By Liana B. Baker
March 9 Apple Inc's faster and
sharper-looking new iPad is drawing the notice of the
traditional video game industry, as developers are envisioning
games for it that have more in common with the visceral 3D
shooter "Call of Duty" than "FarmVille."
The company is also setting itself up to take on Microsoft
and Sony on their home turf of game consoles.
From Electronic Arts to "Crysis" developers Crytek, industry
executives are figuring out ways to migrate graphics-intensive
so-called hardcore games to the iPad. Epic Games and Namco
Bandai took the stage at Apple's iPad unveiling this
week to show off what they can do with an iPad that has a faster
quad core processor.
With more than 55 million iPads sold to date, including
15.43 million last quarter, the tablet is quickly catching up to
the number of consoles on the market: the PlayStation 3 has sold
62 million units and Xbox 360 has moved more than 65 million
units. That growing user base is drawing developers who want to
see their games played on as many devices as possible.
"Apple is definitely building their devices as if they care
a lot about 'triple-A' games," said Mike Capps, president of
Epic Games, the studio behind "Gears of War" for consoles and
"Infinity Blade" for the iPad.
The "triple-A" moniker is bequeathed to only the
highest-quality video games -- those with the best graphics and
that cost in the tens of millions of dollars to produce. So far,
not many "triple-A" titles appear on mobile devices.
Capps, who has appeared on stage at all three of Apple's
iPad launches, said he is trying to push the console
manufacturers, Sony and Microsoft, to come out with more
powerful devices so they do not get left behind. On Wednesday,
he told the crowd in San Francisco the new iPad has better
screen resolution and more memory than Microsoft's Xbox and
While gamers today might still prefer to play shooter games
at home on big screen TVs with a handheld controller, that could
soon change, Capps said, especially if a bluetooth controller is
developed for the iPad.
"It is quite easy to imagine a world where an iPad is more
powerful than a home console, where it wirelessly talks to your
TV and wirelessly talks to your controller and becomes your new
console," Capps said in an interview.
Meanwhile, the industry is bracing for change. Frank Gibeau,
president of Electronic Arts' Labels, who oversees the
company's biggest games such as "Battlefield 3" and "Star Wars:
The Old Republic," said the company is eyeing Apple's moves
"When the iPad gets to the processing power that's equal to
an Xbox 360 and it connects to a television, that's no big deal
to us. We'll put the game through the iPad and have it display
through the television." Gibeau said.
BRING ON THE GAMES
EA has already brought some games from its marquee
franchises to the iPad: "Dead Space" and "Mass Effect".
For publishers, "it used to be, oh hey, it's just the
Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft show, but that's not the case
anymore," Gibeau said.
Germany's Crytek, which developed "Crysis 2" for consoles
and PCs, is working on its first game for the iPad, due out in
the spring. While that game will be puzzle-based -- minus the
free-wheeling pyrotechnics -- the company said it could one day
bring that genre of hardcore games to the device.
"As more people come to these platforms, we have to follow
our fans," said Kristoffer Waardahl, a Crytek studio manager.
While speedier iPads will soon be getting into more gamers
hands, Jeremy Parish, editor in chief of gaming blog 1UP.com,
said it does not necessarily put pressure on console makers to
come out with a new product any faster. The Xbox 360 launched in
2005 and the PlayStation 3 came out in 2006.
"For the console makers, it has got be a little bit of an
embarrassment to say that this tablet has more power and better
screen resolution. But at the same time, this will not be the
motivating factor to get them to jump into a new generation of
consoles," Parish said.
Yet the industry is counting on a new wave of gaming
hardware in the near future. Nintendo will release the "Wii U,"
its first console with high-definition graphics, later this
For now, experts are divided as to whether the new iPad will
make a dent on consoles but at least one investor said he does
expect sales of rival gaming products to be hurt.
"While consoles won't cease to exist, it does create
pressure on them by hurting their growth and taking away some of
their customers," said Michael Yoshikami, CEO of Destination
Sony spokesman Dan Race said "the PlayStation 3 business is
having its strongest year ever" and the "PlayStation $249 price
point is resonating with gamers and families alike."
Nintendo's U.S. executive vice president of sales and
marketing, Scott Moffitt said "Regardless of the device,
consumers have repeatedly demonstrated that they care more about
the experience than the tech specs."
Microsoft declined to comment.
Apart from the iPad, Apple's fledgling TV product is also
being watched closely by video game companies. Hudson Square
analyst Dan Ernst said he doubts the iPad will affect console
sales, but said an Apple TV with an app store could one day pose
a viable threat.