Back to the future with a joystick for the iPad

Sep 2, 2011
Games

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column pointing out how innovation in games is a different beast to innovation in hardware. New mobile hardware is released on a yearly basis, but you rarely see the sort of leap in hardware tech that you see from a home console. Clearly, it’s a good thing peripheral […]

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column pointing out how innovation in games is a different beast to innovation in hardware. New mobile hardware is released on a yearly basis, but you rarely see the sort of leap in hardware tech that you see from a home console. Clearly, it’s a good thing peripheral developers don’t listen to me, because a couple of joystick adapters made specifically for the iPad could cause a sea change in mobile gaming.

It’s funny to think of a joystick as a game-changing device, seeing as it’s such an essential part of console gaming, but for a largely touch-based game platform, going back to the future with some old-school tech from Logitech, complete with construction so the joystick snaps back into place like the real deal, might open up a whole new gaming avenue for app developers.

That’s not to say that touch and swipe based games like Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja would suddenly disappear. Obviously, those games are a huge part of the appeal for mobile games in the first place. Frankly, sometimes I just want to slice some fruit. And doing that with a cursor you moved with a joystick would be terrible.

But when you’re in the mood for some sports games, an attachable joystick could actually make an app like Madden NFL 12 more appealing. You can say whatever you want about how great you think the touch controls on the mobile Madden work, but they just can’t provide the same gaming experience that a joystick can. My finger is constantly slipping when I play app games and it’s not a big deal, but an analog stick changes the entire experience.

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Giving gamers (and developers) the option of a joystick would increase the appeal of racing games, too. Nothing against accelerometer controls (which for the most part are actually used well in racing apps), but I think that if gamers were given the option to put a joystick on and play Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, you’d turn mobile gaming into a much more viable threat to home consoles.

Already, handheld gaming developers are feeling the effects of the mobile gaming market. Nintendo’s 3DS had a number of problems at launch that caused it to immediately lower its price point. I firmly believe that their biggest problem wasn’t lack of killer apps, but a lack of desire from the casual gaming market to invest in something that, to them, is like a less impressive iPhone.

The iPhone and iPad isn’t going to look like a PS3 (or whatever is up next in the console market) anytime soon, but giving it a chance to better mimic console gameplay gives it a fighting chance to get even more creative with outside-the-box app games. Call me a control freak, but that sounds good to me.

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Dan Kricke

Dan Kricke has been playing with electronics and writing about them for years. He loved his Sega Dreamcast and now the PlayStation 3. On the iPhone, he's a fan of sports apps and anything that offers new music.

 

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