Why the iPad is no good

Well the news about the iPad has been around for a while, and there are plenty of game developers excited about it. Why? I haven’t the slightest clue. There is three differences between the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad and they are: (A) Size of the screen (B) System power & (C) Price. The iPod Touch got more power between the first and second hardware revisions just like the iPhone 3G and 3GS. But, here is the problem… the iPad will bring about the downfall of the video game industry (if it actually catches on).

While my statement may be very wild, if the iPad actually catches on – video game developers should not be happy at all (at least the ones who want to make money). Sure, with the bigger screen size and more powerful system we’ll be able to make bigger and better games, but the problem is that the economics surrounding the iPad will probably gravitate to towards the same trends that the iPhone/iPod Touch have in terms of application costs and the flood of applications. While usually having more is better, in terms of the consumer, in the case of the App Store it is actually really bad. With the 20,000 games available on the App Store how can one find a good game? Its not easy. I put less research into buying a $60 game than I ever have trying to purchase a game from the App Store.

While the iPhone OS and SDK are great for indies and hopefuls wanting to break into the game industry, there are very few companies that can actually survive with the sort of economics that are available on the iPhone. The thing is, that you need to develop something really quick and really cheap in order to turn a profit. There are very few games that sell for more than a few dollars, so if your game cost $100,000 to make (not really that big of a number if you have an artist, programmer, QA, etc working on your game) then you would have to sell a minimum of ~150,000 if you sold your game at $0.99 (there is a percentage that Apple takes from the sale). Sure there are many developers that could put out games for less than $100K, but there are many people who will do this development on the side so there really isn’t any cost associated with it.

Now, you might be wondering why a a game developer would care about a platform they may not even develop for. Well, that is simple. The economics surrounding the App Store have started to bleed over into other sectors of the industry as consumer’s are getting more and more used to getting really small (and usually not that good games) for good and cheap. They want more of this. Now there are less and less people who are willing to continually spend $60 on a new release for a game. They might start buying used copies, none of which goes to the developer. And while I may be exaggerating a bit regarding the overflow, there are plenty of examples of people complaining about the price of the PSP minis in comparison to the App Store.

Now, the iPad has a touch interface, just like the iPhone. Guess what, it sucks. It doesn’t really drive innovation like one would think, except for innovation on how to adapt and get around the platform’s limitations. Sure limitations can drive people to create awesome games, but with the iPhone its about finding the interface that sucks the least. Yeah, the iPad has a much bigger screen that will allow developers greater flexibility when designing controls because screen space will not be as limited. The biggest problem with the iPad (in terms of gaming) is still present… NO BUTTONS. While the touch interface is great, it still needs to have physical buttons with physical feedback. No buttons = limited gaming potential.

Without forgetting one huge problem, we come to the biggest problem of all – PRICE. The starting price is $499 USD. That is more than a new desktop! This platform will suffer, just like the PS3 did, until it has a price cut to be a reasonable price that is affordable. The iPad is on track to have the same consumer adoption rate as the MacBook Air (while I don’t have numbers regarding this, many Mac enthusiasts that I know thought the device was a flop). You cannot charge $500 for a piece of hardware that doesn’t do that much and expect a huge adoption rate.

Lastly, we cannot forget the thing that I really cannot understand most of all – the lack of innovation in the device. What is the iPad really? It is an oversized iPod Touch. I think the only innovation is that it will be able to connect to the internet anywhere with AT&T – but that is not anything new. There are no new hardware innovations that will allow developers to create new interesting new interfaces. When the iPhone/iPod Touch came out at least the accelerometer and the multi-touch screen was new, now it is old and dull. In reality the iPad is nothing more than an oversized, overpriced, iPod Touch.

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