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With Apple's iPad Comes a New Gaming Explosion

While Apple may be shining the marketing spotlight on the iPad's eReader and video capabilities, a quick look at the system's available apps will tell you: It's all about the games.

iPad
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iPad

Video games make up a large percentage of the apps currently available for the iPad. And industry publishers aren't planning to let garage developers steal the spotlight this time.

Flurry Analytics estimated that games made up 44 percent of the applications under development for the iPad in a late-March report. No other category came close. (Entertainment was second at 14 percent.)

It's no surprise, then, that a who's who of publicly traded games companies have multiple titles ready to go for the April 3 launch.

Mobile specialist Gameloft leads the pack with eight titles. Electronic Arts has five. Activision and Konami each have two. And Take Two Interactive Software has one.

Notable private companies, including PopCap Games and ngmoco, are also making big pushes.

Some of the titles are new to the Apple gaming lineup, such as Activision's "Geometry Wars," which was previously a console exclusive.

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The bulk, though (like many of the iPad's launch apps) are polished versions of apps that have been available for the iPhone for some time. The only difference is higher resolution graphics and small gameplay adjustments.

There may be value in that polish, though. iPad apps are generally priced higher than those for the iPhone, which means more profit potential for the publishers. Whereas iPhone games generally top out at $10, initial iPad titles run as high as $15.

Will the Price Hold?

It's too soon to say, of course, how accepting consumers will be of the higher prices. Since it's generally tech enthusiasts and early adopters who have iPads in their hands now, it makes sense for publishers to test the ceiling. Analysts are unsure, though, if it will hold.

"It's difficult to say," says Billy Pidgeon, senior analyst for M2 Research. "It depends on the potential of the iPad itself. So far, it seems the iPad is … going for the lowest common denominator. If that's the case, people may be less willing to buy and pay more for games."

Publishers aren't the only ones who have big hopes for gaming on the iPad. Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins has announced plans to double the size of its iFund program - which promotes the development of innovative applications - to $200 million.

The firm is no stranger to the gaming world. It is a major investor in iPhone developer ngmoco and social games company Zynga.

The early participation of game publishers like Activision and Take Two is notable. They, like many companies, didn't show much interest in the iPhone initially, which gave smaller companies the chance to steal potential market share.

Activision, for example, saw its chances for dominance in the music category evaporate when startup Tapulous found an audience with "Tap Tap Revenge". (That company has a new "Tap Tap" game launching Saturday as well.)

It's also possible that Apple has bigger gaming plans for the iPad. The company filed a patent for a variety of gaming controllers for the device earlier this month – essentially a dock for the iPad that would house traditional game controls such as a d-pad or thumbsticks.

Of course, patents quite often are never made into retail products. And such a device would seem to run counter to the iPad's all-in-one design. That said, when it comes to gaming, Apple has always played by its own rules.

"Apple has never been great at going after the games market," says Pidgeon. "I think they're kind of lucky the way things have turned out, rather than skillful."

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