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.
Famous gadget online store ThinkGeek has a reputation for dreaming up fake gadgets that sound awesome and then pretending they’re real, every April 1st. Turns out that their fans, including electronics manufacturer ION, get so excited about these ideas that some actually get made. In this case it was ThinkGeek’s idea for a miniature arcade cabinet built for the iPad. They called it the iCADE. ION has now taken this concept from Photoshop mock-up to a fully-fledged device and has even partnered with Atari to bring their classic arcade titles into the mix. A must-have for any serious retro-gamer out there.