Bladepad Case Brings Console-Style Control to iPhone Gaming.

What would you get if you were to mix the Xperia Play with an iPhone case?  A Kickstarter project has an answer and it’s called the Bladepad.  If you’re willing to part with some of your money and get your friends to do the same, it just might be yours.

iOS gaming has really taken off.  With the high adoption rate of idevices combined with powerful PowerVR graphics integration into Apple’s A-series chips, AAA-titles from the likes of EA, Square Enix, and Epic have come to the App store.  In fact, at the time of this article, of the top ten paid iPhone apps, seven are games.  It’s 8/10 for the iPad and that is very representative of the top 200 in both categories of iDevice.  Consumers have spoken with their wallets.  They want games.

While graphics power might not be an issue, control is more a problem.  When it comes to more traditional console style games like Madden or first person shooters, the virtual joysticks and button controls are less than ideal.  This is especially true on the 3.5” screen of the iPhone and iPod Touch.  They take up screen space and are not always that accurate.  A few products, like Ion’s iCade line, have tried to tackle this problem before.  In my opinion, the Bladepad is the controller case that finally gets it right.

From looking at the specs and design you can tell two things: 1) You can tell these guys thought about what gamers are want and are used to when it comes to game controls.  2) They also put a lot of thought into the times one is not gaming and wanted everything to be pocketable.  

The device connects to your iPhone like a regular case.  Since its a two-part device, half of it actually is a regular slip in iPhone case.  The other half is a removable slide-out gamepad similar to the Gamepad on Sony’s Xpiria Play and slide-out keyboards.  If you don’t need the extra bulk of the gamepad, when taking pictures for example, you can easily slide it off and either leave it in your pocket or at home.  Similar products cannot be removed and are less than pocketable.

Game controls should be very familiar to anyone who has picked up a Playstation or Xbox controller.  There’s a traditional D-pad and two analog sticks for control, 4 main buttons (A,B,X,Y) in a baseball diamond configuration, 4 top triggers (L1, L2, R1, R2) and select and start.  The L2/R2 buttons instead of being rear of L1/R2 are beside them toward the middle of the controller.  The front controls have a switchable backlit for gaming in low-light conditions.

Since there is no provision for hardware control via the 30 pin connector, the controller connects via low power Bluetooth 4.0 for maximum battery life for the controller’s own battery.  The use of BT4.0 does limit the device to the iPhone 4S and later devices though.  In the video, they also mentioned the possibility of a 3rd gen iPad version.  For recharging, the Bladepad comes with its own USB charging cable which splits off into both a 30-pin connector for the idevice and a Micro-USB for the gamepad.  

Like the iCade products, Bladepad uses a proprietary API for control since Apple has not implemented a system level API for game device control.  The folks at Bladepad have said they are working with major game developers on support.  However, it would be nice for Apple to add system level support.  It would be more uniform for both device and game developers and we could potentially get rid of those pesky on screen controls if we’re not using them.

I, along with the rest of the Geekbeat Family, are big supporters of Kickstarter and this is the part of the article where I tell you to get out your credit cards.  As of the writing of this article, the project has a little more than $8000 of a $55,000 goal with 20 days to go until the end date of August 26th.  Since it is a crowd-sourced product, community support is essential.  If this is something you want, consider pledging some money towards it.  If this is not up your alley, could you at least pass it on?