoles. To me the message was clear.

wiiu says:

You're pretty ignorant. Nintendo has been doing pretty well as the 3DS is outpacing where the DS was at this point in the game. It's not "sulking", quit saying that. Nintendo's stock has gone down because the Wii train has ended and they are focusing entirely on the Wii U. So... your problem? Every company does that. APPLE WILL GO THROUGH THIS TOO. People will cry doom and then Apple will get back up. You need to understand biz 101. Go take a college course.

robnaj says:

Blog post ends in ? Answer is always NO!
This is why iPad=Post PC PC will never overtake console
Also Apple has tried to over take Windows PC gaming for years and now they still can't the best games they have are iOS games ported to the Mac Store.

Jay B says:

For me it is a simple no. Why? Because my console is attached to a 50" Plasma TV and a 7.1 full size home entertainment system. Out of the box my PS3 was ready to rock. To buy a £500 tablet, plus Airplay and whatever hardware controller I needed is a no go. Add to which it would make have a retina display pointless. Then there is the, already mentioned issues of, storage and the weight.
For the money i am looking a 2 consoles and some great lan gaming.... There is no feasible contest.

Hodgez says:

The iPad could compete if they would just create a Bluetooth controller for it. Virtual knobs just don't do it for me.

David says:

So I get the point that consumers want more game developers to work on games for the apple store and android market but does the writer really have to compare Nintendo do a "sulking child" because they have no interest in sharing their games? Quite mature...

DM52 says:

"Like a sulking child, Nintendo has sworn off doing any work with smartphones"
Nintendo is, much like Apple, in the hardware business. Unlike Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo (and Apple) make most of their money selling hardware devices, not through software licensing (a point that has been made on this site about Apple many times). Putting games on a smartphone (especially a touch screen one) with an inferior control scheme/experience to the alternative (ie. anything with buttons) would damage them far more than the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad will ever lower their hardware sales, especially at the price point it would have to be to compete with the ridiculous amount of "casual" AppStore games.

Maximus says:

I don't think the iPad or iPhone get much of a look in for 'hardcore' gamers.
But I do think that they will affect mid and low level gamers.
The Wii had often been criticized for not being a serious game machine.
I have heard often from friends who are real gamers that the wii is a toy, not a games machine.
But it fit a perfect category for less intense gamers, or families.
Heck my parents have one for fun; and I have kids so you get a feeling for how old they are.
But now my Mum loves her iPad; and the Wii gets less love.
I had a stage where i was into gaming, but that was only in my 20s, and soon enough I grew out of that.
And now my original Xbox is gathering dust,
My kids are getting older and ready to game soon.
What will we get for out famly?
I would much rather get an iPad, or give them my old iPad when i upgrade, then get a wii (or what ever that ugly and odd new Nintendo box is).
The games are cheaper,
There are more "fun kids" games, and educational games.
And I think that the bigger screen and touch controls of the iPad suit kids better then the small portable games machines like PSP or Nintendo.
And the great thing with an iPad is that the kids can use it for school work too.
I am sure my son will buy a PS5 or an Xbox 666 when he leaves home and starts Uni.
But for the in-between time there is no need to get a full on games machine.
So what I am trying to say is that iPads and iPhones will cut away at the fringe gaming markets.
And that is lost profit for hardware only, or hardware profit gaming institutions.
But then the whole gaming wired has been evolving since the Atari 2600 came out.
PCs were a threat to gaming machines, that didn't pan out.
Sony and Microsoft rule where Atari-Nintendo-Sega lived.
Portable games machines get better each year, but people still love consoles.
I would think that iPads & iPhones would more affect portable gaming markets.
But who knows what will happen in such a string market.

Guezcoast says:

I see them giving ps3,xbox and vita a run for the money if the manage to give console gamers a bluetooth control like for example make iphone an option as a control or simply use bluetooth ready controls, and with option of using thunderbolt displays wich have higher resolution than hdtvs. Hdtvs for average gamer who just wants bigscreen action.

Guezcoast says:

What i mean is a perfect hibrid of being console when u need it and portable also...but with triple a games to actually compete.

RDM says:

Umm... Still you can't play real button games well on an ipad if you have no lap or table available. That means... 3DS and Vita (which is as powerful as the ipad3) rulez!

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David Dutton1 says:

PS3 , Xbox 360 = 512MB RAM
iPad 5=1GB, ios7 takes 1gb, but can free 700MB up for app use. That's more than a ps3 game gets.

The iPad 5s (iPhone 5s) 64bit x2 cpu far outperforms the ps3's CPU. Add quad core graphics of the iPad 5 and it matches console power

3 problems: controls, storage, price

Controls: solved. The iPhone 5/5s now has a controller case that turns it into portable console. The iPad can now use Bluetooth controllers. Hdmi cable or airplay mirroring solves neck and body issues. I've even seen a controller case for the iPad. Stands with keyboards and controllers.

Storage: Xbox disc are 9.7gb limiting game qualiy unless multiple DVDs used. PS3 about 50gb due to bluray. A good 3d game like elder scrolls, skyrim take 20gb on a ps3 disk and it caches 5-10gb to the hdd . Unless you have a 35 or 55Mbit internet, no one will DL 10-20gb games for iPad. That and Apple caps DLs to 30Mbps (3-4MB/sec)

More storage: the avg person has only a 16-32gb device. I have a new 128gb iPad 5. So console sized games only possible on 64-128gb devices

Price: 128gb iPad 5 with LTE wifi = 900-1000$
New ps4 with accessories = 500-600$
PS3 / 360, 199$
Decent pc game rig: 1500-2500$

I disagree with the article on App Store prices. People WOULD buy and pay 50$ for skyrim if it had at least 360 quality (ps3 a bit better, gaming pc best). People only complain because most 20$ games are terrible for the iPad.

With the right set up , the iPad 5 should b able to play skyrim just as good as a console.