- Video gaming could be the killer app for new iPad
- The tablet's high-definition display, quad-core processor allow for more complex games
- Analysts say new capabilities could narrow void between mobile and console gaming
Since the iPad first appeared in 2010, video gaming has been one of the key features Apple has touted for the device, alongside video viewing, electronic reading and Web browsing.
But on Wednesday, as it unveiled the latest version of its iconic tablet computer, Apple clearly set out to be a game changer in more ways than one.
"This new device actually has more memory and higher screen resolution than an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3," said Mike Capps, CEO of Epic Games. "So, these guys [Apple] are redefining mobile gaming again."
Dubbed a "graphics powerhouse" by Apple CEO Tim Cook, the new iPad's chief selling point is its high-resolution screen -- leaping from the iPad 2's 1024 by 768 pixels to a hefty 2047 by 1536 pixels.
That was a feature Capps noted at Apple's media event as he displayed "Infinity Blade: Dungeons," the new version of his company's fantasy-adventure game that runs on Apple's mobile operating system.
"[Infinity Blade: Dungeons] looks so amazing on the Retina Display on new iPad," Capps would say later on Twitter. "I'm stupid psyched about future of mobile gaming."
He's not the only one.
The burgeoning popularity of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones has given birth to so-called casual gaming. But while titles like "Angry Birds" and "Fruit Ninja" have been downloaded millions of times, self-styled "hardcore" PC and console gamers remained largely unimpressed.
Mark Walton, host of the "Appetite for Distraction" podcast on Gamespot.com, said the new iPad, with its graphic capabilities and speedy A5X quad-core processor, could begin changing that.
"I think the line between the two is increasingly becoming blurred," he said.
"There is more than 'Angry Birds' now. People are finally coming out of that mindset and realizing that it's not just these touch games. There's going to be a balance between these smaller, independent games -- the more casual ones -- and the bigger more complex ones."
One thing a device with the new iPad's processing and graphic capabilities can do, Walton said, is make it easier for game developers to convert their most popular titles from consoles to a mobile platform.
He said he believes the new iPad may also be making life more difficult for companies like Sony and Nintendo, who sell portable gaming devices.
Nintendo's handheld 3DS and Sony's new Playstation Vita have gotten largely positive reviews. But with individual games for those devices going for $30 and upward, an Apple app-store model could be devastating if it began consistently selling complex, visually compelling titles for a fraction of that cost, he said.
"Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy," a flight-simulation game from Namco, was the other title previewed for the new iPad on Wednesday.
If there's a deal-breaker for diehard gamers, Walton said, it may be the one CNET's Scott Stein mentioned in a post on Wednesday: the iPad's lack of the sort of physical controller that gamers have grown accustomed to using.
"Graphics can only take you so far," Stein wrote. "My recent experience with 'Mass Effect: Infiltrator' [for the iPhone and iPad] wasn't a letdown because of graphics; no, at least half of the problems arose from my fumbling with the awkward controls. ...
"With Apple's footprint getting larger by the month, it's time for a universal game controller to emerge that can be used with the iPad."