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Editorial: What could Apple's new iPad mean for MMOs?

Shawn Schuster

If you consider yourself any type of technophile at all, you're probably well aware of Apple's announcement yesterday regarding their new iPad. This is basically the love child of an iPod Touch and a tablet PC, allowing users to take a fairly powerful slab of computing power with them wherever they go. While it might not be as beefy as your desktop machine or even a mid-range laptop, it has caused a giant wave of interest from consumers. So how does this affect us, as MMO gamers? We're glad you asked!

Interestingly enough, Apple wanted to make sure that some gaming press were there for this huge unveiling of their new product. Our sister site Joystiq made an appearance for the in-person announcement in San Francisco yesterday and made some interesting observations about the role that gaming will play with the iPad. So follow along after the break as we explore the many possibilities that the iPad has as a next-gen mobile online gaming device that may or may not interest us.

Despite any misgivings you have about Apple, its products or the company itself, you have to admit they know how to create buzz. They've gone from a personal computer company to the largest mobile device company in the world, thanks to a relatively small line of quality products. But if there's one thing Apple has not been known for, it's gaming.

The iPhone is beginning to change that notion as we see a resurgence of simple, inexpensive games crawling back into the mainstream. Developers are intrigued by the fact that they can create a game that takes tremendously less time and resources to create, and have it sell millions of copies quite easily. The App Store has revolutionized the way we game, the way we buy games and where we play games.

But as far as MMO gamers are concerned, we're still waiting for that true massively multiplayer experience on a mobile device. There are a handful of games in the App Store that have pasted the "MMO" moniker conveniently in their search tags, but let's be honest... they're not even EverQuest at this point.

But can the iPad bring a bit of hope to those frustrated with the limitations of the iPhone's current gaming capacity? Let's take a look at the pros and cons:


  • Simple and extensive wireless technology. The iPad includes 3G support with relatively inexpensive data plans (250MB of data for $14.99/month or unlimited data for $29.99/month).
  • Runs all current iPhone games unmodified.
  • More room for controls, including advanced tilting over the iPhone.
  • Larger screen over the iPhone (9.7-inch IPS display at 1024x768)

  • No multitasking.
  • Although there is an add-on keyboard you can purchase, the practicality of the existing touch-screen keypad (or even the add-on, for that matter) is not set up for anything but word processing. You can say goodbye to your old friend WASD.
  • No Flash support, so browser-launched games like Free Realms aren't supported.
  • The 3G network is still exclusively through AT&T. Any current iPhone users will know why this is bad.

To expand from these points, there are other restrictions on the iPad that reach beyond gaming, such as no phone or camera capabilities. I just can't help but look at my newish Acer Aspire ONE netbook with its faster processor, larger screen, 10 times the storage capacity and 50% LOWER PRICE THAN THE CHEAPEST VERSION OF THE IPAD and scratch my head at why anyone would want this product for anything but showing off at the local Panera or Starbucks. Sure it's shiny, and it's an Apple, so people will buy the heck out of it. But will it become the next greatest thing for mobile online gaming? No. But who wants to leave their house anyway?

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