Yesterday, when Steve Jobs walked up on stage and opened his (Apple) pie hole to make the iPad a reality, you could almost hear the collective mental drivetrains of the entire tech journalism industry spinning up, then immediately grinding to a confused, stuttering halt.
It was as if after all these months of speculating on exactly how often the iPad would offer users the finest in Eastern European sexual peccadilloes, that once the device was finally unveiled the entire professional electrofetishist subculture ran out of hope for the future. Suddenly the bespectacled legions had nothing to look forward to; nothing to discuss on the vast frozen wastes of IRC, in the eternally burning forests of Usenet, or amongst the mountains of shrieking corpses that seem to materialize from nothingness within the dank Skype pits.
Is there anything quite as sad as a nerd who has run out of dreams?
Somehow, it's even worse in the world of gaming. Game journalists know that the iPad will affect the industry in some fashion, but to the very last one of us, we really have no damn idea how.
I hate (read: love) to speak for all of my colleagues, but we all sorta assumed gaming on the iPhone would be a joke — an afterthought that garnered as much attention as Tetris or Snake on any Nokia handheld from the late 90s — and that little pocket-sized status symbol has consumers buying millions of games every month.
I can't imagine a scenario in which gaming on a touch-sensitive electronic Trapper Keeper is going to be the most compelling thing I do each day, but I refuse to step out onto a swaying, unsteady limb, predict that the iPad will have all the success of the 3DO, and bid you all "good day" before being immediately made to look like a somehow even more pompous jackass by the antediluvian magic that keeps Steve Jobs' followers in his inimical thrall (at least not until a noble warrior clad in Mythril plate and wielding a flaming sword and a shield handcrafted by dwarven smiths is willing to storm the Tower of Cupertino and bring an end to this iAnathema).
Unfortunately, I'm paid too much to simply offer a "no comment" as my official stance. The Merc might seem like a jovial family of liberal kitten huggers from the outside, but things aren't always as sunshine and lollipops as they seem. Sure, we keep an open mind about non-traditional, Frisbee-based bird burial rites and ward all-too-sweet ladyfolk away from soul-crushing kink on a regular basis, but the higher ups won't think twice about slicing a handful of bloody fingers from my rapidly exsanguinating corpus if it ensures a few more months of fealty.
Thus, I've spent the last few hours typing sweet nothings into my MacBook Pro in the hopes that it might download my official opinion for me from the home servers at 1 Infinite Loop.
Are you ready for this? Here goes: The iPad will singlehandedly save the computer gaming market.
Gaming, as an industry, has long been shifting toward the console side of things and Windows 7 will be the last real gasp for gaming on the PC. While the overarching Microsoft/Windows megaconstruct will never go away — the company is simply too immense to be taken down by anything not spawned in the darkest fever dreams of whatever sort of creature would arise from the unholy union of technoclairvoyant Warren Ellis and the snout that Lady Gaga was born with — it will quickly lose its claim to the title of "the operating system for gamers," simply by virtue of the overwhelmingly large market the iPad will dig, claw and gouge out for itself in the coming months and years.
Yes, the iPad will be a more expensive gaming option than any console, but if you combine the inexorable draw of a portable gadget with an Apple logo hewn into its capacitive skin, the never before imagined cult of pseudopersonality the device will build once people have a chance to feel it up in person, and certain hyper-lucrative genre segments that consoles have never really been able to exploit properly (read: World of Warcraft, and its less successful MMO brethren), you have a situation akin to what Nintendo stumbled upon with the Wii a few years back.
The difference here is that in Apple's case, the new legion of gamers the iPad creates just so happen to have huge wads of disposable income, drive Saabs, and all have an innate tendency toward throwing cash at anything offered up by a cancer patient in a black turtleneck. That's a situation gaming publishers will not ignore — much to the detriment of an increasingly aneurysm-prone Steve Ballmer.
Chairs will be thrown my friends. Chairs made of pain, bound in tears, and filled with the unspoken words of a million aborted children. Yea and so it was written, so it shall be done. Forever and ever. Amen.
*Cue Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14, histrionic laughter from the resurrected zombie corpse of Vincent Price*
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