Tablet Gaming Today and a Look at The Future - HotHardware

Tablet Gaming Today and a Look at The Future

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One of the most dramatic shifts in portable gaming history has been the surge in popularity of smartphones and tablets in the past two years. In 2009, Android and iOS devices accounted for ~19 percent of game revenue. In 2010, their combined share nearly doubled, while Flurry Analytics estimates that the two platforms will account for 58 percent of gaming revenue in 2011.



This shift, combined with the rising popularity of "freemium" distribution models in which much or all of a game's content is provided free of charge while a subset of top-tier content is available for a nominal fee, has been hailed in some quarters as a sea change that'll ultimately rock the entire gaming industry and transform the way we play.

We decided to round up a hefty batch of tablet games on the Toshiba Thrive we reviewed earlier this year and see where they led us. Are fingers the future of gaming?  

Maybe -- but there's a lot of work to do.

Ergonomics:


Ergonomics: The study of how to build things no one thinks about while using


It's impossible to talk about handheld gaming without discussing ergonomics and ease-of-use. The Toshiba Thrive's 1.6lb weight is average for an Android tablet and 25.6 ounces doesn't sound heavy. We were surprised to discover just how clumsy the tablet was when it came to gaming when seated in anything but a comfortable chair, however.

Portrait mode is awkward with just one hand, no matter what. Landscape mode is easier to hold one-handed -- it doesn't require the same bending of the wrist -- but there's a significant dead zone in the center of the device where our thumbs couldn't comfortably reach.


Our test vehicle: Toshiba's Thrive 10-Inch Android 3.2 Slate

The 16:10 ratio favored by most non-iPad manufacturers isn't ideal for gaming. The Thrive is 6.97 inches tall and 10.75" wide. The iPad 2, which offers a slightly smaller 9.7" screen, is 9.5" tall by 7.31" wide. While we aren't comparing the two platforms directly, there's no part of the iPad 2's 4:3 screen that's difficult to reach, which translates into more surface area available for gaming. A thinner bezel would improve this situation, but it's also an example of how tablet manufacturers who want to attract gamers may need to re-think their dimensions.

One of the challenges facing tablet gaming is the inherent difficulty in scaling interfaces to suit a variety of devices. What works on a smartphone or small tablet may not translate well to a larger one. Riptide GP, a game we'll show you later, has a particular problem here. The player's movement is controlled via tilting the tablet to the left and right, and while this might work perfectly on a smartphone, it's far too cumbersome for a tablet nearly 11 inches wide. EA's Need for Speed: Shift HD has a similar problem.

User Interface:

Touch control is an intuitively simple concept that's extremely difficult to execute effectively. First, there's the fact that the device is directly controlled by hand while simultaneously supported by them. This makes it difficult for a player to use more than one finger (typically the thumb) per hand.


Fancy, hi-tech interfaces are easier to design when no one actually needs to use them for anything

Another tablet-specific challenge is that the control surface also functions as the game's display. Grouping buttons and functions to the sides helps prevent one's fingers from blocking important game data -- but this doesn't always work. In some titles, (Dungeon Defenders is one), defense tower upgrades are displayed near the tower itself, typically at the center of the screen. Defender is a basic defense strategy game where moving a finger to effectively aim at closer enemies leaves the rest of your hand blocking the display.
 

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I love me my controller but i think i can go for a change like this as long as the tablet is fast enough to run without a hitch count me in. I wanna see game's Like "Assassin's Creed Revelation's" running on 1 of these things.

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I've heard about tablet gaming for quite a while now and while it's as interesting as a concept, it just doesn't seem to work out. It'd work out if half of the games listed did something with the tablet but it seems like they're they're just rolling their wheels trying to figure out ways to translate established gaming features to the tablet.

I feel that the games that are successful at tablets (Angry Birds, Pinball, RPGs) do so because they don't require the player to manipulate the tablet in ways the tablet cannot be manipulated; these types of fun games that use motion controls are the ones that the developers should base their games around... Mainly because it's not about trying to fit the most into a tablet game, it's about having fun and doing something they have never done before. Not just casual games, but all types of games regardless.

I think this was a good analysis on Joel's part, he went in depth, did all of the research, printed his thoughts with such clarity and got the point accross in a way which I could understand it. Overall, nicely done!

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TaylorKarras:
I've heard about tablet gaming for quite a while now and while it's as interesting as a concept, it just doesn't seem to work out.

It looks like now, you're gonna get to find out for yourself!

Congrats on your win by the way. I was glad to see it happen for you.

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That day is not far, when only Tablets/Smartphones will rule every field of Humans..techbology/medicine and so on.

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I really dont think tablets are the future for serious gamers. They're mobile, and touch screens are neat, but as a hardcore gamer myself, I prefer real keys. In my opinion, the whole touch screen thing is a bit over the top and I really hope they start making more devices with physical keys.

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While i love gaming on the go there are 2 issues. well maybe more than 2. One issue is the battery life on our tablets as games burn thru them in a few hours. The other issue is the games are getting more and more advanced but it will still be a while before they can match the depth and gameplay of console/pc games(although i could be wrong with android tablets getting quad core processors already). Lastly i and im sure many others still love physical controllers. i dont think a touch screen can quite match the quality of a physical controller ever.

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The point shouldn't be to match consoles, but to deliver different gaming experiences in ways consoles can't match. That's why the best tablet games use interfaces and concepts that don't translate well to consoles.

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Assuming of course next gen consoles don't make that irrelevant. Like the Wii U just integrating many of those features and whatever MS and Sony have planned for their next gen consoles.

Though the future of game consoles is in question though and it appears increasingly more likely that they will have to evolve.

Like they may opt for a more symbiotic relationship with mobile devices in which you can play the same game on any device but go to the console for a more dedicated experience. Only time and the markets will tell how that will play out...

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The Future technology looks promising, only problem is the clothing doesn't.

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