iPad Mini: Developers unfazed by pricing look towards tablet dominance

Dev community encouraged by new hardware and continued evolution of tablet tech

Apple's big event yesterday introduced new versions of the MacBook Pro, the Mac Mini, and the iMac, but for the game industry the big news was the changes to the iPad line.

Apple CEO Tim Cook informed us that total iPad sales recently hit 100 million units. That's in only two and a half years, but Apple is not resting on its success. The company has updated the iPad with new processing power (promising double to CPU and GPU power), and introduced the iPad Mini, which has the capabilities of the iPad 2 in a smaller, lighter package.

GamesIndustry International spoke with a variety of game app developers and analysts to see what they thought of Apple's new iPad Mini and the updated iPad. Will the iPad Mini be an effective competitor to 7" Android tablets that start at under $200, even though the iPad Mini starts at $329? With the A5 chip powering it, how will the iPad Mini be as a game playing device? Will the added power of the 4th gen iPad (2x CPU, 2X GPU) make a difference in game development decisions?

"Whenever Apple jumps into a category it increases awareness of the devices and creates a rising tide that will float all boats"

Doug Scott, DeNA

Gabriel Leydon, CEO of Machine Zone, called the iPad Mini "the best wireless tablet device in the market," adding that "the iPad Mini will be a fantastic gaming device. This super-fast LTE connection and larger than iPhone screen will lead to the creation of some amazing online tablet games."

Leydon feels that the price of the iPad Mini won't hold it back, either. "The iPad Mini will be a huge success. While $329 may seem expensive, the iOS ecosystem is the best in the mobile market." Leydon is excited about the extra horsepower of the updated iPad. "This will allow all developers to really push on the graphics side of game development. We expect the industry to push the limits of tablet gaming graphics in 2013," he noted.

Doug Scott, VP of Marketing and Revenue at at DeNA's U.S. subsidiary ngmoco, was similarly enthused about the potential of the iPad Mini. "We love it when Apple brings a new device to the market," Scott said. "The iPad Mini will benefit the entire mini tablet category; whenever Apple jumps into a category it increases awareness of the devices for consumers and creates a rising tide that will float all boats."


Greg Harper at Supercell, general manager for North America, feels the price is no barrier to sales. "Even at a $329 price point, the iPad Mini should really shake things up in the mini tablet market," Harper said. "The comparisons in the presentation today made it pretty clear that the Mini delivers a superior overall experience. I think most people will pay a little extra for that additional value. It feels like it's going to be tough for those other guys to compete with the Mini in this segment of the market."

Chris Ulm, CEO of Appy Entertainment, was impressed with the new hardware. "I think the new iPad Mini will be a massive success - we've been anticipating it for a long time," Ulm said. "I think the screen dimensions are wisely chosen - and as developers, we love the fact that our iPad games look and run beautifully without any effort on our part. The thinner screen, reduced weight, 10 hour battery life and one-handed operation will make this the standard education machine and will, in our view, ultimately be the most important tablet for game players. It also fits neatly in a handbag."

"Our only disappointment with the iPad Mini is its $329 entry price"

Chris Ulm, Appy Entertainment

But Ulm was not as happy about Apple's decision on pricing. "Our only disappointment with the iPad Mini is its $329 entry price. We would have preferred an 8GB model at $249 or even $199 to really be price competitive with the Nexus and Kindle tablets." It's not a deal-breaker, though, Ulm feels. "Apple will do fine - they will sell tons at $329, but we think they missed an opportunity to own the small tablet market. As iOS-centric game developers, we would prefer that Apple sells the next hundred million iPads in half the time"

Dave Castelnuovo, co-founder of Bolt Creative, feels that the price of the iPad Mini has some key advantages. "It will be a factor on two fronts," Castelnuovo explained. "The first is among people who already own an iPad. They would never be caught dead with an Android tablet, and will probably buy the iPad Mini for their kids or spouse. The second group is people that don't own an iPad because it's too expensive. This product is geared toward them. Android tablets have sold well, but haven't built up a market that can compare to the iPad despite their lower price. I don't think they will give Apple a lot of competition."


Castelnuovo feels that Apple is preparing a surprise for next year. "The nail in the coffin of Android tablets will come next year when Apple updates the iPad Mini design. At that point they will likely offer this current version of the iPad mini at a $100 discount. Then you will have a choice between a plastic piece of garbage for $200 that plays up-scaled phone apps, and a extremely well-built device with one of the most beautiful screens available for $229."

