IPad Out to Prove Itself as Gaming Platform, but Will Users Play Along?

Only 30% Say They'd Use Device for Games, Yet Developers Are Hard at Work Creating Apps

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- It's been called a giant iPod Touch, an evolved e-reader, a third computing device and even "the most important thing I've ever done" by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. One thing Apple's iPad -- out April 3 -- hasn't been called? Great for gaming.

Only 30% of people said they'd use the iPad for gaming, versus 37% and 34% who said they would read books and newspapers, respectively, according to a recent ComScore survey.

But developers aren't overlooking the iPad's potential as a portable gaming device. When the iPhone launched in 2007, gaming was a clear second thought; by 2009, iPhone and iPod Touch games accounted for $500 million in app revenue, according to Flurry Analtyics, and last week App Store data showed that half the top 10 paid apps were games and nine of the top 10 free downloads were games.

If you asked people three or four years ago how they'd like to use their iPhones, "gaming probably wouldn't have been high on the list," said Michael Cai, video game analyst with Interpret. But "Apple can bank on thousands of independent game developers and even traditional game developers and their creativity when it comes to iPad gaming."

Game developers, the same market that moved the iPhone apps game needle, are already at work on iPad apps.

'Entertainment map'
NGMoco, creators of hits such as Eliminate and TouchPets, is re-developing some of its current App Store games for the iPad as well as working on native iPad games. "We Rule," "Godfinger" and "Charadium" will get iPad versions. Other developers like Other Ocean, developers of Sega's "Super Monkey Ball 2" for the iPhone, have said they will create games first for the iPad then follow up with iPhone and iPod Touch versions.

"What the iPad does is, it gives Apple and everyone who publishes [for iPad] the ability to intersect with another area of what I call a person's entertainment map -- and that's in the home. Apple hasn't really had that foothold in the house," said Clive Downie, VP-marketing at NGMoco. "It's going to be a significant entertainment device; and gaming is a part of that."

"Its bigger screen, high resolution and better quality are more conducive to group type of games. You can imagine a family gathering around the iPad to play," said Mobclix co-founder Sunil Verma. "This time around it will be different than with the iPhone because the premium game publishers are developing for it right off the bat. You'll see a lot of great big titles at launch."

Many developers are excited not only about the bigger screen and more immersive game-play potential of the iPad, but also about using the iPad to design and play games in ways that haven't been done before, said Brad Spirrison, managing editor of Appolicious. "They're talking about applications that can be run along with other media in the home and even integrated (with other devices)," he said.

Publishers may be able to use tiered pricing with iPad and iPhone games; much like Blu-ray and DVD where consumers are willing to pay 20% more for Blu-ray's better quality, they may pay more for iPad games.

Community on-board
"The hypothesis is that the iPad will be better off from Day 1 being supported by the game community than the iPhone or iTouch were," said Peter Farago, VP-marketing at Flurry and a former gaming exec at Digital Chocolate and Electronic Arts. "People have a better understanding now of Apple and its ability to get a large installed base. And that's what game makers want."

Gaming has been the No. 1 app category since the App Store's launch in 2008, only surpassed a few weeks ago by books, according to Mobclix data. More than 17%, about 26,000, of the App Store apps are games. (Books account for about 19%; or almost 28,000, with the glut of books attributed in part to iPad's launch.)

Still, there are questions. The iPad is priced significantly higher than the gaming-positioned iPod Touch, and likely won't function as a replacement for computers, where PC games reign.

"Sure, my kids want an iPad, but the iPod Touch is more compelling (for gaming) in both form factor and price point relative to the iPad," said Raven Zachary, president of mobile agency Small Society.

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