June 02, 2011, 8:00 AM — Remember iSwifter? We've talked about it before; it's the iOS app that is supposed to rectify the omission of Flash on Apple's devices. While the idea is sound (the iSwifter servers render the Flash and beam the result to your iPad; similar to how OnLive handles gaming and we know that works well) I've never found that it worked particularly well. Part of this has been on iSwifter, and part of it has been due to the fact that Flash developers aren't targeting touch-based devices when they build their apps.
Well iSwifter has launched a new version (3.0) and it says it adds support for Facebook games in particular, but more Flash games in general, even mentioning Flash-based MMOs. By "MMO" they seem to mean Evony (ugh) and AdventureQuest. I don't consider these MMOs, but AdventureQuest, at least, is kind of fun.
GigaOm has a nice (and rather glowing) writeup of the new version, which forgoes the old $2.99 flat fee for a new subscription model. If you download the app you can get to play with it for free for 7 days, but after that it'll cost you $2.99/month for browser-based content (primarily Flash video but presumably it would also pertain to Flash-based applications) and $4.99/month for Flash games.
If you're really determined to play Facebook games on your iPad, I suppose $5/month is a small enough price to pay. GigaOM says:
While the previous version of iSwifter allowed users to play Flash games, the new improvements are geared toward providing a high quality of service for games, with back-end support that dynamically provides resources to match the needs of a game. The results are faster responsiveness, high frame rate rendering, lower latency and more support for gestures and touch usability.
They also say that if you've bought a previous version of iSwifter you're grandfathered in, but my copy is still nagging me to pay, but I can't in all certainty say that I ever paid for iSwifter. Let's assume I was using a free version prior to this update.
Anyway I couldn't wait to put iSwifter to the test. I loaded up Kongregate, my go-to source for Flash-based gaming, and sure enough the games loaded relatively quickly and intro animations were much smoother than they have been with past versions of iSwifter. There's still a problem with controls, though. Games that expect keyboard movement just won't work without keys. In some cases iSwifter seems to be building custom support for such games (again, according to GigaOm) but I haven't stumbled onto one of those instances yet.
I decided to try games at Kongregate's mobile site (http://m.kongregate.com) since, I figured, those wouldn't expect keyboard controls. Oddly, I had no luck getting these to load (maybe it's the version of Flash they use, or maybe they aren't even Flash-based).
Next I headed to Facebook. iSwifter asked me for my Facebook login details, which I provided. Then I hit the Facebook button in the iSwifter app. And waited. And waited. Eventually it timed out with an error saying the game (?) couldn't be loaded. I tried a few more times with the same result, then took a break for dinner. When I came back to try again, Facebook told me my account had been locked due to suspicious activity: someone trying to log in from Seattle, WA using Firefox for Linux. This happened right about the time I was trying to access Facebook via the iSwifter app. Coincidence?
At this point I'd spent a good hour or so puttering around with iSwifter, and had yet to actually play a Flash game. During that time I'd been nagged three times to buy a subscription, and, as I'd had enough aggravation, 1 day of my free 7 day trial was gone.
My suggestion to you? Give iSwifter a few weeks to work the kinks out before you start burning through your free trial. Apparently it worked much better for GigaOm than it did for me, and perhaps their systems were just overloaded during the launch of their new version.
My suggestion to iSwifter is to chill out on the subscription nagging. Let people enjoy their free trial and learn to love your service before you start badgering them!
There's a germ of a great idea here, once they get the kinks worked out. If you're a heavy Facebook gamer, $5/month might be a fair price in order to enjoy your games from the comfort of your iPad. I'm less convinced there's a market for people who're willing to pony up $3/month to watch Flash video when so many sources offer an HTML 5 alternative. Just for grins I hit hulu.com and was turned away because it determined I was using an anonymous proxy service. Another disappointment.