Tablet gaming is about to go hardcore

first_imgGaming console manufacturers are nervous about tablets. While there is still a measurable gap between tablet gaming and console gaming, it’s shrinking. Though Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, a couple of bits of news coming out of CES 2012 could give them cause for concern.First, Razer’s upcoming gaming tablet takes the guts of a gaming PC and puts them into a tablet — complete with dual “nunchuk” controllers. In what may be even bigger news, though, Imagination Technologies has announced that its latest PowerVR Series 6 design could make the graphics in the next iPad 20x more powerful than current-generation GPUs.Project FionaThe Razer tablet is dubbed Project Fiona, and is still only in the prototype phase. However, its potential is enough to make you start setting aside some cash. The Windows 8-running tablet will be powered by an Intel Core i7 (Ivy Bridge) processor, to guarantee that it’s no slouch in the speed department.Though its performance is enough to grab your attention, Project Fiona’s biggest strength may be its control scheme. This is obviously a tablet designed for the hardcore gamer. It totes dual nunchuck controllers (similar to those designed for the Wii and Playstation Move), which are attached to both sides of the tablet. This solves two problems: a) it bypasses the annoyance of gaming on a touchscreen, and b) it does so while still retaining the handheld feel of tablets.Another big perk for Project Fiona is its software compatibility. If an Android tablet manufacturer had made this, it wouldn’t mean much. Developers would have to tailor their games to work with the peripherals (ask Sony Ericsson how well that has worked). But since the tablet runs Windows 8, most PC games will work out-of-the-box. Devs can still optimize their games to work with the device’s touchscreen, but even if they ignore the device altogether, their games should still work.The Razer tablet is expected to launch sometime later this year. No official price has been listed, but it will supposedly ring up for less than $1000.PowerVR Series 6Meanwhile, Imagination Technology’s introduction of its PowerVR Series 6 core GPUs could have enormous ramifications for tablet gaming. The units promise performance that exceeds 100 gigaFLOPS, and that reaches the TeraFLOPS range. This adds up to performance that can be 20x more powerful than present-day mobile GPUs — with architecture that’s 5x more efficient.What does this have to do with Apple? The company has used the PowerVR architecture in its iPhones and iPads, and will likely continue to do so in future devices. Imagination released the names of several manufacturers who will be using the Series 6 (including Sony Ericsson and Texas Instruments), but Apple tends to force partners to sign NDAs. In other words, Apple could already be placing the Series 6 units in the iPad 3 and Imagination would have to keep quiet about it.Tablets as the new consoles?These two announcements signify a bright future for tablet gaming. The last year has been promising — yet frustrating — to watch. iOS and Android titles like GTA III, Infinity Blade, and several Gameloft console clones have shown promise for the capabilities of tablets. But those same titles also reveal limits. GTA III is impressive for a mobile game, but this is a ten-year-old console game (its performance is nowhere near that of GTA IV, much less Red Dead Redemption or L.A. Noire). Infinity Blade and its sequel are impressive feats, but they utilize the old Punch-Out trick of using limited gameplay environments and reskinned characters to offer improved graphics; expand the game and it couldn’t possibly handle those same visuals. Gameloft’s titles come with varying degrees of quality, but none offer anything original (a familiar refrain is “which console franchise is Gameloft ripping off this time?”).The next year or two, however, may offer the breakthrough that we have been waiting for. The latest PowerVR GPUs can open the door to tablets that outperform current-gen consoles. Razer’s tablet, while it probably won’t have the following of the iPad, skips the need for upgraded mobile gaming and jumps straight into the far superior Windows library. While the company didn’t specifically mention these titles, it should be able to run Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, and Star Wars: The Old Republic out-of-the-box.2010 was the year that Apple introduced the world to tablets. 2011 was the year that the market became saturated with (mostly struggling) competitors. 2012, however, may be the year that traditional gaming consoles begin to get replaced by tablets. While the gaming systems of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will be around for a while, they may want to start investing in that future, or risk falling behind.More at Imagination Technologies and Razerlast_img

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