Flashback to the late 90’s. I’m squeezed in the back seat of my parent’s Izuzu Rodeo on the way to Myrtle Beach. Almost lost in a sea of luggage, I look out the window with dismay. We’ve been driving for hours, and as the daylight fades away, my hope of continuing to play my GameBoy Color starts to dwindle. Luckily, I just bought the Worm Light. I feel like a pre-pubescent technology guru as I continue to level my Charizard in the dark of night.
Mobile gaming has come a long, long way from the Gameboy days. Features like lithium batteries eliminated the need for those double A’s. Worm Lights became obsolete as backlit screens popped up. The systems gradually got thinner, lighter, and more powerful.
Now we have handhelds that feature online multiplayer, online marketplaces, and glasses-less 3D. Devices like the Vita utilize touch screen functionality like nothing we’ve seen before. The 3DS XL lets you practically step into lands like the Mushroom Kingdom. What’s the next step in the seemingly endless evolution of mobile gaming devices? Where does the industry even go from this point?
Enter: Wikipad; the tablet dedicated to both work and play. With its attachable controller pad, this tablet may end up offering the first true mobile console experience. Put the controller pad on, and you have a powerful piece of mobile gaming hardware. Take the pad off, and you have a powerful mobile workhorse. Like the website says, Wikipad owners will be able to “Work Hard. Game Hard.”
The Wikipad, which will officially hit shelves on October 31, features a 10.1” 1280×800 display with an IPS screen, reinforced Gorilla glass, and 10-point gesture multi-touch capability. Without the gamepad attached, it is a mere 0.34” (8.6mm) thick and weighs next to nothing at 1.23 pounds (560 grams). It will feature full HDMI output, built in stereo speakers, and glasses-less 3D capability.
The tablet looks great, but not radically different than anything else on the market. Obviously, the game pad adds something no other tablet has yet, but really, what starts to make this device stand out is its hardware.
The Wikipad will run on a nVidia Terga 3 quad-core 1.4 GHz processor and utilize Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) upon release. According to the nVidia site, this will offer “Console-quality gaming with an integrated ultra-low power (ULP) NVIDIA GeForce GPU,” and “even HD video capabilities unlike anything seen before in mobile processors.”
It will also have 1 GB of internal memory, 16 GB of flash memory, and support up to a 32 GB micro SD card. There will be a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with auto focus and flash. The sensors will include a 3-axis accelerometer, active vibration, a gyroscope, and an e-compass.
The Wikipad obviously boasts all the technical specs that could potentially create a unique mobile gaming experience reminiscent of consoles, but the most appealing thing about this tablet actually has nothing to do with the hardware. It’s who is supporting the device.
In addition to all the content on the Android app store, PlayStation Mobile will offer Wikipad users access to a vast amount of Sony Computer Entertainment material, including content from third-party developers. PlayStation Mobile will also give these developers the ability to create PlayStation-like games in a comfortable environment. Oh, and the Wikipad will support Google Play, which will add a huge library of non-gaming related content like movies, TV shows, music, or even books.
Though being PlayStation certified and Google Play functional adds depth to the capabilities of the Wikipad, support from game streaming service Gaikai may be what pushes this tablet past its competition. Gaikai actually plans on producing a client specifically for the tablet’s operating system, which will allow you to stream console-quality games right to the device.
There doesn’t seem to be any convenience of modern mobile gaming left out of the Wikipad’s design and plans for the future, but maybe the device is trying to do too much at once. It may be powerful, offer a unique detachable gamepad, and have support from major players in the industry, but trying to be a device for both work and play may pit it against more competitors than necessary.
Take the PS Vita for example. Its main, direct competitors consist of only those attempting to make a mobile gaming device. The newest Android tablet or iPad may not really affect sales of the Vita or Vita games, even though people may be playing mobile games on them. When the Wikipad defined itself as both a tablet for work and mobile gaming, it pit itself against every single tablet and mobile gaming device out there. This may prove to be detrimental and only to include customers who want both work and play at the same time. The gaming side may turn off people concerned with working on a tablet, and people concerned with gaming may see the enterprising capabilities as useless.
The question that lingers in my head when checking out the Wikipad is “Do people really want a full console experience on the go?”
The success of devices like the 3DS shows people still crave full mobile gaming experiences, but I also feel as if these gamers enjoy the exclusivity that comes with a Nintendo specific device. Want to play New Super Mario Bros. 2? You have to get a 3DS. If the Wikipad takes off, then it may develop a following, but for the time being, it will lack the sense of community that comes with modern mobile devices.
Let me be clear, I think the Wikipad is an awesome device, and I’m considering buying one regardless of the $500 price tag. I also think the way the video game market responds to it just may shape the face of mobile gaming in the future. If the streaming console experience is a hit, then I fully expect other major players in mobile gaming to follow suit. If the combination of work and play in one device appeals to most, then we may see a push away from gaming/ work specific devices.
Some may think I’m overestimating the Wikipad’s appeal or market power. They may think it’s just a damn tablet attached to a controller. It, without a doubt, has the potential to shake things up, and that is undeniable. Whether it’s successful or not, I genuinely believe the industry will learn a lot from the Wikipad’s journey.
Want to see the Wikipad in action? Check out the good people at Engadget’s fantastic hands on video.