Apple, iPad and handheld gaming

Now that Apple has taken the wraps of its upcoming iPad tablet computer, the weeks of speculation that led up to its announcement have given way to endless chatter about the pros and cons of Steve Jobs’ new offspring.
Like a lot of geeks, we’re disappointed that the iPad won’t be the laptop replacement we’d been hoping for when the first models hit stores this March, ranging in price from $499 US to over $800. Critics have taken digs at the device by calling it an overgrown iPod Touch, and for better or for worse, that’s pretty accurate.
But one of the great things about the iPod Touch and the iPhone is they’ve emerged as bona fide handheld gaming platforms, with thousands of games available for download via the iTunes App Store. Not all the games are winners, but there are lots that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best offerings on the Nintendo DS and Sony’s PSP.
Based on what the iPod Touch and iPhone have done for gaming, we’re stoked to see what the iPad can add to the mix. Here are some game types we look forward to seeing on Apple’s big new baby.
Fight/space sims – With a larger screen and slightly faster processor, the iPad will be a more capable gaming machine than its tiny brethren. One game type that could be especially cool is a flight or space sim in which your craft is controlled by tilting and tipping the iPad as though it were the wheel or control stick. A game like the Nintendo classic Pilotwings would be especially perfect for this, although players’ arms might get a bit tired after a while.
Real-time strategy games – There have been several attempts to do real-time strategy games on the iPhone and iPod Touch, but using a teensy-weensy touchscreen to control groups of tanks, soldiers and so on just doesn’t work that well, especially if you happen to have meaty man-hands. The bigger screen real estate on the iPad’s 9.7-inch display will make these sorts of games (and their slower-paced strategy cousins, like Civilization) much more fun to play.
Classic boardgames – Although the iPad isn’t as big as, say, a Scrabble board, it seems like it would be relatively easy to recreate the boardgame experience on the device. The networking capabilities of the iPad make this even more interesting... the iPad could be the central board where the action takes place, while players use their own iPod Touch or iPhone to issue Battleship attack coordinates, inspect Scrabble tiles, manage their Monopoly properties and so on.
Role-playing games – With all due respect to the legions of role-playing games that have appeared on the Nintendo Game Boy, DS and Sony PSP, it’s hard to feel truly immersed in a game world that’s presented on a screen the size of a deck of cards. It will be interesting to see what RPG developers do with the iPad’s added screen real estate and processor horsepower, especially when it comes to MMORPGs and other networked games.
Games for the iPhone and iPod Touch – One huge selling feature of the iPad is it can run virtually every app already available for the iPhone and iPod touch, with the option of doubling the screen resolution to fill more of the device’s display. Just the idea of playing a big-screen version of games like Fieldrunners, Fight Control or Rolando is almost enough to make us want an iPad. And you can bet iPad-enhanced versions of these games are already in the works.


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