My Apple TV is looking for more work to do. Yes, it’s happy to be playing songs and the occasional show from my iTunes library, and surfing YouTube, but I get the sense it’s bored. Meanwhile, next to it, my Nintendo Wii is running interactive video games, downloading classic arcade titles over the Internet, and doesn’t mind being dominated through a pair of wireless game controllers. It seems to me, with a little work, the Apple TV would itself present a good platform for video games on the TV set, but there is a big stumbling block in a small package – the Apple Remote, which isn’t flexible enough to act as a serious game controller.
The iPod has a set of simple arcade games available for download from iTunes. The Apple TV has a hard drive and a network connection, capable of downloading firmware updates. It doesn’t seem too far-fetched that I could navigate my Apple TV at some future point and pull down the equivalents of Tetris, BeJeweled, Brick Breaker, or other games, through a channel parallel to that of YouTube. But even if Apple were to extend games from the iPod and iPhone to the Apple TV, for projection on attached wide screen TVs, the effort to enforce minimalism on the Apple Remote wouldn’t leave many options open for developers or game enthusiasts more comfortable with with multi-button controllers.
I’ve grown used to the Apple Remote as a great navigational tool for Apple TV, but all it offers are directional keys, a play/pause button and the Menu key. Even the addition of an iPod-like scroll wheel would be better for games than this. While I laud the intent of Steve Jobs and Apple to deliver a small, easy to handle remote for one function, it is missing the capability to expand, should the Apple TV ever graduate from a “hobby” to a real product line that Apple takes seriously. A great start to making us early adopters believe that Apple wants to move beyond the hobby stage would be to add games to the Apple TV and offer a new remote.