GameCase Is an iOS 7 Game Controller You Probably Won’t Use

Chicken, meet egg.

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GameCase

Gamepad-like control shells for phones and tablets have been poking around mobile gaming’s hinterlands for years. There’s the iCade, a stand that cleverly converts your iPad into a mini-arcade cabinet, or the iCade Mobile, a handheld version for your iPhone with a d-pad and face buttons. There’s the JOYSTICK-IT, an arcade stick you affix to your iPhone or iPad’s screen.

There’s even stuff like the SteelSeries Free, a wireless micro-controller with dual thumb-sticks and all the trimmings, though I’m as enthused about the approach as I imagine anyone else would be if you could play PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 games on a 4-inch screen, or PS Vita ones with the control bits snapped off and the 5-inch screen resting on a table or in your lap.

With iOS 7 out, we can throw GameCase on the pile, a svelte-looking pair of stylish, silvery handlebars that sit on either side of an iPhone (connected by a stabilizing rear base into which the iPhone snaps), lending it ye olde Batarang vibe. It checks all the boxes: thumbsticks, a d-pad, face buttons and shoulder triggers. And it plays iOS games, of course.

Trouble is, when I think about using a gamepad with my iPhone or iPad, I imagine more what I won’t play. Not Angry Birds. Not Infinity Blade III. Not Plants vs. Zombies. Certainly not Fruit Ninja or Bejeweled or Cut the Rope. Maybe Grand Theft Auto III or Vice City? Old-school arcade standbys I’ve played zillions of times over? Maybe a few more ports down the “Top Charts” ladder of this or that game of yore?

But not most of what’s available, because most that aren’t ports were built to be played with a touch interface. They don’t work better with gamepads. Let’s not mince words: No one’s building gamepad-angled games for iOS because no one’s really buying gamepads to play them. Chicken, meet egg.

“GameCase revolutionizes iOS gaming as it pairs stunning HD graphics with a natural and familiar console quality feel,” writes GameCase in its buoyant, somewhat breathless press release. “Revolutionizes”? Really? With which games, exactly? Does pairing a gamepad with a screen change much anyway? Haven’t we been doing this for decades?

I don’t want to throw stuff like 868-HACK and Agricola and Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy under the bus, because there’s something exciting happening there. But mainstream iOS gaming’s in a clear and present rut, though it’s nothing to do with GameCase or any of these other gamepad shell ideas — they’re solutions to a mostly nonexistent problem.

The number one game in iOS gaming-dom as I type this is Angry Birds: Star Wars II. The number two game is a sequel to a game that came out in December 2011, in turn a sequel to a game that came out in December 2010. The number three game is Heads Up!, a Warner Bros. concoction billed as “the fun and hilarious new game that Ellen DeGeneres plays on her show.” Scroll down the list and it’s the usual suspects. Minecraft (of course) and all the Minecraft me-toos. Tetris. The older Angry Birds games. Various card and board game analogues. Another Worms sequel. Games about slashing stuff. Games about poking stuff. Cartoon Network tie-ins. Endless runners. A smattering of intriguing indies like Plague Inc., Terraria and Strata. But nothing, to shift the lens back to control interfaces, save the GTA ports — doubtless resurgent because of GTA V — that I’d use a gamepad to play.

Nothing against those games. They’re popular for a reason, and I might as well gripe about this or that thematically repetitive TV show, movie or book. Nor am I saying the future of mobile gaming has to look like gaming’s past, control-wise, say iPhone games that work like Vita or PSP games, much less Xbox 360 or PS3 ones. But will we ever get the iOS (or Android) equivalent of The Last of Us? Arkham City? Red Dead Redemption? Persona 4? Okami? Games you’d actually want a gamepad to play? Games of that magnitude that aren’t ports but developed natively for iOS?

Maybe I’m jumping the gun. Probably I am. Who wants to play a game as vast as Red Dead Redemption – or, for that matter, Grand Theft Auto V — on an iPhone anyway? At this point clapping unwieldy controller shells around an iOS device seems at worst, quixotic and at best, niche. I’m more interested in what happens when (and I say again, when) Apple takes aim at Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo’s turf directly, allowing an iPhone or iPad to square off with set-top consoles, by among other things allowing you to wirelessly beam your games to a big screen. That’s where iOS controllers, whether traditional or newfangled, stop being marginal novelty apparatuses and start sounding interesting to me.

