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Probably the most interesting thing about the iOS ecosystem is how supportive, whether purposefully or by accident, it has been for the indie game development industry. But many fear the latest version of Apple’s iPad could cause them to lose the ability to compete.
The iOS platform has made everything old new again, allowing developers to find real leverage with genres that are mostly dead or undervalued on other platforms. Point-and-click adventures and 2-D side-scrolling platformers, for example, have largely been pushed out by 3-D games on consoles and PC. While a healthy sort of retro, indie sphere exists where these games are still played and enjoyed, it’s fairly small in comparison to more technologically advanced kinds of games.
The bite-size focus of apps, the smaller screens and the touch controls of Apple’s devices have reinvigorated many of those games on the platform. But as the new iPad pushes the limit of what mobile games can do in terms of graphics, some indie developers are worried that they won’t have the money to create top-level visuals for their titles, and that’ll mean getting pushed out by bigger companies such as Ubisoft, Gameloft and Electronic Arts, who have a lot more money to throw around.
As PocketGamer reports, developers seem split on the issue. On the one hand, the new iPad is capable of some really powerful graphics, especially with its Retina display. The upcoming Infinity Blade: Dungeons and Ravensword 2 are especially pushing the envelope, and many have remarked that these games look like they carry console-quality visuals.
But the culture of iOS makes others think this won’t be nearly so much of an issue. While developers may have to devote more time to creating assets for the new Retina display, if the app phenomenon has proven anything, it’s that games can be very successful regardless of their graphical prowess. Lots of developers do very well with low-res, 8-bit or stylized graphics. Many developers and analysts maintain that there’s still room for everyone.
Still, other developers worry that the increase in graphical power but less so in processing power could make games designed for the iPad 2 actually run slower on the new iPad. Developers will need to create new assets for the Retina display, since it has so much more resolution than the iPad 2, and the iPad will have to devote resources to rendering those images. And the larger files needed to bring those sharp graphics to apps also eat up a lot of storage memory.
The new iPad starts hitting gamers’ hands on Friday, March 16. Just how it will change the mobile gaming landscape isn’t apparent just yet, but we’ll be watching closely to see how developers, gamers and games themselves are altered by Apple’s latest device.