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?