RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Apple's iPad tablet computer hasn't been out a week yet but there are already over 830 video games that have been developed to suit the large format, high definition, multi-touch screen.
That number doesn't even include the nearly 25,000 iPod Touch and iPhone games that will also play on Apple's latest gadget which is a mix between a smartphone and a laptop but also clearly aims to cater for the growing numbers of gamers.
"The iPad is the fourth step in the gaming evolution," said Gonzague de Vallois, senior vice president of publishing at Gameloft.
"The first being the microcomputer, the second being the game console and the third being smartphones. Each of these platforms revolutionized gaming in its own way."
Apple has already sold over 500,000 iPads and Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty forecasts the tech giant will ship 8 to 10 million iPads this year worldwide.
"Can the iPad sell 5 million devices in the first year without games and apps? Probably," said Kevin A. Wood, vice president and senior analyst of Technology Market Insights at research firm Infogroup/ORC.
"However, Apple's ability to re-define this space of the computing world will be dependent on its ability to sustain excitement. Apps and games redefined what a smartphone was and what it could be used for, and we suspect that will be the same situation for the iPad."
Peter Farago, vice president of marketing for research firm Flurry, said just over a third of the 2,300 plus apps currently available for iPad on iTunes.com are games, with entertainment apps ranking a distant second with 14 percent.
He believes that games percentage will rise as Apple sells more hardware and attracts more game makers.
"I think people are going to be blown away by iPad when they actually have the opportunity to interact with it," said Neil Young, founder and CEO of the largest iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad game developer, ngmoco.
"When you play games on the large format, multi-touch fields using two hands it's much more 'Minority Report' than even the iPhone is."
With seven iPad games available at launch, ngmoco is taking advantage of the multi-touch screen by allowing players of games like "Godfinger" and "We Rule" to multitask by literally sliding small game windows aside so they can focus on the bigger playing field and then read the story progression or check out friends' castles in between.
Johnny Coghlan, head of publishing for Chillingo, which has 14 iPad games available, said the Wi-Fi and 3G capabilities allows for all of its games, including "Super Shock Football HD" and puzzle game "Quantz HD," to incorporate Crystal integration. This is the company's social gaming network that enables players to compete against one another and tout high scores.
With its large screen, game makers can offer multiplayer options on a single iPad.
Firemint's "Flight Control HD" offers split-screen competitive and cooperative gameplay for two players to successfully land a never-ending stream of planes.
Gameloft's virtual card game "Uno" allows up to four friends to gather around an iPad and play.
There are hundreds of free iPad games, while other games range in price from $5 to $13. Games range from EA Mobile's ubiquitous "Tetris" to SGN's third-person shooter "EXO-Planet."
Some publishers offer lower-priced iPod Touch/iPhone ports as well as slightly more expensive iPad versions that take advantage of the new functionality.
"By taking an existing iPhone game and modifying it for iPad we believe that it will not only bring a new experience to an existing title, but basically create a new game," said de Vallois.
For example, Gameloft's iPad shooter "N.O.V.A Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance" allows players to use two fingers to curve a grenade toss and offers multi-targeting capabilities with a hand-drawn grid that eliminates all enemies on the screen with a rocket. The game originated on iPhone and iPod Touch.
"I think Apple learned their lesson about the importance of gaming from the iPhone and the iPod Touch," said Young. "It was really that first holiday season for the iPod Touch where Apple recognized and realized gaming was such a huge part of the business and the iPod Touch had found its home as a game machine."
Editing by Belinda Goldsmit