Ion iCade turns your iPad into a tabletop arcade

What began as an April Fool's joke has turned into a real product, one you'll be able to buy this April. Could be the ultimate iPad accessory for retro-arcade fans.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
Got Pac-Man fever? The iCade arcade cabinet for iPad might be the cause--or the cure.
Got Pac-Man fever? The iCade arcade cabinet for iPad might be the cause--or the cure. ThinkGeek

Funny story: Last April 1, gadget outlet ThinkGeek pranked customers with the iCade, a tabletop arcade cabinet for iPads. Cut to CES 2011, and suddenly the iCade is a real product, with Ion Audio handling the manufacturing and Atari supplying a large roster of classic arcade games.

The retro-styled cabinet plays host to "your otherwise useless iPad" (ThinkGeek's words), holding it upright while you blast Asteroids, maneuver Ms. Pac-Man, stop space invaders, and so on.

There's no dock connection, however--the iCade relies on Bluetooth, meaning it should work with any game that supports Bluetooth input.

Thankfully, ION plans to release a "friendly API" so developers can add iCade support to their apps.

As for Atari's plans, Asteroids is currently the only game mentioned by name, but ThinkGeek says a "huge suite of classic arcade titles" is in the works.

Much as I'm eager to get my hands on an iCade, I have some concerns. For starters, is the cabinet heavy enough that it won't end up sliding all over the table? Can the joystick and eight buttons stand up to the kind of sweaty-palmed mashing I inflicted on countless coin-ops back in the day?

More to the point, do I really want to play Pac-Man anymore? Or Centipede? I'm all for nostalgia, but I suspect that once I get over the novelty of having a mini arcade in my home, my iPad will end up back in my lap running Angry Birds and Madden NFL 11.

Hopefully a review unit will answer these questions. The iCade is expected to go on sale in mid-April for $99.99. In the meantime, think I'll brush up on my Galaga--the one game I'm most eager to try on this thing.

What about you? What arcade classics would be on your short list?