iPad Journey

The new iPad, third generation, iPad 3, whatever you call it, is a serious gaming machine. For some games, it even rivals a console like the PlayStation 3. We’re going to see more and more gaming done on the iPad in the months to come. And we’re going to like it.

In fact, I think this new iPad is going to replace game consoles. Here’s why:

Due to some unexpected monies in my hot little hands this past month, I was able to acquire a PlayStation Vita portable gaming device from Sony. I’d sworn off dedicated gaming devices (you can read the previous link on your own), so suffice it to say I took some ribbing from my gaming friends for the purchase.

The touchscreen on the thing is fantastic, while the app icons are very iOS-inspired. My first impression? It’s an iPhone with buttons. Sweet! Of course, I’d heard all the griping online about how the touchscreen, front and back, was merely a gimmick to bring smartphone gamers back to the warm embrace of a Sony-created handheld device. I’m sure that was part of it, but not all. The touchscreen, especially the front, makes navigating menus, buttons, and typing super simple and intuitive. Which in turn makes the PS Vita more accessible to gaming newbies. Just like the iPad, right?

I also picked up a game called Escape Plan that makes extensive use of the touchscreen. A game that looks a lot like the iOS game Numberlys, at least in the art and character design arena. This is a game that is expressly designed for the touchscreen, as mentioned on the splash-screen when the game starts up. Wait, what?

Escape Plan, selling for $15, is essentially a touchscreen experience that plays so much like an iPhone game that I keep wondering why it’s not on iOS. Granted, there is a a rear touchpad mechanic that wouldn’t work as is on the iPhone or iPad, but still. It’s hard not to compare the two systems and wonder whether it’s worth buying a very expensive handheld gaming system and a $15 game that otherwise might start at around $2.99 on the Apple App Store.

Let’s also remember that the iPad has the very same graphic chip the Vita has. The. Very. Same. Chip. How does that not impress gamers? There aren’t buttons on the iPad, I get that. Some games really do work better with analog sticks and physical buttons that we need to find by feel so we can concentrate on things happening on the screen. Right, yes, OK. But for games that don’t require that? The iPad is an incredibly fantastic gaming machine in its own right.

Journey (pictured at top in a theoretical image), by Thatgamecompany, came out for $15 on the PlayStation 3. It’s a downloadable game, the same as Escape Plan above, and every other iOS game out there. It’s a brilliant, incredible, emotionally engaging experience with beautiful art design and heart-achingly affecting music. A friend of mine called it a “cinematic experience,” and while I disagree with that for more technical reasons, I think it’s a valid descriptor most non-gaming folks would identify with.

But, I told that very same friend, Journey could very well be played on an iPad. Especially the new iPad. And, if the big screen TV and surround sound system is really the point of the game (and I don’t believe it is — not entirely), then remember that the new iPad can stream anything to the new AppleTV in 1080p. Do we need a button-laden controller? No! Journey is a one-button game, with some tilt for camera action. Isn’t the iPad the perfect fit for that?

Bottom line here: Do all the games we play truly require a controller and a console? Can’t the iPad that I buy for work and checking email and web surfing on the go also become my home console for many of these games? How about if we look at any number of currently available and future-planned peripheral joysticks and controllers for the iPad? Let’s imagine a scenario in which I’m playing a game like Journey via a console-style controller that connects to my iPad via Bluetooth, streaming a game in 1080p to my giant HDTV. Wait, we don’t even have to imagine that (except maybe the Bluetooth bit) at all. It can happen now.

The new iPad (and iOS in general, really) is for gaming. Plain and simple. I believe more people are going to see that, and the days of a robust, high-end, dedicated handheld market, as it stands today, are numbered. As are, perhaps farther in the future, the days of the console market. Heresy!

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Feel free to disagree entirely as long as you’re nice about it.