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Summary:

Apple has made significant steps towards cornering the mobile gaming market (though that “premium” games section so far hasn’t come to pass), and both Sony and Nintendo have likely been forced to re-examine their portable offerings in order to try to regain ground. I doubt either […]

Apple TVApple has made significant steps towards cornering the mobile gaming market (though that “premium” games section so far hasn’t come to pass), and both Sony and Nintendo have likely been forced to re-examine their portable offerings in order to try to regain ground. I doubt either of those companies or Microsoft would appreciate competition from Cupertino in the home console arena, but more and more industry insiders are coming forward with predictions that that’s exactly where Apple is headed.

According to Kotaku, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has predicted that Apple will not be satisfied with the small taste of the gaming market they’ve had with the iPhone and iPod touch. During Ubisoft’s fiscal year-end conference call early this week, Guillemot commented that “[T]here’s also a new entrant in the business. Apple, with the iPhone. And we don’t think they will stop there.” The CEO made the statement after discussing the gaming potential of set-top boxes, OnLive’s remote gaming system being the most highly publicized such device in recent memory.

It should be noted that Guillemot’s older brother Michel runs GameLoft, which is one of Apple’s most successful and prolific gaming partners. Ubisoft partnered with GameLoft to bring Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles to the iPhone. Really, the two companies are in as good a position as any (with the possible exception of EA) to be aware of any gaming moves made by Apple.

The problem with Apple developing a gaming console to take on the PS3, Xbox, and Wii, is that traditionally, profit margins have been slim to nonexistent on the hardware itself until late in the product’s life, with most of the revenue coming from game sales. With the iPhone and iPod touch, at least, Apple seems to be depending on the reverse formula, in that they don’t make much money from software, and instead use it as incentive for selling hardware.

A much more reasonable prediction is that Apple won’t take on the core gaming market that provides the bulk of Sony and Microsoft’s fan base, but will instead appeal more to casual gamers that would be attracted to the Wii, or to PSN/XBLA titles. While there have been calls from fans and Apple watchers to open up the Apple TV platform to app development like the iPhone, nothing so far has come of it. The platform isn’t faring as well as Microsoft’s Xbox is, in terms of living room media center devices, but adding app capabilities to it could blow that competition wide open. Apple must’ve considered it, and could just be waiting to see if it will be worth the time and money to open up the platform to developers vs. focusing on the mobile market if the risk appears too great.

  1. Well, this would at least let Microsoft shed the mantle of worst hardware quality in existence. If anything, Apple has the market on putting the cheapest most poorly manufactured parts, in their devices. Guess someone had to come along and give the RROD Machine a break.

    Morne

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  2. I disagree with the previous comment regarding hardware quality, in fact my experience has been the polar opposite.

    I’m personally very excited by the prospect of this happening. One thing Apple has shown us with the iPhone is it’s ability to innovate and create new markets. The console industry could do with some new blood.

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  3. I saw a patent that was awarded Apple for a PVR. If they want to sell games and have a profitable product add a PVR software to the TV product with a Blu-ray player and now were talking hot off the shelf

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  4. Re: the poor hardware – that’s the first I’ve ever heard that, and certainly contrary to my experience. I’ve had an Apple or Mac(s) since the days of the IIe and never had a hardware failure. Every Dell, Asus, Gateway or whitebox PC I’ve ever owned has experienced hardware failure.

    Now back to the question at hand. An Apple game system. Should Apple decide to enter this market, it will require a rethink of their basic processes, that they have so far failed to demonstrate on the gaming side. There are still huge technical hurdles to efficiently porting a game to different platforms. The release of platform is the easy part. Getting developers to make games for it is the hard part.

    Until very recently, Apple has demonstrated a complete inability to get game designers to port to the Mac. Sure there are the few notable exceptions, but on the whole the Mac games market is still far behind the others. This is changing since the move to Intel, but there are still huge hurdles. For example I’d love to be able to use my 8800 Ultra graphics card in my Mac, but there are no drivers (I know this isn’t Apple’s fault completely).

    Apple needs to demonstrate a commitment to the Major gaming community first. Then they will have a base from which to release a gaming platform. If its implemented as poorly as Apple TV then it will fail to gain popular respect or commercialization. If it goes hand in hand with some kind of concerted push to get devs to port Tier 1 titles to Macs in general then you have to believe that Apple will implement the hardware, graphics, sound and controllers very well.

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  5. The PC Gaming Industry is fairly dead.

    It is the console games that are making the money. But only Nintendo is making money selling the hardware themselves. Sony and Microsoft are losing money on the hardware.

    With new expertise in casual gaming, I think Apple has an opportunity to create a new market niche for themselves in gaming.

    With the iTunes store in place as THE best distribution platform, Apple has a way to sell games easily to users.

    With the OS X SDK available, it allows everyone, not just hardcore developers, to develop games easily and cheaply for Apple’s new console. The price of entry is extremely high for the other consoles. But as Apple has shown, if you make it easy to develop your own applications, people will develop like crazy for you. Witness how quickly the App store has amassed games for the iPhone+iPod Touch and apps in general – completely outstripping Microsoft’s Mobile Windows platform in only a few months.

    The key is that every iPhone and iPod Touch developer IS ALREADY a Mac OS X developer. They use the same tools. Since the console will be OS X based, Apple already has 50,000 active developers ready to make games and other apps for the living room console. For many people, all it takes is a recompile of the code. That is amazing. Nothing like this has ever been present at the introduction of a console.

    Apple does not need to demonstrate a commitment to the major gaming community. They already have a base. It is called OS X. It is the same base for the iPhone, the iPod Touch, the iPod, the Macintosh, and the Apple TV. They already have thousands of new developers – many students and mom-and-pop outfits that would be happy to make millions of dollars selling their apps with a simple recompile between the iPhone, iPod Touch, the new iPad, and the new Apple Console.

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  6. Although there may be 50.000 developers ready to publish their 1$ games for the apple-TV console, hardly anyone would be playing those games. There are fare less Apple TV’s in peoples homes than iPhones in peoples pockets. And personally I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. The iPhone was a relief for people who were tired of their old-fashioned overcomplex nokia’s, but what is Apple TV? Only loyal mac-fans know that it even exists, and among them, only a small part understands what it does.
    I personally don’t see the added value of a box that sits between my macbook and my TV, and adding iPhone games to that box won’t really change that.

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