Games like Real Racing 3 could become much more popular thanks to the iPad mini. Image: Apple
When Apple unveiled its new iPad mini at a San Jose event on Tuesday, the big sales pitch was, “You can hold it in one hand!”
That may sound like an anemic marketing line. But game developers say that the mini’s increased portability could have a huge impact on the mobile game industry and boost the importance of tablet gaming.
“This is going to be the beginning of the truly online tablet,” Gabriel Leydon, CEO of mobile gamemaker Machine Zone, said via phone on Tuesday.
Developers of tablet games, Leydon says, currently cannot expect players to be connected online at all times. That’s distinct from smartphone gaming, where every player has a 3G data connection. The most popular and lucrative multiplayer games on phones, like Words With Friends, rely on the always-on connection to get players hooked, trading moves back and forth no matter where they are.
Since the 7-inch device is significantly more portable, consumers will be more likely to take it out of their homes than the full-sized iPad, Leydon said. And being away from their Wi-Fi hotspots, they’ll then be more likely to buy the 3G version of the mini for a reliable connection. Then, he argued, as people get used to being constantly connected on tablets, the demand for that feature will cross over into tablet computers of all sizes.
“Society as a whole will get used to the idea that tablets are supposed to be connected 24-7,” said Leydon. And if connected gaming is the most sticky, addictive kind, that means tablets will become an even more popular way to play.
The iPad mini is entering a market with numerous other high-quality products. Amazon’s new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is a major refinement over the original, and Google’s Nexus 7 set the standard for 7-inch devices upon its release this summer.
That said, the mini will be the best 7-inch mobile gaming platform on the market when it launches on Nov. 2, because it will support over 250,000 previously existing iPad apps on launch day.
Other makers of iOS apps are just plain excited to have any new gaming hardware from Apple.
“Whenever Apple announces a new form factor for a device, that’s good for the industry as a whole,” says Doug Scott, vice president of marketing at Ngmoco. “There’s going to be more attention on our games.”