2010 Year in Review: The iPad as a Gaming Device


With Christmas rolling in quickly, I’m sure that the Apple iPad will continue to fly off the shelves as the hottest gadget on the market. Having owned one since launch, I can tell you that it’s a ‘nice to have’ device. It’s nice to have as a laptop or iPhone alternative, but if you already have both of those devices, this in-between gadget may not be for you.

Let’s narrow the scope of this discussion though, since this isn’t the place to talk about the device’s usefulness as a word processor or e-reader. How well has the iPad performed as a gaming device so far?

As far as tablet computers go, there’s no question that the iPad is the best gaming platform in town. The amount of software support available to the iPad thanks to iTunes and iPhone game compatibility enables the iPad to play the entire iPhone game library out of the box. Having access to that iPhone catalogue goes a long way in making the iPad a viable gaming device.

Is it good enough to stand on it’s own as a gaming platform? Is it worth running out to the store just to play Angry Birds HD? At this point in time, I don’t think so.

The biggest problem with the iPad as a gaming device is that it’s basically a big iPhone/iPod Touch. Most of the iPad’s strengths are things that you’ve already experienced on an iPhone/iPod Touch before. If you already have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you already know what to expect.

Where the iPad could really set itself apart is through the larger screen, but developers haven’t really taken advantage of it. Up-scaled iPhone games for the most part look good, but games with on-screen buttons can be tricky to play once the buttons grow too big. Up-scaled iPhone games with motion controls can also be problematic, as the amount of tilt required can be different between the two devices.

iPad-specific software support has been disappointing as well. Many developers that do support the iPad, do so by simply raising the resolution of their iPhone games and charging consumers way too much for it. In most cases, you’re better off just buying the much cheaper iPhone version and up-scaling it on the iPad rather than buying the iPad-specific version.

Though the iPad is hands-down the best gaming tablet on the market, it doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the other iDevices on the market. If you already own an iPhone or iPod Touch, then the iPad isn’t going to do much for you as a gaming device. However, it’s still too early to throw the iPad under the bus. With the the platform being as popular as it is, it may just take a bit more time before the iPad really comes into its own.

If you own an iPad, how do you feel about it as a gaming device? Let’s talk in the comments!

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