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iCade SDK Now Available – Add a Real Joystick to Your iPad Games [Updated]

Updated June 24th, 2011: Ion Audio have now publicly released the information on how to add iCade support to your games. This information is no longer covered under an NDA. The information is available in a Microsoft Word document. We’ve created a PDF you can grab here and summarized below. Take special note of the legal restrictions in the document before releasing your app.

In summary, the iCade functions by sending key down and key up events via key mappings. These keys will need to be trapped by your app and the proper response handled. No special SDK is needed. The following graphic details the key mappings that the iCade sends.

In addition, Stuart Carnie has created an open source iCade demo project on GitHub showing how to handle these key events.

End of update — original post follows.

Ion Audio, the manufacturers of the iCade Arcade have announced that they are now making available an SDK to allow developers to use the iCade controls in their games. When the iCade launches later this month, only Atari Greatest Hits will be compatible with the controls. But Ion Audio hope to expand that quickly. We fired off a few questions to Fred Galpern at Ion Audio to get the lowdown. So I think we’re all familiar about how the iCade was originally an April Fools joke on Think Geek. How did it actually become a real living product?

Fred Galpern: Absolutely, the Think Geek April Fools gag ad was the start for iCade. I became familiar with Think Geek a couple of years back when they did an April Fools gag ad for a tauntaun sleeping bag. That product became real and I actually purchased one for my son. He still sleeps in it! When Think Geek did the gag ad for iCade in April 2010 I immediately got in touch with them and said “Let’s make this real!” Ty Liotta, their creative director, is a really smart, insightful, cool guy. He and I worked together with other folks from both ION and Think Geek to make sure the iCade fulfills the promise that started with their gag ad. Once the Atari folks agreed to add iCade support to the Atari Greatest Hits app we knew the iCade was going to be great. We really can’t wait for new games to hit the app store and for gamers to get their hands on the product.
.biz: Sales seem to be brisk with initial shipments from ThinkGeek already selling out. How are sales meeting your expectations?

Fred: We couldn’t be happier with the initial sales feedback! The team really believes in the product so we’ve been working as hard as we possibly can to deliver quickly. Ever since CES, where we had a strong positive response, one of the trickiest things for us has to been to figure out how many of these things to make. The good news is we are on track to meet the demand while still staying on schedule.
.biz: Lets talk a bit about the iCade hardware itself. What are some of the technical details on the controls and how it communicates with the iPad.
Fred: iCade connects to iPad via Bluetooth. This allows iPad to quickly and easily be placed into iCade, without having to remove most protective cases. The Bluetooth connection is completely stable and low latency for gaming, so it was an obvious and good solution for us. We also made sure to create a clear path for the iPad charging cable, so iCade can essentially be used as a docking or charging cradle. 
The custom designed cradle accommodates both landscape and portrait modes. The joystick is a true 8-way arcade stick, very similar to some of the recent console arcade sticks. iCade has 8 arcade style buttons, again similar to console arcade sticks. We light the coin slot to communicate Bluetooth connection messages, which is sort of a bonus feature. iCade is powered by two AA batteries or by an AC adapter. 

[youtube ONXNQOkHpd8 600]

.biz: At CES this year, when the iCade debuted, the big news was that Ion Audio were opening up the iCade to allow other developers to add support to their games. Can you give us a quick, high level overview of what a developer needs to do to add support for the iCade to their games?

Fred: The iCade SDK can be requested by emailing

We’re keeping the SDK close to the vest for obvious reasons. I can tell you that we worked closely with Atari in developing the connectivity. iCade connects over Bluetooth and does not violate any of Apple’s requirements. We provide detailed documentation, including keymaps and button press detection instructions. Sorry, I can’t any more than that at the present time.

.biz: Are there any fees for this or other legal requirements for a developer to support the iCade?

Fred: There is no cost to developers. All we ask is that developers sign our standard NDA and make great iCade compatible games. We will also be listing all iCade compatible games on the ION site, so they get some free marketing promotion.

Thanks to Fred from Ion Audio for taking the time to talk with us. Developers, get on this, I’d love to see many of my favorite games integrated with the iCade.

The iCade is available from Think Geek for $99.99.

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Jeff Scott
I am the founder and publisher of 148Apps, the best iPhone app news and reviews site this side of Mars. I've been a web developer for nearly 15 years now. I'm also a stats geek, and I think that the iPhone is the best invention since the wheel!
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  • Popo

    Business idea fail.

  • Stuart Carnie

    Free, unofficial SDK available here »

    • SEO USA

      Thanks for sharing this link.

  • Point of Sale

    There is no cost for it thats good but developers has to  sign there standard NDA and make great iCade compatible games. But they may allow even without that as well.