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Is the iPad suitable for serious gamers?

Apple's tablet offers more than merely a 'casual' gaming experience

It could be about time we all started taking the iPad seriously as a gaming device.

Just this week we have seen the launch of Max Payne Mobile from Rockstar Games and other big-name titles such as Infinity Blade have come to iOS recently.

It has been suggested that Apple's serious gaming ambitions lie with its connected TV plans, though Apple CEO Tim Cook clearly believes that the iPad could pose a threat to existing consoles.

"We asked iPad users who also had a portable gaming device, and even a gaming console, their favorite device for playing games. Their response? iPad. In fact, for so many activities, they responded iPad. This is incredible when you remember that this device has been on the market for less than two years," Cook said at the launch of the third-generation iPad.

Cook cited Infinity Blade as an example of the high-quality gaming experience offered by the iPad. Apple's Worldwide Marketing Senior Vice President Phil Schiller added that the new iPad had "more memory and a higher screen resolution" than Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3.

CNet disagreed wholeheartedly with Cook and Schiller. "The iPad is not a home console. It's a portable tablet that can play casual games," wrote CNet's Jeff Bakalar.

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But is dismissing the iPad as a "casual" gaming device justified? Of course, Bakalar made those comments directly after the announcement of the third-generation iPad and before any new games that took advantage of the much higher resolution Retina display had been released.

At launch, Macworld compiled a list of the best games and apps for the third-generation iPad that take advantage of the Retina display, including Real Racing 2 HD and Mass Effect Infiltrator.

Business Insider has now published its own list of games for the iPad that, it argues, prove it to be more than a mere "casual" gaming device, including Mirrors Edge, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard, Chaos Rings II and Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies.

However, there are limitations to the iPad's gaming credentials - the screen size being the most obvious. If you want to compare the iPad as a gaming system to consoles - which you can hook up to displays of any size - the iPad is not going to win, despite the impressive resolution and colour saturation.

Also, using the touchscreen and motion sensors within the iPad isn't always ideal for controlling gameplay. Apple is rumoured to have a gaming controller in the works, but compared to the experience offered by the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 the iPad is severly limited - for the moment at least.

While we're on the comparisons with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and as CNet's Bakalar rightly points out, both of these devices are several years old, so that the iPad has more powerful hardware is hardly a big surprise. But perhaps it is time to accept that "casual" gaming isn't the sole preserve of the console and that handheld devices such as iPads have plenty to offer serious gamers?


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