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Game developers eye iPad 2 as next-gen console

Dead Space for iPad 2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Apple relies heavily on video games to drive sales and show off the functionality of its iPad line of tablets. With the iPad 2 launching yesterday, the second-generation tablet has been built to deliver high definition video game experiences on par with what gamers are used to playing on consoles. The game development community — including console game makers — are excited about the potential the new 1GHz dual core A5 processor brings to the experiences that studios are now working on for the device.

“Games will push the capability of the new iPad 2, and we are excited to see what this device can do,” said Travis Boatman, senior vice president of Worldwide Studios, EA Mobile. “The faster core and graphics capabilities of the iPad 2 opens up possibilities to reach new levels of quality in EA’s games never before seen in a portable device like this.

“The iPad2 will turn what was a good gaming system into a great gaming system,” said Felix Roeken, general manager of Trinigy, which created the Vision Game Engine for iOS. “The dual camera could be used to generate more realistic avatars or enhance the social experience of games, either with live video during gameplay, or chat. And the better performing browser might open up the development of more browser-based games.”

Trinigy has optimized its Vision Game Engine for iOS, which will launch early this summer, to take advantage of every bit of the iPad 2’s power and performance, from special material shaders and textures, to integration with Havok Physics for iOS. The technology company has also created a special business model specific to mobile developers, which should make the iPad 2 a really attractive alternative for game development.

Not that there’s been a dearth of games for the tablet. Apple has over 65,000 games and Apps designed for its original tablet, and they will all work with the new device. Apple also has an installed base of approximately 20 million iPads worldwide, which gives game makers a great target audience for new experiences.

“Apple’s A5 processor chip could be very interesting for games,” said Baudouin Corman, vice president of publishing, Americas, Gameloft. “The dual core means faster load times, higher frame rates, better draw distances and more impressive effects such as radial motion blur, real time reflections and shadows. Overall, the gaming experience will just be better.”

The iPad 2 features an entirely new design that is 33 percent thinner and up to 15 percent lighter than the original iPad, while maintaining the same stunning 9.7-inch LED-backlit LCD screen. The tablet now includes two cameras, a front-facing VGA camera for apps like FaceTime and Photo Booth, and a rear-facing camera that captures 720p HD video. Though it is thinner, lighter, faster and packed with new features like a gyroscope, the iPad 2 still delivers up to 10 hours of battery life that users have come to expect.

Infinity BladeInfinity Blade

“We are really excited that the iPad 2 will offer nine times the power of the original,” said Jonathan Kromrey, executive producer at Namco Bandai Games America. “This gives developers and publishers additional tools to work with, and anything that gives us more, is another great opportunity. We’ll continue to push the capabilities of the latest and greatest technologies to bring top-tier content to our fans. We have no doubt that the gaming industry will see titles that fully utilize the hardware creating rich, immersive gaming experiences.”

The dual cameras and built-in GPS are already opening up new gameplay experiences for game creators.

“Developers have a nice opportunity to leverage the new iPad 2 features to create unique experiences on a tablet using the cameras and gyroscope, which opens up new avenues like augmented reality (AR) games and multiplayer games with visual interaction between players,” said Andrew Stein, director of mobile product development at PopCap Games.

Brian Selzer, president and co-founder, Ogmento, believes location-based gameplay will become a new form of interaction on the iPad 2. The creator of AR games for mobile phones, including the iPhone, sees new opportunities with the tablet’s cameras.

“While the form factor is a bit too big for the player to be required to hold up the device and look through it for any extended period of time (ala AR browsers), real-world, map-based games like our Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary game could take on more of a board-game like experience. Overall, we have been looking forward to playing our games on this platform, and now with the iPad 2, we can finally do so.”

New games are available for launch that have been redesigned to take advantage of the new tablet, including Epic Games’ award-winning Infinity Blade. Apple has been using the action game to promote the new tablet during its announcement press conference and on its website.

“The device is going to have more memory than we had before, so it means better texture detail, and the technical specs are phenomenal,” said Mark Rein, vice president, Epic Games. “More GPU means game developers can use more physics and add more enemies on the screen, while providing a wider view of the environment.”

Mobile game publisher Chillingo has iPad 2 versions of the puzzle game Collision Effect and the space shooter Infinity Field available.

“While we’re firm believers that better technology doesn’t automatically make for a better game, in the right hands, better technology can mean the difference between realizing a creative vision, or not,” said Joe Wee, co-founder and co-general manager, Chillingo. “The level of innovation out there is staggering, and the scary part is, it’s only just started…”

The number of tablets flooding the market is also staggering. Research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that 50 million tablet devices will ship this year worldwide. To put that in perspective, Microsoft has an installed base of 50 million Xbox 360s. Now, add to the equation the HDMI support that iPad 2 and many of the new Nvidia Tegra 2 tablets have, which allow for easy connectivity to HDTVs. New tablets like the iPad 2 are essentially portable consoles that can be played on-the-go and then plugged into a TV for big screen entertainment.

“Tablets are proving to be a great form factor for mobile games as they offer up the larger than smartphone screen-size for bigger gameplay experience, but they are also lighter than traditional portable laptops, allowing for easier on-the-go playing,” said Selzer.

That’s why companies like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are keeping a close eye on new tablets like iPad 2. The gaming field is evolving quickly, and Apple, so far, has led the way.

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John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering video games for over 25 years, dating back to his work for The Washington Post while in…
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