On the iPad as a games console

The desire for excellence

If Apple wants iPad to be your new console they have a lot more to do than simply start selling a game controller.

First up would be releasing some games that aren't crap.

The iPad has obviously made developers a whole bunch of money, and there is a feeling of something "magical" when you hold such a thin and light device and see it running a game, even more so the first time your AirPlay it to a TV. It just feels futuristic.

It feels so futuristic that there is an almost constant chatter about using the iPad as a console.

However the elephant in the room (that no-one seems to want to talk about) is that attempts at console-quality titles (like Infinity Blade or Real Racing 2) are abysmal.

The gameplay of a title like Real Racing 2 is monotonous, shallow, feels like a cheap imitation of a real game and doesn’t even begin to touch on Forza or Gran Turismo 4 from the Xbox\PS2 days, let-alone the titles on the current-generation of consoles.

If a title like this was released on the X360 or PS3 it would be lucky to metascore a 3 or 4 out of 10.

Where the iPad excels is at ultra-casual games like Cut the Rope, Osmosis, Plants vs Zombies, World of Goo and of course Angry Birds.

These are the kind of games that can fill in a few minutes during a TV advertisement or whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.

In other words the iPad shines as a system for gaming to pass time, not gaming for a hobby.

A graphical contrast

I actually don't think graphics are a big issue. The Wii has had some fantastic games this generation and I'd be surprised if the iPad 3 isn't pushing graphics close to or past what the Wii is at the moment.

That said, I don't think we'll see graphics from iPad match that of the most powerful consoles.

Here is a comparison of Gran Turismo 4 (PS2 circa 2004), Real Racing 2 (iPad 2) and Gran Turismo 5 (PS3).


The capacity for greatness

If Apple were actually serious about taking on the consoles I think you would know about it.

The first step would be for them to buy something like OnLive because, among other issues, there is a storage problem on the iPad.

Current-generation games are generally between 7GB to 20GB, and that's using game assets for what is generally a sub 720p resolutions.

If you bump that resolution to >1080p (like the iPad 3) then the game assets will need to improve as well, so you're looking at least 10GB-28GB games, probably much higher.

The only solution is some in-house game hub the iPad utilizes (very un-Apple like) or to run something like an OnLive service.

The second step would be some very high profile acquisitions, like EA, and the creation of an "Apple Game Studios".

No 3rd party game publisher is going to accept the risk of a 2 to 3 year lead-time to create a AAA iPad title. There is no way of knowing what the iPad will look like in 2 to 3 years’ time, so it would be like trying to hit a moving target with your eyes closed.

The only company that knows what the iPad will look like in 2 to 3 years’ time is Apple themselves.

Similarly no game publisher is going to accept the risk of a $50 to $100 million budget to develop a AAA iPad title. Certainly not when there is good "safe" money to be made with creating ultra-casual games.

Apple would need to prove to 3rd party game publishers that the ROI on a AAA iPad title is worth the investment.

The only way Apple are going to get games onto the iPad that are not crap is to do it themselves.