The New iPad As A Gaming Device

The new iPad is out today, and developers are scrambling to update their games to support the device’s super high resolution display. Some big-name titles have already been updated, like Real Racing 2 HD, Infinity Blade II, Mass Effect Infiltrator, Modern Combat 3, and Flight Control Rocket. I’ve played the games and talked to developers, so let’s have a look at the new iPad as a gaming machine, shall we?

First things first: Is it worth buying a new iPad primarily for gaming? There’s no one answer that will apply to everyone, but let’s put it this way: there’s no rush. Right now only a handful of games support the new iPad’s resolution, and whether your favorite iPad games will ever be updated is an open question. Of course, it’s all but guaranteed that more and more games will be updated in the coming months. Also, we’ve spoken to many developers about the subject and, while they have different plans about updating their existing games, they all said that their future iPad games will come with Retina graphics.

If you haven’t used a new iPad yet, you’re probably wondering how the Retina-optimized games look. The answer is fantastic. The difference is noticeable, if not exactly mind-blowing. Modern Combat 3 and Infinity Blade II have textures far sharper than you’ve ever seen on an iPad, or even on a Retina display-equipped iPhone or iPod Touch. If the graphics don’t quite match what you’d find on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, they’re really closing in. I should also note that the new iPad handles the games with ease– I didn’t notice any slowdown or framerate glitches at all.

If there’s anything negative to say about the Retina-capable iPad games, it’s that some of the updates feel a bit rushed. For instance, as great as the environments and character models look in Infinity Blade II, the HUD– which is made up of various icons and text overlays– hasn’t been updated, so it looks noticeably more pixelated. The same goes for some of the menus of Modern Combat 3. These are things that can (and hopefully will) be fixed with future updates, but right now they look a little out of place.

Which brings us to playing games that haven’t been optimized for the new iPad. In these games, yes, some pixelation is noticeable, but it’s not distracting. If you’re holding the iPad near your lap, you don’t really notice it. That’s a relief, because who would want to use a device where 99% of the apps looked pixelated and muddy at release?

So what do developers have to say about the new iPad? Mostly positive things, which should come as no surprise. Josh Presseisen from Crescent Moon Games says, “This could be the dawn of a new era for gaming– I believe the new iPad’s screen could give players an experience they’ve never had before.” Crescent Moon has definite plans to update their recent platformer Paper Monsters for the new iPad, and to develop all future games with the new screen resolution built in. Kepa Auwae from Rocketcat Games says they plan to update their popular games, like Mage Gauntlet, for the new iPad’s resolution.

Developers did raise a few concerns, but most of them are minor. Mr. Auwae mentioned that adding a new resolution to iOS devices could be a pain for some developers, depending on the type of graphics they use. “Still,” he said, it’s “not as huge of a pain in the ass as supporting Android.”

A few developers noted that apps designed for the new iPad will take up more hard drive space. For instance, as CNET reports, the file size of Pages, Apple’s word processing app, went from 95MB to 269MB with the Retina update– almost triple the size. That means it’s probably wise to buy the 32 or 64GB iPad, and that it’s going to be harder for developers to make their apps ring in under the 50MB download limit for cellular connections.

Regardless of any drawbacks, I’m enjoying my new toy and can’t say I have any regrets about buying it. As for my old iPad? You can find it on eBay.