"You will have a choice between a plastic piece of garbage for $200 that plays up-scaled phone apps, and a extremely well-built device with one of the most beautiful screens available for $229"

Dave Castelnuovo, Bolt Creative

The A5 chip in the iPad Mini won't hold back games, Castelnuovo feels. "The A5 is still a great chip," he said. "There are not many games that fully max out what an iPad 2 can do. We are still targeting less than an iPad 1 as our min bench mark so the A5 should have plenty of life left."

The added power of the 4th gen iPad won't affect Bolt Creative's games."We need to be as compatible as possible across all Apple devices in the ecosystem," Castelnuovo said. "I think the only developers that will be taking advantage of the new specs are those who create 3D games, where they can just enable extra lighting, bump maps, pixel shaders, etc."

Marco DeMiroz, CEO of PlayFirst shrugs off the $329 price of the iPad Mini. "Apple has clearly demonstrated that the iPad platform's success driven by its total value to the consumers and we have seen no evidence of price sensitivity to iPad adoption." DeMiroz sees the iPad Mini games as being the same as current iPad games, the extra horsepower of the updated iPad won't be factor for their development.


Louis-Rene Auclair, chief brand officer at Hibernum Creations, is excited about this new product launch. "The new pricing will make iOS devices more affordable for the mass market and this means more players will be able to enjoy our games," Auclair said. "Although pricing is one of the major blockers in that category, Apple does have the marketing and distribution power to gain an advantage. Apple has shown time and time again that it can dominate a market space with great hardware, software and distribution models." Auclair is looking forward to the continued evolution of the iPad. "The next big step will be a GPU that supports 3D, as the processor is essentially equivalent to that of an Xbox 360," Auclair noted.

Jesse Divnich, VP of Insights & Analysis at EEDAR, had some different concerns about the iPad Mini and the updated iPad. "iPad 4 is a natural evolution of Apple's iPad line-up. I don't think the specs were surprising," Divnich said. "From a gaming perspective, we do have concerns that we are beginning to see a dichotomy in the technical specifications of tablets.

Much like PCs and laptops, there exists a low-end and high-end market. This fragmentation is a nightmare for developers, especially independent developers who do not have access to the same amount of resources for quality assurance." Divnich continued, "All consumer goods verticals have low-end and high-end products. But it is certainly a fragmentation that isn't favorable for independent developers."

"You're seeing yet another nail be hammered into handheld consoles' - I don't want to say coffin - but certainly the box they've gotten themselves walled into"

Scott Steinberg, TechSavvy Global

Scott Steinberg, CEO of TechSavvy Global, feels Apple has a winner on its hands despite the pricing.

"Obviously it's priced much higher than analysts expected and we would have like to have seen. Screenwise it's in the same range as the Kindle Fire and the Nook HD and other devices that are priced considerably lower. At the same time, Apple has such a commanding equity and leverage with regards to the market, consumers are going to be willing to pay a premium for the device," Steinberg said. "You can't underestimate the power that half a million apps holds. I don't think the iPad Mini is going to be a game-changer, but it continues to put more Apple devices into player's hands and it expands the marketplace. It helps reinforce Apple's commanding lead."

Steinberg feels the increased power of the iPad is going to be a factor in game development. "Game developers who can will take advantage of the new processing power and graphics capabilities available to them," Steinberg said. "The quality of games that are available on iOS devices is steadily increasing and expanding, becoming increasingly comparable to what you would see from a traditional dedicated handheld gaming device."

Speaking of handheld gaming consoles, will the iPad Mini put more pressure on handheld gaming consoles, with its price point at $329 and the new iPod Touch starting at $199 ($299 for the 5th generation)? Steinberg doesn't mince words: "You put tens of thousands of premium quality software selections plus multimedia capability in customer's hands, and you make it all incredibly convenient to access or stream on demand either for free or for a fraction of typical retail prices, then you're seeing yet another nail be hammered into handheld consoles' - I don't want to say coffin - but certainly the box they've gotten themselves walled into."

