Grumpy old man that I am, ThinkGeek’s iCade retro arcade cabinet for the iPad was the only April Fools joke that I found vaguely amusing. Promising, then, that the retailer describes it as “our most posted, tweeted and blogged about product this April Fools” and suggests that a real-world version is in fact “a possibility.” Geekosystem pestered ThinkGeek about the chance of the iCade – which looks like a desktop arcade cabinet, into which an Apple iPad slots – crossing over from comedy mock-up to legitimate device, and while there are several hurdles (not least Apple themselves) it’s definitely being considered.
“We would like to make a real version of the iCade, however there are some technical hurdles that might stand in the way. Apple would probably not approve a MAME based emulator app for the iPad, so we would have to write some code hooks that other developers could use to integrate into their existing game code to support the iCade. This would limit the games available for the iCade. We would have to ensure enough games would be available for the product otherwise it wouldn’t be very marketable. I think we would almost certainly want to improve the ergonomics of the iCade as well. The joystick is really too close to the screen and the angle that you would play at is a bit uncomfortable. However… these are potentially solvable problems. I can’t say at this time for sure whether we will try to make a real version of the iCade or not… but it’s a possibility” Ty Liotta, senior merchandiser, ThinkGeek
Among the potential issues are the ergonomics of the joystick and buttons, which ThinkGeek reckon are currently too close to the iPad screen, and the difficulty in getting a MAME retro game emulator through Apple’s App Store approval. Previous attempts by other developers to do similar things have met with rejection, mainly down to Apple’s ban on “interpretive code” such as using third-party game ROMs.
That means that ThinkGeek would be left with the more official third-party accessory protocols Apple have in place, though considering with the last significant updates to iPhone OS the company did add improved peripheral support, that’s might not be such an issue. Devices like the iControlPad use a similar system, albeit for mobile gaming rather than desktop.