[Update - 1:23pm, June 30th: Changed comment about OnLive iOS compatibility.]
When I was scheduling meetings for E3 2014, I was expecting to see a lot of great iOS games…which I did. What I wasn’t expecting to see was great iOS hardware…which I also did. You may have seen the Wikipad before, which provides hardware controls for Android games. Well, you had to know it would just be a matter of time before that came to iOS now that Apple is more open to third-party devices, and so shall it be. The Wikipad Gamevice for iPad mini is now in development, and I was able to sample a demo unit at E3.
Now, the Gamevice is very much still in development. The unit I sampled was an early model, but it was pretty slick. To insert your iPad mini, you simply slide out both ends of the Gamevice, then push them back over the top and bottom of the iPad (oriented horizontally), connecting to the Lightning port. The fit is pretty good, which led me to ask what happens when Apple announces a new iPad. Fraser Townley, president of Wikipad, pointed out that the Gamevice’s entry points for the iPad are open at the top and bottom, meaning the iPad can get taller and wider without any worries. Upgrading could be a problem if the iPad gets thicker, but that’s not really a direction Apple ever goes, now is it.
As mentioned above, the Gamevice connects with the iPad via the Lightning port, not Bluetooth, so you’re going to get a more solid connection. This is important, because iOS games advanced significantly over the past couple of years (and should take the next evolutionary step with iOS 8′s Metal), and many of them are compatible with MFi controllers. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this list, and know that if a game supports MFi, it’ll work with the Gamevice.
So, what controls do you get? Right now, it’s looking like there’ll be left and right analog sticks, a D-pad, your XYAB analog action buttons, and four shoulder buttons. You may be thinking iOS games don’t need that many buttons, but that’s the thing…the Gamevice may not always be just for iOS games. Earlier this month, OnLive announced they’re going to be supporting Android and the Gamevice, meaning you’ll be able to play AAA PC games on your Android devices. The games are stored on the OnLive CloudLift servers, where all of the heavy lifting is done. Considering Wikipad’s support for iOS devices, we can hope OnLive may find a way to follow suit. With your OnLive subscription and the Gamevice, your iPad mini could effectively become a conduit to a vast array of PC games, including many that you can’t even play on your Mac…well, except through OnLive for Mac, of course, which is already available.
Right now, the hope is that Gamevice for iPad mini will be available in time for your Christmas shopping. Pricing has not been announced, other than that Wikipad wants “… to be as aggressive as possible without giving it away.” Apple has awarded Protection Plan IDs for two models: one with battery backup for the iPad mini itself and one that is self-powered. As soon as more details are available, we’ll be sure to let you know.
Until then, check out OnLive now to see the PC only games you could be playing on your Mac, and get ready to play them on your iPad later this year.