iPad arrives – Devs spring into action

What would this week be without at least a mention of Apple’s latest creation (and announcement) the iPad. While there’s plenty of material out there ranging from why to Colbert’s bold proclamation “Give me an iPad”, the iPad has at least gotten a reaction, good or bad, out of pretty much everyone even remotely connected to the handheld electronics device field. Considering the proliferation of mobile phones, the iPhone in particular, this would encompass a wide majority of folks.

213722-3But what does the iPad mean for games developers? An entirely new playing field. A number of games houses reacted almost immediately to the announcement, with the overwhelming consensus positive and indicating that they’re already hard at work on iPad ready apps.

iPhone dev studios OpenFeint and Scoreloop were two of the first on the scene, clearly having someone waiting, literally, on Mr. Jobs’ every word, just waiting for the cue to click and release the info to the world. Scoreloop says that they’ll have an iPad specific upgrade from their popular Astro Ranch iPhone game that will take advantage of the iPad’s increased screen real estate, appropriately titled Astro Ranch HD. While not pointing to specific examples, OpenFeint Chairman Peter Relan states, “We have plans for some really special features for the iPad that will make social gaming even more immersive.”

Ok, so far so good. New platform, new, tailored games for this platform….now, show me the money. Ngmoco, who took full advantage of Apple’s decision to allow microtransactions within iPhone games, said that their freemium first person shooter, Eliminate would port well from iPhone to iPad, and that their currently-in-development co-op version of Eliminate would do the same. Likewise, EA demoed their Need for Speed Shift title at the Apple announcement and confirmed that they already have a number of titles in the works for the forthcoming iPad. EA did not confirm that these titles will contain microtransaction elements, but given their proven commitment to the business model and gaming associations, it’s very likely.

I mention above that the iPad announcement creates an entirely new playing field for devs. And while the opinions have been wildly circulating, the one that keeps showing up on my radar is “But…it’s just a big iPod.” Certainly from an esthetic point of view this comment has merit. However, once the device is in hand, as Kotaku had access to, it’s quite clear that this is no iPod. While Kotaku editors has trouble controlling the majority of games they tested on the iPad, they did report that menu driven games, such as EA’s The Sims 3 played very well. What this indicates is that an entirely new sub-genre of social, casual, and all around ‘games’ may develop as studios rush to push out iPad read/compatible games. Apple currently does not allow the sale of virtual currencies within the games operating on their platforms (there are however a number of ways around this), they have confirmed that the iPad will support in-app transactions through the iPhone OS 3.2.

Apple’s iPad is expected to begin shipping in late March of this year. Should be a VERY exciting summer.

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