For Hong-Yee Wong, the scenario is all too familiar. Apple unveils an innovative mobile device, and critics are quick to point out its flaws before even seeing what effect it has on the mobile-entertainment market.
The CEO of IUGO Mobile Entertainment, the Vancouver-based game developer behind such iPhone titles as Toy Bot Diaries and Zombie Attack, is optimistic that the highly anticipated iPad will create a new market in interactive entertainment, much as the iPhone did after its release in 2007.
“We are definitely very excited to see the new platform,” Wong told the Georgia Straight by phone. “I think it’s a revolutionary device, and I think it provides a new paradigm for the interactive digital lifestyle.”
Unveiled back in January by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the iPad is a touchscreen tablet computer that resembles a large iPod Touch. One line of iPads will be Wi-Fi–enabled, while the other will have both Wi-Fi and 3G capabilities. The former will be released in the U.S. on April 3, with both becoming available in Canada, the U.S., and other countries by late April.
While skeptics have dismissed the iPad as uninspiring, Wong sees nothing but potential. Wong noted that the iPhone received similar criticism prior to the launch of the App Store, and we all know how that turned out.
Michael Fergusson, CEO of Ayogo, another Vancouver-based mobile-game developer, echoes Wong’s sentiments.
“There are those who say it’s nothing more than a big iPod Touch—it has a bigger screen, there’s no multitasking—but there were also those who said that about the iPhone: that it wasn’t going to be a game changer,” Fergusson said by phone.
Both IUGO and Ayogo are in the midst of developing games for the iPad. Wong and Fergusson agree that the only way to successfully carve out a place in the mobile-game market is to design products geared to the specifications of each device.
“We looked at the iPhone as a unique device, and we designed an original game for the device that made you solve things by using the tilt functionality or the touchscreen,” Wong said. “We’re definitely looking at the uniqueness for the iPad. We’re not blindly extending what we have on the iPhone or the iPod Touch onto it because we do spend a lot of attention and focus on the user experience and a lot of the user interface, and it’s critical to us.”
Fergusson said the iPad’s key feature is its larger, 9.7-inch touchscreen, which will allow developers to create a multiplayer experience that is impossible on the iPhone or the iPod Touch.
“When you think about games that you play on your phone and then you think about games that you play with other people, like board games—I mean, Monopoly is hard to play on an iPhone,” Fergusson said. “It’s hard to play on a board that’s four inches by two inches, but it’s a lot easier to play on one that’s 10 inches.”
Screen size is one of the reasons Andres Wanner, a lecturer at Simon Fraser University’s school of interactive arts and technology in Surrey, believes the iPad will be a success. According to Wanner, the screen will also allow innovative features to be developed for applications for use in everyday life.
“Map applications have been quite a successful thing on the iPhone itself, but when you think of a map, you don’t want to have tiny little details but, rather, a large overview,” Wanner explained by phone. “The big screen will help with that, and that’s one way that the iPad will have an advantage over the iPhone.”
Wanner predicts that, at first, only tech-savvy individuals will pick up the device. However, he said he wouldn’t be surprised to see older generations embrace the device later, as its simplicity could appeal to those who thought the iPhone and iPod Touch were too small.
Fergusson is hopeful that developers will take heed of how consumers use the iPad, so that they can create better products for the device.
“Right now, we’ll only have early-stage games, but as we get better over time, I’m sure we’ll see more and more innovative games on the device, and really see what the iPad is capable of,” Fergusson said.