New iOS gaming devices making their debut at CES this week

The 2012 iteration of the annual Computer Electronics Show is just a few days off, with lots of tech companies gathering in Las Vegas to show off their latest and greatest products. There will be plenty of new gadgets that interact with mobile devices and their apps this year.

Some of the coolest third-party peripherals for your iPhone and iPad will be centered around gaming. The games market for Apple’s iOS devices is huge. All the best-selling apps are games, and the most money to be made in the iTunes App Store is in the gaming section. But playing those games, ranging from the simplest to the most complex titles, can be difficult for many iOS owners because of their touchscreens. Those touch controls often lack the tactile response of physical buttons like one would find on a handheld gaming console, and so several companies have stepped up to make non-touchscreen solutions.

One of the best-known and coolest ideas among the game controllers for iOS devices is the iCade. The original version of ION’s peripheral allowed users to snap their iPads into a tiny arcade game cabinet, complete with a joystick and buttons. Lots of games now support the iCade, making for a pretty great old-school experience on your latest and greatest iOS toy. ION is stepping up its game, so to speak, at this year’s CES, with two new designs for its add-on products.

The first is a new iCade design for the iPad, one that ditches the cabinet in favor of a lighter, simpler approach. The redesigned iCade is more just an iPad dock with the controls at its base, maintaining the arcade feel but without all the extra hardware. It’s not quite as nostalgic as the original iCade, but it probably will make some users happy by being more portable.

ION is also adding a new peripheral for iPhone owners called the iCade Mobile. It looks a lot like the interface you would see on a handheld gaming console like Nintendo’s 3DS or Sony’s upcoming Playstation Vita, adding buttons to the sides of a horizontally-turned iPhone, which snaps into the center of the rig. The iCade Mobile is going to run at $80 and will be available in the second quarter of 2012, as Engadget reports. There’s also an iCade Jr. for iPhones coming at CES as well, which is basically the same as the original iCade, only tinier.

Another gaming device hitting at CES also maintains the handheld console feel for iPhone owners, adding real buttons to the gaming experience. Gametel’s Bluetooth gamepad was first debuted in November, but was exclusive to Android devices. For CES, Gametel is bringing out an iPhone version that works with the same Bluetooth technology (just like ION’s offerings) to let players get their hands on some real controls. As Ubergizmo states in its story, the gamepad hooks onto the iPhone and adds buttons beneath it when turned horizontally, and will run $50.

There’s sure to be even more gaming offerings at CES that we’ll be able to see once the action picks up on Jan. 10, like iPad gamepad controllers, apps and devices that leverage AirPlay to bring games to bigger screens, and more. We’ll be keeping our eyes open for more cool app-related fare all week, so check back often.

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