How the iPad Can Attract More Gamers

How the iPad Can Attract More Gamers

Apple’s App Store has many handy applications available for download. Better yet, the most popular paid downloadable app for the iPad is that greatest of time-killers: Games.

Interestingly though, while games have a pretty clear audience, they’re not without close competition on the App Store. Recently, the Nielsen Company surveyed 5000 consumers who are in possession of an iPad, in addition to a tablet computer, eReader, netbook, media and games player, or a smartphone. Out of the iPad owners surveyed, 62% have bought at least one digital game off the App Store. Books come in as the second most common purchase/download at 54%. Music: 50%.

However, 32% of the respondents haven’t bothered to download any kind of app, whether free or not. And 5% have only downloaded free apps. When you envision a pie chart of the survey results (resist the temptation to think of a pizza), you get a better breakdown: 63% of iPad users have paid for an App, but out of that 63%, only 62% download games.

If you’re stumbling a bit in a fog of confusion, here’s what it all amounts to: Gaming on the iPad, though popular, isn’t a runaway success.

It’s an intriguing takeaway, but one that’s not too surprising. The iPhone and iPod Touch present a bigger threat to Nintendo and Sony’s handheld markets for clear reasons: Each boasts extreme portability in addition to lower price tags, a larger installed base of customers and more cheap, addictive games. Mom or dad would be less hesitant to pacify Junior with an iPhone game versus handing him the iPad on loan from their company. And even grown-up gamers might be a bit hesitant to whip out the less-than-discreet iPad on a train car containing a shifty-eyed passenger or two.

This analysis probably wouldn’t suit Steve Jobs, however. The iPad has been boasted as an ideal gaming machine (among other things), so what can be done to entice more owners into downloading more games?

Given their large size, tablets will probably never be regarded as the handheld game system that everybody needs. They’re not as portable as a Nintendo DS, and they’re nowhere near as sturdy. But developers can encourage more game downloads by working with the iPad’s strengths and weaknesses.

The “virtual d-pads” that control many iPhone games, for instance, are subject to heavy criticism. They can be slow, difficult to calibrate, and lack the simple satisfaction of actually pressing down on a button. For these reasons, true A+ action games that rely on reflexes are in rare enough supply on the iPhone. Expecting people to use virtual d-pads on the significantly more cumbersome iPad doesn’t translate into good times.

But the iPad’s big, beautiful screen is brilliant for strategy games, text-heavy role-playing games, and yes–board games. iPads may be fragile and expensive, but they’re priceless when they’re running Monopoly and sandwiched between two kids on a long car trip. It’s a very adequate replacement for those cheap “travel-sized” magnetic checkerboards that feature the wrong number of squares and dozens of loose pieces that roll under the front seats.

Likewise, it makes good sense to appeal to the frequent-flying business men and women with games that recall the years of their youth, before meetings and TPS reports. This includes targeted advertising campaigns for what’s already available. Risk, for instance, is currently popular for the iPad. Right this second, there are a few thirty-somethings rotting away in an airport lounge who’d love to be reminded of that. Some official adaptations of point-and-click games from Sierra’s golden years wouldn’t be amiss, either. One fan has already begun work on emulating them for the iPad.

Finally, Scott Stein from CNet published a blog that outlines what iPad’s game developers need to avoid. Namely, they need to quit porting HD versions of games that have been done to death on the iPhone and iPod Touch. The iPad, Stein says, is more than a giant iPhone. The machines’ basic functions are similar, but the large touchscreen potentially makes for a far different gaming experience.

Oftentimes, it’s better to recognize your strengths and work with them in lieu of trying to build around a weakness for the sake of numbers and bragging rights. Even if the iPad doesn’t become the industry’s number-one choice for gaming, it has the potential to deliver very strong titles in select genres to a faithful fanbase.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

Leave a Reply