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Gaming is huge for Apple. It represents a large chunk of its revenue from the App Store and a significant driver of sales for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch product lines. So it should be no surprise that Apple built the iPad mini for gaming. The mini fills an important niche between the pseudo-desktop, full-tablet iPad experience and the portable, but often-congested iPhone environment.
When it comes to gaming, the iPad is great because it offers a full-screen domain that rivals browser-based titles. Releases like Need for Speed Shift and Final Fantasy III can be displayed in beautiful high definition with plenty of real estate for interface elements or large battlefields. The problem, however, is that the iPad is too big for truly portable gaming. Its 9.7-inch screen is impossible to fully use with one hand and difficult to hold comfortably while standing on the subway. This led to the iPad being the device of choice for full-featured mobile games that are most commonly played at home in long sessions.
On the other side of the spectrum, the ultra-portable iPhone is too small for many of those full-featured iPad offerings. The smartphone’s screen area limits many titles and their interfaces, resulting in either tiny menus, elements that clutter the battlefield screen, or both.
Games like Gun Bros and Star Legends were successful in spite of these limitations, but their user-experience difficulties show that the 4-inch iPhone screen is too small for a full-featured yet truly mobile game.
If the iPad is too big and the iPhone is too small, then the 7.9-inch iPad mini is just right. It fits perfectly in one hand, so it’s as portable as a phone while its big display dominates the device, giving titles much more room to work with. The mini represents the perfect compromise between the two existing Apple touch products, and it’s perfect for truly robust mobile gaming. The mini also sports the A5 dual-core chip and has the same resolution as the iPad 2 (1024×768), so not only will releases be more convenient to play, they will look beautiful and move at an impressive speed.
One simply needs to look at the successes of other, similar sized tablets to see the opportunity for the game industry. The Kindle Fire and other similarly proportioned Google Android-running tablets monetize significantly better than their smartphone counterparts, and iOS applications have always monetized better than Android ones. When you combine these two factors, the iPad mini could potentially hit the sweet spot as a platform for casual and hardcore mobile gaming.