It could have been game over for Wikipad after a flaw in the initial production run of its gaming tablet forced a launch delay late last year. The company used the extra time, however, to rethink the Wikipad, and this week it said the revised version will debut this spring.
The new version will be smaller; instead of the previously shown 10-inch model, the company now plans to bring out a 7-inch version that promises to be more portable. It will also feature a friendlier $249 price tag. In addition to the new form factor, the new Wikipad will feature some key refinements to its dual-analog stick controller, ensuring that games are still a key component to this Android-based device.
The lower price point should help ease concerns that the Wikipad may have been too expensive given the price erosion in the tablet category.
“There was obviously that perception,” Fraser Townley, president of sales at Wikipad, told TechNewsWorld. “We aren’t living in a vacuum. The base understood the value and got what we were asking. Look, I can justify the price of a Ferrari. Yet it is still a fact that not everyone can afford one. So for us the price wasn’t a misstep.”
New Size, New Start
It wasn’t just the price that had been at issue with the Wikipad. Last fall Apple did what Steve Jobs had vowed the company would never do, and that was release an iPad Mini. In a way, this gave the company time to reevaluate the device.
After determining that the Wikipad needed to undergo a redesign, the company tried to use the time wisely.
“We took the time to reevaluate and regroup,” added Townley. “We listened to what was being said on social media, and that that was important, especially for a company of our size.”
While the competition remains fierce in the tablet category, Wikipad has reaffirmed its commitment to gaming and it remains a machine built for that purpose. Its specs include a 16:10 aspect ratio widescreen HD 7-inch IPS screen, and 16 GB of memory with a micro SD slot to support an additional 32 GB of storage. Inside the ultralight and thin chassis, the Wikipad features an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core mobile processor, which is optimized for cloud-based gaming.
Powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the tablet also offers a unique gamepad controller, and features entertainment and videogame content from partners and services including PlayStation Mobile, Big Fish Games, TegraZone, OnLive and Google Play.
“If you look at stats, and it is well documented that 67 percent of all tablet usage is gaming, then it suggests that the controller is something necessary for a robust gaming experience,” said Townley. “We’ve seen some classic games coming to the (tablet) platform. They were still very playable, but they aren’t as easy to play without a controller. To us, controller support is crucial.”
With so many tablet and touch-centric games, including hits like Angry Birds and Temple Run, the question is whether a controller is really necessary.
“This device promises to be more of a bridge between mobile and PC than mobile and console,” said Billy Pidgeon, senior analyst at Inside Network. “But a lot of people are still focused on the tablet being a console replacement.”
“However, a tablet is still in its own context,” Pidgeon told TechNewsWorld. “It is really more portable than most consoles, but it is really larger than mobile.”
A bigger problem is that while developers are porting over titles for the tablets, the trend continues to be in creating games that take advantage of the touch interface. This could mean that games re-engineered for the tablet that still retain the controller interface could be the exception rather than the rule.
This “chicken and egg” scenario could in turn mean that content doesn’t come until more devices support it, but the devices won’t be developed without the content.
“That is a problem with any new piece of hardware,” said Pidgeon. “It only makes sense to develop the software when there is a certain install base.”
Given that the tablet category isn’t going anywhere but up, Wikipad could be well positioned even if it takes time for controller-supported content to arrive.
“We’re still a full blown tablet,” said Townley. “And gamers can still play traditional tablet games without a controller. Our goal is to let the gamer to decide what kind of game they want to play. That’s what makes us different from the other tablets.”
There could be one other issue, Pidgeon added.
“Wikipad is a terrible name. It just sounds so generic.”