11 comments
AnthonyZhang
AnthonyZhang

It it WAY TO EARLY in the year to determine whether this ios 7 game controller is worth using. Sure, the ios classics wont be used, but you need to do a lot more research before giving misleading facts to the public. You clearly don't know much about games. GTA is not the only game that is better with a controller.

Dead Space, COD zombies WAW and BO, Nova 1,2,3, Modern Combat 1,2,3, GTA Vice City, 3, The Walking Dead, COD Team Strike, Gameloft's Gangsters series, Eyes, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, New York Zombies 1,2, Lego DC, Harry Potter Series + HUNDREDS MORE

Not only will these game be easier, there will be a wider range and new opportunities for game companies. I'm thinking a huge increase in RPG games. I would be looking forward to better controls for the FF series and new Horror RPG's.

ElijahOffutt
ElijahOffutt

oh my god please speak for your self and get your facts straight. there is a hue amount of games that play better with controllers that are not ports, Modern combat, Nova, Fighters, even endless runners play better with controllers. saying chicken meet egg here is ridiculous and when you think about your logic, that would me that all the data that apple has collected, all the download of games that people are screaming for controllers for and all the money that blutrol has made mean nothing and that all those people don't really want controllers. i know this is your opinion but literally your opinion is wrong.

TTLLDcom
TTLLDcom

I am surprised TIME "magazine" published a short sighted Opinion blog about something that WILL revolutionize our gaming experience . The comments below from Matt.ferber, Johnp.kim15, omniphonix & jhenette and others seem to be more thought out then the entire "thought" that is matt pekhams article. This new Gamecase product is nothing like the icade and i dont really even understand the mention of it in this article. I do look forward to GTA and other great action and sports titles on my ipad while I travel and to use it as a controller synced with my TV. The market will decide if it is a success or not, not some self declared expert of tech with a soapbox. I bought a CLAMCASE PRO from the makers of Gamecase and it too beats Logitech and other products that are in its field. I cannot wait to get their newest invention! GAME ON!!!!

matt.ferber
matt.ferber

Should Apple deliver rumored updates to their AppleTV, this isn't just a controller for iPhone games, but a new concept in console gaming. Game processing shared between an iPhone or iPod and an Apple TV, displayed on a living room HDTV. That has the potential to upset the entire console market, and don't think Sony, MS, and Nintendo don't know it.

johnp.kim15
johnp.kim15

You need to understand the previous handheld controllers are not compatible with all games. That makes it a complete hassle for game developers to implement the controllers and when you do, it always sucks.

The new iOS 7 development standards and practices make it quite easy for developers to now integrate a controller which will be universal throughout. 

I would love to play GTA V on my phone with a controller. Maybe not at home when I have a TV available, but what if I'm out and about for hours on a train, in a car, or at a coffee shop. Why not?

iOS 7 will revolutionize game controllers, not the other way around. 

But this design is actually quite nice as it's not bulky and appears to be comfortable. 

I don't know, those are just my thoughts.

jhenette
jhenette

All gamers know sliding your greasy fingers around the screen is not the way to game.

omniphonix
omniphonix

You are talking about the current gaming landscape on iOS devices, not what could come along in a future of controller-equipped iOS devices. Also, there are plenty of existing games for iOS already that could benefit from controller support and likely would see more sales with it. Bugdom 1/2, AVP (the first to support iOS 7 controllers), Dead Space, N.O.V.A 1/2, Ravensword, Aralon, Chaos Rings 1/2, the Real Racing and Asphalt series, Lili, Galaxy on Fire 1/2, I could go on like this for a while. iPhone + controller = Vita/3DS killer, considering how much more developer support the platform is getting.

millarbrendan
millarbrendan

Its clear that a smart phone is a mobile computer first and phone second. Gaming on a 4 and a half inch screen isnt that appealing but connecting it to 40inch tv is. A controller shell can turn a smart phone into a mobile console. Via wireless connection  to a larger screen and using the mobile screen a second screen like the upcoming ps4 controllers and you have something that people will want to use,  as long as the smart phone could play current ps2/ps3 games at the least.

HuyLeQuang
HuyLeQuang

@omniphonix I can completely agree with you. All of the games that tries to imitate a virtual stick and virtual buttons would benefit hugely from a controller. Since the rise of more elaborated games on iOS, they have all been trying to imitate or substitute the experience one would get from using a controller. I do recognize that the lack of a controller has forced developers to think more outside of the box, but now the third party devices support has enable a new dimension to experiment with. All in all, I think  @mattpeckham argument that GameCase controller will be a flop is very weak.