Industry Gamers conjures up an interesting question in light of the launch of Apple's iPad 2 and other rival tablets this year. As pointed out, the tablet hardware refresh thus far is on a year-to-year schedule whereas portable and mainstream gaming consoles provided by Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony typically endure a 5-year hardware refresh.
That said, it's certainly possible the tablet sector will eventually bypass handheld and mainstream consoles in hardware alone, possibly forcing the big three to follow in Sega's footsteps by converting into software-only developers and distributors. Currently the only roadblock tablets really face in replacing consoles is the proper method of player input and the total embrace of the gaming industry.
But given that the iPad 2 is already nine times more graphically capable than the original iPad, it may not be long before the industry views tablets as a solid platform. Sony has already taken a liking to Google's Android OS, offering the PlayStation Suite and its library of PlayStation One games. There's even rumors that PlayStation 2 titles will go mobile one Nvidia launches its quad-core "Kal-El" Tegra processor.
Former Sony executive and London Venture Partners co-founder Phil Harrison definitely believes tablets could replace consoles in the near future, but points out the aforementioned compromises in terms of a user interface and overall experience of gaming on tablets. "The touch screen interface will enable other forms of game experience and game design that you couldn't do on a TV-based console, so I think there's going to be a tradeoff," he said. "But I think the pads/tablets market is going to be a very vibrant market for games."
He also added that various elements of PC gaming can be brought to tablets as well. "But it's not just the technology," he said. "It's the business models you can put on these devices - free-to-play, microtransactions, built on social networks, delivered through a browser-style interface that is either an app or stream. These are 21st century business models that are going to prevail."
Apple's iPad 2 launched on Friday and has already received "rave reviews" from game developers, some believing it's on par with Sony's upcoming NGP platform. "We already know that the original iPad is much faster than the 3DS, and the iPad 2 looks to be equal to (if not better than) the PSP2 in terms of raw graphical horsepower," said Bolt Creative's Dave Castelnuova. "It will be interesting to see how all three devices compete over the next year."
Yep, an interesting year indeed.