Here’s the back-story: A few years ago, uber-geeky gadget site ThinkGeek.com ran one of their annual April Fools Day gags – they prominently displayed a product on their homepage called the “iCade” claiming it would turn your Apple iPad into a full-on classic gaming arcade experience.
Naturally the product was completely fictitious, but that didn’t stop tons of fans from writing in and declaring their enthusiasm for such a device.
Within the year, ThinkGeek had partnered with ION Audio, then a company best known for their USB Turntables and the iCade had gone from creative nerd-joke to a real-life product at CES.
We got our hands on the iCade earlier this year and enjoyed it thoroughly.
It wasn’t long before the imitators started to appear and I suppose that got ION thinking that they had indeed stumbled onto a good thing.
So it wasn’t all that surprising to see that at this year’s show, they were showcasing three new iCade products: the Core, the Mobile and the Junior – all of which stick to the essential formula of giving gamers physical controls for their favourite i-devices.
The iCade Core directly attacks Atari’s own iCade-like product, the Atari Arcade which itself undercut the original iCade by almost $50.
The Core is a stripped-down iCade offering all of the functionality with virtually none of the nostalgic style.
The iCade Mobile is easily the most innovative of the three new products, and does a superb job of converting an iPhone or iPod Touch into a Nintendo DS/i. With its full compliment of buttons and a slick turntable feature which lets you alter the orientation of your device, this could be the hardware add-on that convinces iOS game developers to abandon touch-only control schemes for their games, which would inevitably lead to better, more immersive games on a device that has more than enough horsepower to handle them.
Finally, the iCade Junior – it’s the cheapest of the bunch, but frankly I doubt it will succeed. Awkward to hold and not as satisfying as either the Core or the Mobile from a control-scheme point of view, this member of the iCade line-up is cute, for sure, but little more than a curiosity.