Many technological gadgets and curiosities were introduced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. We'll be featuring a number of them over the weeks to come, but we were particularly excited to talk about one in particular -- one that actually started out as an April Fools Joke.
Thinkgeek first revealed the iCade last year as a humorous jab to iPad owners, stating that you could turn your high-tech tablet device into an old-school arcade gaming machine by slotting it into a pre-set cabinet. Many people thought it was funny, just like the Tauntaun sleeping bag that the geek-oriented website teased. If you don't get the joke, watch the first fifteen minutes of The Empire Strikes Back -- you'll see it makes sense. However, a high amount of response from users on the site led Thinkgeek to actually look into development for the unit. And, like the aforementioned sleeping bag (we own one, it exists) the iCade is a reality.
So here's how the iCade works. As pictured above, you simply slide it into the arcade cabinet, choose the coordinating App Store games that are available for it (you can buy them separately as well) and get ready to play old-school games , just like in the old days. Atari, a maker of both classic arcade and home releases such as Asteroids and Centipede, have already pledged full support for the device, and will have a library of games available for the iCade once it releases this April.
Now, you'll notice a few details that stand out on this cabinet, including one and two player start buttons on the front, and a joystick and two function buttons on top. You don't actually need to connect your iPad to any hard wiring to get this to work. Thinkgeek has wisely implemented Bluetooth support into the iCade, so it wirelessly reads all your actions and coordinates them with everything that's happening on the game screen. As a result, it actually feels like you're playing games the "classic" way, without the need to stick anything to the screen. The iPad also fits snugly in the unit, so it won't wobble loose, even during the most enduring of game sessions.
Thinkgeek isn't just leaving support to the pros at Atari either. The company is adding full iCade support to would-be developers who want their games to be played with the unit. An API file will be released through iOS set-ups, so they can add it right on and join the fleet of games supported by the device.
Not that Atari's collection will be shabby by any means. Asteroids and Centipede are just the tip of the iceberg. Other games like Missile Command, Super Breakout and others should be introduced, and there's also the possibility of Atari 2600 games joining the fray, in which there are dozens to choose from. And don't be surprised if other classic game makers sign up for iCade support, including Namco and Square Enix, who offer various 80's and 90's games in the App Store. (Here's hoping that Pac-Man HD gets its due.)
The iCade is set to sell for $99 upon its release, a small price to pay compared to larger arcade cabinets. (Plus you won't have to worry about maintenance or buying new parts -- whew!) It's set for a release later this spring.
Count us in on a purchase. We just love that old-school arcade feeling.