Related stories

Future iOS updates could end support for 32-bit apps

Fresh warnings in last iPhone and iPad update

By Christopher Dring

Report: Apple working on 'improving' App Store search

Google style paid-for result priority could be on the way

By Dan Pearson

Latest comments (29)

Nick Parker Consultant 5 years ago
I accept that the iPad Mini is targeting new, competitive demographic for Apple in the tablet market. I also accept that Apple is the premium brand like Sony was to consumer electronics in the 70s and 80s and therefore, at the moment, can demand higher prices. What I am curious to know is how is Apple going to manage a wide catalogue of devices in different configurations (its product verticals have been pretty clean up to this year) and how much does Apple care about the execution of games across those devices?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
Oh yes. This is a bigger announcement than Wii U, Xbox 360 or PS4, because 7 inch tablets will massively outsell all three of these devices combined. Apple have launched what will be one of the world's most successful gaming platforms.
I have access to and use a wide variety of these sorts of devices and the 7 inch format is just perfect for human beings in the real world. Amazon experimented with different Kindle sizes before settling on the 7 inch device that can easily be held in one hand for long periods.
I think that it won't take long for the majority of people in the developed world to own, use and carry a 7 inch tablet. They are just amazingly useful devices. I bought a Nexus 7 when it first came out and then bought one for the wife. We both use them for all sorts of things all the time, mine is on my desk now.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent5 years ago
This is a bigger announcement than Wii U, Xbox 360 or PS4
I could launch into exactly why this is so daft, but since 'bigness' of a launch or anything else is a purely subjective judgment, I'll simply say 'No, it isn't'.

Hopefully, Bruce, you'll come back with 'Yes, it is,' and we can go on like that until we're spent. Smiley face.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Howdle on 24th October 2012 10:53am

11Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (29)
Nick Scurr Senior QA Technician, FreeStyleGames5 years ago
I feel sorry for those working on these devices. How many iterations of the i-Devices must there be to test on and work on now?
You make a game for a console it works on all consoles. You make a game for the i-Pad you need to decide which you're going to support and potentially lose customers/income.
Maybe not a massive deal right now with Infinity Blade style games being few and far between.
I also wonder when the peak will be with these devices (not so much with the phones) as I would think eventually people will tire of the constant upgrading and hold out one or two iterations more in between upgrades. 24 months is the current sweet spot for myself.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
Next generation consoles will not be owned by more than 50% of the developed world's population, if they get to 20% they will be lucky. But the world will be flooded with 7 inch tablets, from 529 iPad Minis to $50 Chinese Android devices. We will get to a billion devices very quickly. Just think about what the gaming potential is there.

Consoles are niche and they are fast becoming a smaller niche.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tom Keresztes Programmer 5 years ago
Consoles are niche and they are fast becoming a smaller niche.
But a niche with 50+ million units each, making the total number of consoles well above the 100 million iPads. Quite large niche ;)
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nick Scurr Senior QA Technician, FreeStyleGames5 years ago
No-one is arguing that they've shifted a lot of units.
But people buy a games console to play games; not everyone buys a tablet to do so.
They co-exist just fine and will continue to do so.
13Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University5 years ago
The same old arguments, Bruce, that don't take into account the size of the game-playing audience on tablets and smartphones before you reach the same old conclusion that the console market will represent a tiny niche of people playing games. If only a small proportion (I am not saying that is or will be the case, but for argument's sake) of tablet users play games, versus 100% of the addressable console market, then suddenly the console market isn't so niche versus the games market on tablets.

We're far outside the realm of comparing sales figures of hardware and being able to say with any confidence what size or kind of game playing audience that represents, precisely because these products are as new and as "amazingly useful" as you say: tablets have a vast multitude of uses with which to attract users, and with which to occupy users time and money, games just being one part of the multitude. Games consoles continue to attract and hold their audience primarily through the strength of their videogame offering. Apples versus oranges has never been more applicable to the games market when it comes to this kind of skewed, thin comparison.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve5 years ago
"Then you will have a choice between a plastic piece of garbage for $200 that plays up-scaled phone apps, and a extremely well-built device with one of the most beautiful screens available for $229"

Wow, no subtlety about where this guys allegiance lies. Can we ask questions to people that don't have the opinions of a 15 year old?
8Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Scott Davis Product Analyst, Jagex Games Studio5 years ago
Joining in with the debate - Didn't Google recently publish a report saying only 50% of users actually play games on tablets? So isn't simply just looking at tablet sales and claiming that its the 'worlds best selling gaming device' bias?

