Gaming and the iPad: A Potent Combo or an Epic Fail?

With great games available for iOS and the iPad, you’d be right to automatically assume that the iPad is a quality gaming platform. On that note, gaming and iOS is the theme of this opinion piece, more specifically I’ll be discussing whether the iPad can truly be a great gaming platform or whether it’s just a toy in the realm of consoles and desktop gaming. Read on for more.

Is the iPad a Solid Gaming Platform?

There are a number of games on the App Store that were previously console or PC only, such as the 10 year anniversary releases of some of the Grand Theft Auto series (specifically III and Vice City), FIFA, Need for Speed, Mass Effect and The Sims to name just a few. Seeing these releases come to the iPad will either make you jump for joy or cry with despair – “yes, finally, I can play GTA when I’m out and about” or “oh no, how could they do that to such a classic”.

Personally, I like to use my iPad to play games, but only up to a certain level, by this I mean only a certain type of game. App Store favourites such as Temple Run or Doodle Jump HD are perfect for playing on the iPad, but I’ve never been a fan of games which felt as though or indeed they had been ported to touchscreen from another platform.

The GTA games mentioned above are a perfect example of this — sure it was great that they’d been re-released in their entirety for the 10 year anniversary, but the games somehow didn’t feel right when played on a touch screen. The controls felt awkward and cumbersome, and shooting was a total nightmare for me. These games belonged on a console or a PC — the iPad just didn’t seem right for them.

GTA: Vice City doesn’t feel quite right being played on the iPad.

GTA: Vice City doesn’t feel quite right being played on the iPad (photo credit: CNET)

The same goes for racing games like Need for Speed or any other app that requires you to tilt and turn your iPad like some sort of mad man. For one, you can’t do all that and still expect to feel socially normal and second, they just don’t seem to work so well for me. Of course, I could just be terrible at playing these type of games on the iPad, but as someone who’d like to think of themselves as a seasoned PS3 gamer, I find that hard to believe.

There are other things that I don’t like about gaming on the iPad and this is becoming more and more apparent as time goes on — the amount of free-to-play games, also known as “freemium games” that require in-app purchases. Sure, some of you might think it’s a great business model, but some of these games are just absolute trash that hook you and then proceed to make off with the contents of your wallet.

Poker-type games are a prime example of this. Although well suited to the touch screen environment of the iPad, when you purchase chips through these games, you’re basically throwing your money away — turning it from real, spendable, useful cash into a number on a screen. I mean at least when you play proper online poker, you have a chance of changing that number on the screen back into real money again.

This leads on to the problem of children playing such games on the iPad and the associated problems that parents are having. Hardly a day goes by here in the UK when there isn’t a story in the news of a young child running up hundreds of pounds worth of charges to their parent’s credit cards because they’ve been buying in-app purchases without their knowledge.

Tip: Why not check out our debates for and against freemium games from March for a deeper insight into the world of free-to-play games and in-app purchases?

Who’s the blame for this? I couldn’t say. Perhaps the parents should have kept a closer eye on their children or perhaps the game developers should be more aware that this sort of thing can go on. I could of course be sailing against the current with my opinions on in-app purchases. It certainly says something when the top grossing iPad game of the moment (here in the UK anyway) is Candy Crush Saga — an app which is completely free!

Games like Temple Run just feel more at home on the iPad.

Games like Temple Run just feel more at home on the iPad.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not all doom and gloom. Like I said above, I love using my iPad for games — just a certain sort. In many ways the iPad is an excellent gaming platform, it has a lovely display, great(ish) battery life, is very portable and is one of the devices I’m most likely to have with me. The only problem on this front is Apple and their safety-first approach to allowing apps. These are all great things that are important for a gaming device, especially a portable one. And as we’re always moving into a more mobile world I’m all for pushing the boundaries of what can be done on devices like iPad.

The hours of fun that I’ve had on Temple Run, Doodle Jump and Stupid Zombies certainly cements the iPad, in my mind, as a very capable gaming platform but I guess my main point in this article then is that, in my opinion at least, games that come from consoles or PC, games that really thrive when you’ve got full control – be that with a controller or a keyboard, don’t really belong in the touch screen world.

So what do you think about gaming on the iPad? Do you love playing full size games like Grand Theft Auto, or do you prefer more touch screen friendly games like Temple Run and its successors. Leave a comment below with your views!


  • bgibson72

    It works well for games where point-and-click movement and interaction is required, but for games where constant contact with a controller of some sort is essential, like 99.99% of FPS games, not so much. That being said, I enjoy the former much more than the latter these days but I’m old, so…