At this years Portland Retro Gaming Expo I was able to try out the new GameDock for iPhone, an awesome device that turns your phone into a console. The GameDock features retro styled NES controllers and using them makes iPhone games much more awesome to play. I was able to ask one of the Cascadia Games developers Chris some questions and he awesomely shipped me back some information.

Please friend, read on:

jdodson: So Cascadia Games started with iPhone games. I wonder at what point you decided, "Hey, we need to make the iPhone a console!"

Chris: I honestly don’t know when it clicked. I was in the middle of developing Cavorite 2. A lot of folks complained about not liking the touch-screen for controls in the first one. I’d added iCade support, but the big arcade stick didn’t fit the retro console vibe I wanted. I had the Super Nintendo in mind with the games. I was also playing around on my old SNES quite a bit for inspiration. So somewhere around that time, the idea popped into my head that a phone could be the ultimate game cartridge.

jdodson: How long did it take you from the concept of the GameDock to building a prototype you could play
a game with on your TV?

Chris: I pitched my friend Andi on it in January (or so). By March, he had come up with a prototype based on our ideas and research. We decided we had something worthy of Kickstarter. So we got in contact with a small company up here called FunGizmos, who helped us polish it into a better prototype.

jdodson: Apple isn't known as the most open of companies to work with, what is required to get permission or licensing to build for the iPhone?

Chris: If you want to send data across the 30-pin port, you need to be part of their MFi program. It’s fairly involved to go that route. We opted instead to make the GameDock work like a keyboard in the same fashion that an iCade works. That sidesteps the direct need to seek Apple approval. Eventually, however, we’d like to be involved with MFi.

jdodson: The GameDock dock doesn't look to be tooled(iPhone 5 uses a new dock connector) for the newer iPhone 5, is it still compatible with iPhone 5?

Chris: It won’t charge your phone since we don’t have lightning-compatible parts. But the game controls are sent over bluetooth. So you can still play games with the iPhone 5 without it being docked.

jdodson: You funded your Kickstater campaign(congratulations on that btw), when do you anticipate the GameDock will ship to your project funders?

Chris: Thanks! We’re pushing to get them out by December. It’s not totally in our hands, of course. We need to get stuff from our suppliers in time, for example. We should have a better shipping date estimate by the end of this month.

jdodson: Do you plan on selling the GameDock as a stand alone product outside the Kickstarter?

Chris: Yes. You can actually pre-order them from us now at http://iosgamedock.com/preorder. We’re building more than we need to fulfill the Kickstarter requirements. After that, it will depend on demand. Ideally, we’ll be able to find a distribution partner and go for a big production run.

jdodson: What was the trickiest part of building the GameDock you didn't anticipate?

Chris: Easily the biggest issue is just explaining how it works. The fact that your phone doesn’t need to be docked (since the video adapter isn’t built into the board but rather is a separate cable), for example, has confused a lot of folks. There have been a lot of questions about which devices it works with (answer: iPhone 4 and up, iPad 2 and up, iPod 4th gen and up). Even just the goal of recreating the entire console experience isn’t clear to everyone. (Though I think when a person has a gamepad in his or her hands, it sinks in.) Additionally, people wonder where the games come from (answer: the App Store). That’s been a lot more work than I thought. We haven’t been clear enough explaining the benefits either. For example, now your mobile game can double as a console game; you can start a game on the TV then finish on the bus. Local two-player games are an added benefit too that you won’t get elsewhere.

jdodson: At what point where you testing out the GameDock and it "just clicked" for you and you realized it was going to be awesome? (Note: I tried it out, it is)

Chris: Easily when we first tried Mos Speedrun on it. The game just worked and it played great. Using the gamepads really changed some of these iPhone retro games from just evoking a style into games that were exactly like what we experienced growing up.

jdodson: GameDock ships. The majority of people love it and it is getting positive reviews. What is the next move for Cascadia Games?

Chris: The first thing is to make it an easy to reach and rewarding niche for developers to hit. We obviously want lots of games on there working well. Fortunately, so far developer response has been great given how early we are in the process.

After that, I’d like to look at iPhone 5 charging and other mobile phone support. Ideally, we could find a distribution partner and really turn this into something big. Short of that, I imagine we would Kickstart a version 2.0 with a few improvements based on what we learn from this first run. We have some other ideas as well, but I’m not giving away any secrets!

jdodson: Thanks Chris and congratulations and good luck with the GameDock!

http://iosgamedock.com/
http://cascadiagames.com/
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cascadiagames/gamedock-for-iphone-ipad-and-ipod-touch-devices


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