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SAN FRANCISCO – When Steve Jobs took the stage to unveil iPad2 on March 2 in San Francisco, just across the street there was a gathering of 19,000 game industry professionals preparing for a new revolution of games. In fact, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata was delivering a keynote trumpeting the March 27 release of the world’s first glasses free 3D Nintendo 3DS portable in the U.S. at the exact same time that Jobs was discussing how iPad 2 delivers a 1GHz dual core A5 processor built for faster apps and games.
Apple has relied heavily on games over the past few years to help sell its iPhone line, iPod touch devices, and its iPad tablets. The iPad, alone, currently has over 65,000 Apps and games available. And the quality of the gameplay experiences on the iPad, thanks in part to the large HD screen, has bridged the gap between consoles and the portable gaming market.
Starting on March 11, the world of Apple and video games will once again converge as game developers line up to create the next round of interactive entertainment for the second generation Apple tablet device. After selling over 15 million iPads and generating over $9.5 billion in just nine months last year, Apple has unleashed a new tablet designed from the ground up to offer more functionality – including dual cameras, a built-in gyroscope, and HDMI connectivity for playback on HD TVs – perfect for video games.
“The iPad 2 is similar to the original iPad in that it is a destination device, but now with significantly more capability allowing us to make even more engaging experiences,” said Travis Boatman, senior vice president of worldwide studios, EA Mobile. “Much in the way we used the accelerometer for games like Spore and Need for Speed, you can imagine how the front and rear cameras can be used as key components of gameplay or social interaction.”
“The camera feature is one we’ve already started to implement in some of our upcoming games, such as Play Kalei, where you can take a photo, and upload it into the game to use as a level,” said Joe Wee, co-founder and co-general manager, Chillingo. “It’s a simple example, but the point is that it’s now that much more seamless to integrate media like photos into games.”
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. And most important for gamers, the new tablet retains 10 hours of battery life per charge.
“With gyroscope incorporated there’s an opportunity to develop games that take advantage of this new feature on a bigger screen,” said Baudouin Corman, vice president of publishing, Americas, Gameloft. “For example, in Shadow Guardian HD, a player can look all around to get a better perspective as they navigate through the missions.”
Jonathan Kromrey, executive producer at Namco Bandai Games America, said one of the cool features of the new tablet is the ability to play games like Lost in Time: The Clockwork Tower on the go and then come home and play it on a big screen HD TV.
“We’re looking forward to the standardized video out/mirroring support as it means every iPad user now has a portable, high-def game console in their hands,” said Wee. “This has huge implications for the future of mobile games, and you’ll be seeing some great new titles from us that will make you reassess the need for a traditional game console.”
One of the iPad 2 launch titles is Epic Games new action fighting game, Infinity Blade, which has been redesigned to take advantage of the new tablet.
“With Infinity Blade we’ve updated the game to improve graphical detail, smoothness and overall performance,” said Mark Rein, vice president, Epic Games. “The iPad 2 offers nine times more graphical power and our Unreal Engine 3 technology can already take advantage of every bit of that.”
Brian Selzer, president and co-founder, Ogmento, believes the iPad 2 will open up new opportunities for Augmented Reality (AR) games. AR games, which are currently available on Sony’s PSP devices and will launch with Nintendo 3DS, use cameras to bring virtual characters to life with real-world backdrops.
“We can now finally create AR experiences for the iPad 2, using both forward and rear facing cameras,” said Selzer, who said games like chess, Battleship and Monopoly are perfect for this technology. “One can imagine a scenario where people are sitting around the table with their iPad 2s all facing the center of the table. The game experience can then happen on the table in front of each player, and as they look through the camera each player will get a different perspective view and experience of the gameplay action.”
Andrew Stein, director of product development – mobile, at PopCap Games, said developers will need to still keep in mind that an audience of 20 million or so existing iPad owners won’t be able to use these new features, so an App that relies on them will have a potentially limited audience at first — unless the app is universal to iPhone 4/ iPod touch 4th generation, which share most of the same feature set as the iPad 2.
One major difference between the launch of the first iPad and this sequel is that Apple is facing stiff competition from technology companies like NVIDIA and Intel and consumer electronic companies and handset makers like Samsung, Dell, HTC, Motorola, Vizio, Acer, and LG.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide shipments of tablets reached 10.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, which was more than double the 4.5 million shipped in the third quarter. Loren Loverde, vice president, consumer device trackers, IDC, forecasts that global shipments of tablets, including iPad 2, will top 50 million in 2011.
And video games will remain a driving force in showcasing the power of the iPad 2 and other tablet devices, and enticing consumers to jump into this emerging market place.
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