Finally ready to break your penny jar for the purchase of an iPad? Hold on a sec. If you live in the United States, you may as well grab yourself an iPad 2 instead.
A mere year after the launch of the original iPad, the American public now has the option of adopting an iPad 2. It costs about the same as the original iPad (though stores that still stock the first incarnation of the tablet will undoubtedly be dropping prices to make some room for the sequel), is quite a bit more powerful thanks to the inclusion of the dual-core “A5” processor, and is 33% thinner than the original iPad–thin enough to break over your knee (don’t do this).
The iPhone and iPod Touch are hot little gaming devices, but the iPad isn’t a runaway success as a game machine. Will the iPad 2 pick up the slack? Mark Rein, the co-founder and vice president of Epic Games, believes the iPad 2 might even give established consoles a run for their money. The original iPad, Rein says, was difficult to take advantage of because it didn’t have the processing power needed to take full advantage of its big, beautiful display. That’s not a problem anymore.
“For us, it’s like Christmas,” he told the Seattle Times at the iPad 2 launch event on March 7. “Infinity Blade will already run faster and better because of [the iPad 2’s increased power], and we can now turn up the texture detail and turn on some of the effects that we’d turned off on iPad because iPad was a more challenging development environment than iPhone, given the higher resolution screen.”
Rein is also excited for the potential behind the HDMI adapter, which can display iPad content on a high-resolution television, thus turning the iPad 2 into a “handheld console.”
“[Y]our game console could be a tablet you walk around with, and you use it as a controller in your home game experience,” Rein said. “Or eventually you’ll put this down, you’ll pick up a DualShock [game controller], this will talk wirelessly or through HDMI to your TV, and you’ll play. That’s the future, and Apple has clearly made a big step toward that with their digital [AV] adapter.”
Well, Rein is sold, but will other developers be as eager to adopt the iPad 2 as a gaming device?
There’s no concrete gospel on why the iPad hasn’t yet wooed game developers to the same degree as the iPhone, but we can make a few good guesses. First, tablets are not nearly as portable as iPhones, PSPs, or Nintendo 3DS systems. They’re not ideal for quick gameplay sessions on a bus, or in a queue. True, the iPad 2 is thinner and lighter than the iPad, but it’s not going to slip into your back pocket when it’s time to disembark from the train. The new SmartCover is a nice touch for people who are justifiably paranoid about scratching up their iPad 2 screen, but it’s an additional $40.
Ah, the cost. Best Buy is asking $529.00 USD for a 16 gig iPad 2 with 3G support. A 64 gig tablet without 3G support will run about $699.99 USD. Costly stuff. Does anyone want to dole out that kind of money just to play Angry Birds in HD? And even though Rein is right about the power of the iPad 2 easily matching today’s consoles, who’s going to pay that amount for a game system that’s too big to tote around and too small to lean back and enjoy after a hard day’s work? The race between the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS should have proven by now that graphics and processing power aren’t everything as far as what’s needed to catch the public’s attention.
The iPad 2 does have potential as a game system: To repeat a point we’ve made before, it would be ideal for board games and card games on long family car trips. But tablets are not ideal game machines, and that’s okay. They carry out other, equally awesome functions. It’s not as if we’re lacking for game options, anyway.