As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference gets under way, we’re starting to see more and more features of its updated operating systems not revealed during yesterday’s opening keynote. That includes the ability to play games on the iPad using a mouse and keyboard instead of the touchscreen or a gamepad.
Mouse support was first introduced to the iPad with iPadOS 13 back in September 2019, and then expanded earlier this year in March with version 13.4. The feature allowed the iPad to be operated using a mouse and an-onscreen cursor, but it was limited to emulating physical finger touches. So while on the PC games like Minecraft allowed players to look around by simply moving their mouse, on the iPad it required extra clicks to emulate the interactivity of players tapping and dragging their fingers onscreen. It was still far from recreating the PC gaming experience on Apple’s tablet.
As an alternative to touchscreen controls, which are more often than not completely awful for games ported from other platforms, Apple also introduced support for Xbox One and PS4 Bluetooth controllers last Fall. It dramatically improved the iPad’s gaming chops for racing games and platformers, but first-person shooters, like the popular cross-platform Fortnite, were still dominated by mouse and keyboard players on PC.
That will soon change, however, as on Apple’s WWDC 2020 website there’s a listing for an upcoming video titled “Bring keyboard and mouse gaming to iPad” with the following description:
Level up your iPad games and add in keyboard, mouse, and trackpad controls. Discover how to use the Game Controller framework to augment your existing titles, bring over games from other platforms, or dream up entirely new interaction experiences. Learn how to integrate keyboard and “delta” mouse coordinate events for player motion, and disable pointer system gestures like the Dock or Control Center to take full advantage of full screen gameplay.
Unlike iPadOS’ current implementation of mouse support, iPadOS 14 will include updates to its Game Controller framework that goes beyond gamepads. The exact details of this support aren’t entirely known yet, but it sounds like proper support for a keyboard and mouse as a gaming controller are en route, which is great news for first-person shooter fans who’ve migrated to the iPad as their gaming system of choice. (Wait, do those actually exist?) Just don’t expect your favorite mobile game to be instantly mouse and keyboard friendly when you upgrade to iPadOS 14. It sounds like developers will specifically have to implement this support in their games, so timelines will vary.