iPad Could Threaten Consoles - Neil Young
ngmoco CEO believes that Apple's new toy could shift the video game landscape.
Neil Young, founder and CEO of leading iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad game developer ngmoco, believes as Apple sells more iPads to consumers, more original games will be created for the tablet computer. ngmoco already has seven games available for the new device, although they are ports of iPhone/iPod Touch games with new features that take advantage of the iPad's functionality. But moving forward, his company will bring new IP to the device. We talk with him about the impact iPad will have on gaming and he gives his thoughts on how Apple might market the gaming aspect of this device in this exclusive interview.
How do you think the iPad's functionality will creatively open things up for game developers?
I think the device is awesome. I think normal human beings are going to be kinda blown away with it when they actually have the opportunity to interact with it. It's a beautiful screen with much larger format, multi-touch fields that are sporadically different when you're working with two hands on something. I think as a consumer device, it's giving Apple a foothold in the house, in the living room in particular.
What do you see as the iPad's role in the living room?
Everything from a gaming standpoint that you'd imagine people can do in the home, suddenly becomes viable on this platform, but viable in a different way. Humans react to what they see, what they hear, and what they touch. This radically changes the nature of the relationship with a game, because you're literally interacting with it very directly versus indirectly, which is how you might interact with a game on a laptop or through a console.
Can you give some specific examples of how your games are going to take advantage of iPad?
Technically, it's a much bigger iPod Touch with a faster graphics processor. From a user standpoint, the thing you have to think about is how users perceive interaction. You perceive interaction through what you see. If the screen is bigger, it changes the way you perceive interactions, what you hear, and also how you directly manipulate or interact with that experience. Video games in the home have always had this abstracted relationship, but the abstraction layer has been the DualShock or the SIXAXIS controller. The success of Nintendo's Wii was largely driven by the Wii-mote. Nintendo basically said we can't compete from a graphic software standpoint or a sound standpoint, but we can compete from a gameplay and a user interface standpoint. iPad takes that concept to the next level. Instead of actually manipulating things on a screen through the abstraction layer of a controller, you're manipulating things directly with your hands. For us, what that means is taking the games that we have both in the market today, and in our portfolio going forward, and figuring out, what can we add to these games that really takes advantage of those two big differences.
What are your thoughts on multi-touch interaction?
Multi-touch is great because you can actually take advantage of five touch points on the screen and work with more screen real estate. What we're doing in our games is we're adding to the product to give people more useful information as they're playing the game. In GodFinger, for example, you can have the story up and push it over to one side of the screen while you're scrolling around the world. You don't have to jump in and out between screens. In We Rule, you can see the social map of the kingdoms of all of your friends, while at the same time managing and manipulating your kingdom. That's a feature functionality that you can add. The real difference comes in the intimacy of the relationship that you now have with the game. It's literally sitting on your lap. You're touching on it with both pads. You're swiping, you're pulling things over. It's very Minority Report-ish. It's cool.
When you look at what the iPhone has done in terms of mainstream acceptance, how do you see the iPad rolling out in terms of attracting mainstream gamers?
I think it's going to take a while. I think that the initial [sales] are really a function of a very core base of users. At a certain point, things fall into the norm of, "Okay, how many households need this?" "How much do each of the devices cost?" "Where are they on their life cycle in terms of first generation, second generation, third generation?" The iPhone has gone through three generations. The iPod Touch has gone through three generations. Both devices have grown to that 75 million unit installed base phase. We certainly don't expect the iPad to have as fast a take-up in terms of unit sales as the iPhone or the iPod Touch had. We think ultimately, it can occupy a space in the home that puts its arms around the laptop, or the netbook in particular, and home video game consoles. My guess is this will be used as a multi-purpose device. If you're a netbook manufacturer, you have to be concerned. If you're the third place video game console manufacturer, I think you have to be concerned as well.
When it comes to the iPad as a gaming platform, most of the games are ports of existing titles from iPhone and iPod Touch. Do you see iPad as a platform that people would actually create original games for at some point?
Yeah, absolutely. It's just a function of in-store base. When the in-store base reaches the point where you can deliver something that's commercially viable by focusing on iPad, then the people will absolutely do that. I guess it was a couple of years in, but basically Apple turned around and focused on the iPhone and the iPod Touch as pretty much a gaming platform when you look at the commercials.
What role do you see games playing in the marketing of iPad over time?
I think the iPad is a very capable multi-purpose device, so my guess would be out the gate Apple's advertising is going to be balanced in terms of illustrating that it's a multi-purpose device. I think they'll probably spend a lot of time talking about a new web browsing experience, a new book reading experience, a new movie watching experience. I don't think it will be long before you start to see games, just like they have done on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, dominating the app download charts. Ultimately, that's what users will be doing. That's what Apple will end up promoting the device, at least one of its levels of functionality.
How long do you think it will take for game developers to really start showing off all the capabilities of iPad in games?
I think it will take awhile. I think my expectation is, although I don't know this for sure, that Apple will rev the hardware over, and over, and over again, just like they have on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, and introduce more powerful hardware that enables you to do more and more with the device. My guess is the point where people really show off what the iPad is capable of doing will be pretty close to the moment where the iPad is a viable stand-alone platform. That means you could build a game specifically for the iPad and make a meaningful business just exclusively focused on that. I think that's going to be probably no sooner than six months, and maybe twelve months from launch.