Although it at the time of writing only has 260 backers, the GameDock for iPhone, iPad and iPod is over 80 per cent of the way to funding its Kickstarter project. As hard as I try, I just don’t get the point of the device. I last year wrote about iOS controllers, which at the time were fragmenting wildly. Today, the majority of controllers are iCade compatible, and yet the devices I’ve tested still exhibit massive fragmentation, largely due to the manner in which buttons are mapped.
Much of the reason for this is down to the original iCade’s set-up: a joystick and eight action buttons. Developers made their own decisions regarding which buttons mapped to which controls. You therefore find some games work with the left-most buttons and some with the right-most ones. For the original iCade and iCade Core, this doesn’t matter a great deal. The worst-case scenario is one rapidly aborted game with your on-screen guy getting killed as you figure out which buttons equate to jump and fire. iCade-compatible mobile devices, such as the iCade Mobile and Gametel aren’t nearly so lucky. With only four action buttons, many games become unplayable, substantially reducing the already smallish compatible selection. (Games aren’t automatically compatible with iCade—developers must specifically add support.)
The GameDock further reduces the number of action buttons to two, and so it’ll be a small miracle if many games work well with it. Additionally, the controllers are clearly modelled on NES controllers, which is a pretty good way to get sued by Nintendo, and the entire system is based around wires. You plug a wire from the GameDock into the TV, for video output, and the controllers plug into the dock itself. This might be kitsch and retro, but it also feels like a step back. To my mind, the future for iOS and gaming remains AirPlay and the Apple TV. It’s still not there yet—it’s too common to get just enough lag for games to feel wrong—but it makes more sense to me to use this system than one so solidly rooted in the 1980s.