...and to add, didn't another report suggest around 80% of social gamers didn't return to a single game after their first initial play session? Social games are a huge segment of tablet and phone gaming - I wouldn't say that's a dedicated userbase and can't imagine much internal monetisation from that if people aren't willing to keep playing your games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Scott Davis on 24th October 2012 1:02pm

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nick Scurr Senior QA Technician, FreeStyleGames5 years ago
Clearly the PC is the best gaming device - there are like a trillion PCs and they play games right?
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
I must be missing something. The Nexus 7 has double the RAM, double the cores, a higher resolution and higher DPI - and sells for significantly less. And surely most people that want a Apple tablet already have an iPad? Is Apple going to fill in all their product gaps like this?
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
@Michael Shamgar

For you and me yes. But you aren't just buying a device, you are buying into a whole ecosystem. And many people prefer the Apple ecosystem and this is a cheap way of getting into it.
Also these 7 inch devices are fantastic to own and use, Apple had no option but to be in this space. And people who want to be in this space and who favour Apple will buy this device, 10s of millions of them.
Then there is the social kudos of flouting an Apple product in public, a bit like wearing The North Face or driving a BMW. Three things I avoid, but all three brands have success from their social image.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tom Keresztes Programmer 5 years ago
I must be missing something
Real world performance. The tegra3 is actually inferior to an ipad2, especially in gaming performance. Although it has 4 cores, for example it lacks NEON instruction set (maing T3 the only A9 which lacks it), which shows on cpu usage during movie playback, making the battery life shorter. Plus IMGs gpu was so far ahead of the competition when it was released in the ipad2, that it still more than competitive to a T3/33.
And Jelly Bean is closer to what an ipad feels, but not quite there. Technical people argue about features, normal users try it, and you can see the look on their face they've expected an iPad for half the price. User experience is what sells Apple stuff, not technical parameters.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
iPOD touch looks really expensive now...
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Sergio Rosa "Somewhat-Creative Director", Domaginarium5 years ago
I agree with all the comments about tablets customer base is unimportant because you have to consider how many of those actually play games. On top of that you have to consider how many of that already small fraction will play the games I make (how many of those millions of iDevices users are fans of psychological horror games, and how many would actually pay considering they are all into the "freemium" model?). I am not one of those developers trying to make the next angry birds that turns non-gamers into gamers. I like games for specific audiences (and that is also "niche").

I don't get all this mumbo jumbo about tablets being console killers because they get faster hardware refreshes all the time. People seem to forget tablets and phones are devices designed to be discarded (hey, the new iPhone was released, and my current iPhone is only 6 months old but I'll get rid of it so I get the next one), while consoles are not. On the other hand, I believe we're unlikely to see a gamer say "hey my Xbox is just 6 months old, but the new xbox is out so I'll get rid of this one so I can get the new one" if consoles were refreshed that fast.

In the end it's like too many of the mobile gaming proponents forget that many console gamers are not interested on giving up their Zeldas and Batmans to play Angry Birds or whatever mobile game is "the thing" right now.
5Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
^That comment may have just picked up another sale.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
@Bruce... "Oh yes. This is a bigger announcement than Wii U, Xbox 360 or PS4"...
... Seriously?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Stephen Richards Game Deisgner 5 years ago
Okay apple, you stick by why your 90s style 4:3 aspect ratio makes the ipad better than the nexus 7. In the meantime, I'll convert my eighty pounds into one dollar notes and take a bath in them :)
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Adrian Herber5 years ago
These new iPads certainly do seem like a gift for game developers.

We've got the iPad mini, which will bring in a whole new market and all existing games just work on them so that's a free new market for game devs.

Then we've got the iPad 4, which finally pairs the retina display with a CPU that can power it without struggling. So although game devs still have to deal with the underpowered iPad 3, they now have a flagship device to show off awesome 3d games on, and can see a path ahead where they can drive retina-quality 3d. (I bet in the near future a lot more 3d games are going to deal with the iPad 3 by simply offering to downscale the res to the same as the iPad 2...)
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Doug Paras5 years ago
@ Bruce "Oh yes. This is a bigger announcement than Wii U, Xbox 360 or PS4"

Maybe to you but to me looking for a full fledged gaming device this means dick all to me. I'm not interested in playing Angry birds, its a time waster game where when you have 5 minutes to burn you play games like angry birds.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
Currently about 50% of tablet owners play games. Which is just fine because 50% of a billion in use is still a whole lot more than the consoles will achieve.

