As consumer demand changes, it’s conventional for developers to adapt their latest products by adding new features to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. Having a Blu-ray player on PS3, for example, brought in movie watchers when BD players were expensive, while Apple cleverly fused multimedia options with general computer functionality for the iPad.
With the announcement of the iPad 3 last week, it was inevitable that Apple would step up its game once more and create a device that appeals to a broad consumer base. One way it plans to do this is by delivering a more core gaming experience. Some sections of the media have even gone as far as saying that the iPad 3 could be a replacement for conventional consoles. The iPad 3 can never replace a dedicated gaming console, and I have five topics from a consumer perspective that help prove it.
Console gamers demand higher quality games
Gamers have gaming consoles for one primary reason: they expect high quality games. Many gamers expect decent graphics, performance, and a solid multiplayer experience. Comparatively, games meant for devices like iPads and other tablets don’t need to meet such a high set of values.
Tablet games are very generic in comparison to console games, even next to titles meant for dedicated handheld gaming devices, like the PlayStation Vita or the Nintendo 3DS. Bigger development teams are required for console games so that production is sharp and complex gameplay mechanics work as they should. The revenue generated by those games reflects the work.
Uncharted 3 on PS3 sets a benchmark for high quality gaming experiences
Tablet games don’t have as much funding capability as many games on consoles do, because the development teams are so much smaller. As a result, since most tablet games are inheritably “simple,” these games are expected to be cheap as well. I’d like to use an example of an iPad game developed in the Mass Effect universe, called Mass Effect: Infiltrator.
It looks really good, but the game runs on a duck-and-cover system that doesn’t allow free roaming through maps. So, funding a smaller team is much more appropriate for these types of games. Collectively, tablet games offer quick-fire entertainment that isn’t as engrossing as the experience on a dedicated gaming console.
Tablet touchscreen can’t replace a controller
We’ve seen plenty of shooters created on tablets, but they suffer from the same ailments: these games don’t function nearly as well as their counterparts on gaming consoles or on PCs. So, it’s unrealistic to believe that a tablet like the iPad will host games like Call of Duty or Elder Scrolls.
Having face buttons, especially for executing quick button combinations, makes for a much more streamlined process that’s not intended for a touchscreen interface. I’ve seen role-playing games with two joysticks simulated on-screen for multi-touch devices, but it’s still a very clunky experience. Having a physical face of buttons allows for the experience to be that much more immersive.
Tablet games made with the same mentality tend to require a lot of focus on simulated buttons that cover portions of the screen, which takes the immersion away from games in two ways: the inability to see, and the inability to fully focus. The iPad does have Bluetooth support, so maybe creating a portable peripheral for those who want it would be a compensative idea.
Prodding a touchscreen can never replace the control players have while clutching a gamepad
High turnover of product
Apple has had a major tendency of generating new hardware in a very short amount of time. That level of generation works for phones and tablets, but it doesn’t work in the gaming industry. Development for games on consoles takes a minimum of 2-3 years, at least, and the iPad 2 has only been around for two years. In order to maximize the performance of the iPad, developers would have to acclimate to the hardware, generate an experience for gamers, and put out a quality product within a year. That task is both daunting and limiting. Major experiences like Metal Gear Solid or Mass Effect simply wouldn’t have the time and energy put into them that they deserve, which has been proven by the current duck-and-cover versions of their games currently available for iOS devices.
Hosting product on iTunes is challenging
Getting an application, let alone a game, hosted on the iTunes App Store is something of a challenge. Unlike Android apps, iPad and iPhone apps require an approval process that passes the program directly in front of Apple representatives for approval rather than having the process open-sourced. I’m sure that a big developer could come in and have an app approved much faster than a single person developing a music player, but the App Store has leaned towards very clean and non-gory presentation for its applications and games. So, games that portray violent imagery, such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, would never make their way to the iPad without a taming of the shrew, so to speak.
Non-gamers traditionally have iPads
More and more businessmen and women are buying iPads intended for work, more parents are buying them to remain in the loop, and more teenagers get them to stay on the edge of modern technology. The iPad is convenient and has a number of useful functions, but it’s unlikely to be advertised as a gaming medium in the same way as consoles. The iPad is a clever multi-purpose device, and the gaming aspect of it is stapled onto the back-end for those who want games on-the-go. Essentially, in order for Apple to sell games for the iPad at the cost a high-quality game would require to develop, Apple would have to advertise the iPad 3 much more effectively.
Consoles have a major advantage in the gaming industry, since they were made solely for great quality games, and the iPad 3 certainly needs an all-round better specification to replace conventional gaming. It’s not hard to believe that the iPad 3 will change the current iPad 2 gaming experience, but it won’t thwart the sales and issuing of consoles and their games.
Immersive experiences are what console gamers want, and the iPad series hasn’t delivered anything close to what a console, and its development teams, can do. Plus, with the next generation of consoles "incoming," talk of the iPad 3 as a powerful gaming device will be short-lived in the gaming industry.