The world has changed. Everywhere I go I see people playing games. In the pub, on the bus, even walking in the street. And they are not using consoles.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Keldon Alleyne Developer, leader, writer, Avasopht Ltd5 years ago
Bruce you are right, people are playing "games" everywhere, but we all know the difference between a board game and COD. People are not playing COD in the pub, on the bus and walking in the street. They are all "games", but yet they're worlds apart.

When you fail to differentiate them you end up making inaccurate predictions on the demise of one because you are incapable of seeing the wood from the trees, but take a step back and you will see that people playing on their iPad will not stop people playing console games. It is just a different experience, like going to the cinema or imax versus having a Blu Ray and a 32" plasma. It's as simple as that, plus the pricing economics are very different, you pay 500 and get a portable device capable of achieving the graphical quality and gaming complexity (from requirement of realtime calculations) of a console you can buy for 120. The games you want to play are only relevant to 5-10 million people, so they can't sell for $1, but you're happy to pay 40 for it. The same can not be said for angry birds or temple run.

What is great with the mobile / tablet market is that it opens up the possibility of making a profit from simpler games, but as I often bring up, the economics are quite complex and I don't think the economy is anywhere near capable of catering for the financial needs of enough developers to be good. I do know a simple solution as to how it could be made better, but it's just so hard for some people to grasp at the moment, like negative numbers and decimal points when they were introduced.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 25th October 2012 10:32am

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
Very rapidly mobile games are becoming server based. They live in the cloud and so can effectively have infinite size and infinite horsepower. So the potential is greater than that of most consoles which are stuck in the rut of physical inventory. It is only by discarding bricks and mortar retail that any gaming platform can possibly survive.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Keldon Alleyne Developer, leader, writer, Avasopht Ltd5 years ago
Good point. Gaikai have proved that they can match console input lag, and by being in the cloud opens up new possibilities. The only necessary hardware upgrades would be new input devices (if needed). It might have a massive influence development too since games can be upgraded and deployed almost instantly with updated graphics.

And in terms of discarding bricks and mortar retail, 100% behind that. At most a service could be provided to obtain some games on disks until broadband is truly available to all, but at the moment digital is being held back by what appears to me to be publishers making downloads uncompetitive against retail in case it upstages it and upsets retailers.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D5 years ago
I paid 49.99 for FIFA on PSN. I wouldn't for regular games, but FIFA's one of those games I KNOW I'll play all year (the other being NHL) and so having it on my HDD would save me looking for the disk. I don't trade games in either, so that's not an issue. It was overpriced, but in this case I didn't mind too much.

I DID buy the recent Ghost Recon on PSN, too - but that was a disaster. Horrible, horrible game. I haven't traded a game in for years, but if I'd have bought the physical version then that one may well have been traded in the day after I bought it.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London5 years ago
Bruce - "Very rapidly mobile games are becoming server based"
Which is great, until you want to play that game on the tube or a plane or...

I've got half a dozen server-based games sitting on my phone, and I hardly ever play any of them because the times I'm most likely to play a game on my phone are when I have little or no signal while commuting on the rail and tube.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago
Has anyone touched on the LOL inducing fact that Amazon experienced the biggest sales of their new Kindle Fire HD right after Apple announced the specifications, pricing and size of the iPad mini. Amazon as usual don't release sales figures but, they also never mention sales unless something significant happened to them.

I guess Joe public isn't quite as locked in to the Apple eco system as some were lead to believe. Looks like a decent device at a good price is the kicker.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee5 years ago
iPad Mini isn't actually that impressive compared to the Nexus 7 (or even the Kindle Fire HD), particularly given the high price and compromised specs, and yes @Rick the iPod Touch is really expensive as it is but especially now after the iPad Mini launch.

As for comparing the launch to consoles, nonsensical.

Its not as if tablets are insignificant in the gaming arena but the context is all wrong. I find it odd for starters that we're not putting them up against the Playstation Vita and Nintendo 3DS given the experience is nothing like a 360 or PS3, let alone the form factor. Then the continual point being missed that as someone picked up, not all tablet owners are gamers whereas all console owners are and will hang on to their machine for as many as 5 to 10 years.

There's no way I would keep a tablet that long...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 29th October 2012 1:23pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.