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Summary:

Many have speculated that Apple could make a move into the console gaming market. I’ve always been skeptical of such an idea, but what if Apple has already made its living room play, and we just have to wait for all the pieces to come together?

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Many have speculated that Apple could make a move into the console gaming market. I’ve always been skeptical of such an idea, even though it isn’t without precedent. But what if Apple’s already made its living-room play, and we just have to wait for all the pieces to come together?

Apple’s gaming strategy is currently focused on the mobile space, but it could easily transition into the living room. Here’s why:

1. iOS Is a Robust Gaming Platform

It’s hard to overstate the success of gaming on the iPhone and iPod touch. There are an estimated 125 million iOS devices in users’ hands and more than 40,000 gaming titles in the App Store. Games continue to be among the top-selling apps on the iOS charts.

With iOS, Apple has the most important part of the gaming equation down: a solid software library for users to choose from. Though every title won’t translate well to a big-screen gaming experience, many would, including Galaxy on Fire 2, Reckless Racing and Age of Zombies. Upcoming titles like Infinity Blade, with its rich, Unreal 3 engine graphics, immersive gameplay, show that iOS titles could potentially compete with even the most ambitious console games.

2. No New Hardware Required

Apple doesn’t need to make a game console for the living room, because it already has all the components readily available to consumers. The Apple TV, the iPad, and the iPhone/iPod touch are all the home console many people could ever want.

Third-party developers are painting a picture of how this might work. The Incident, one of my favorite iOS games, recently introduced an update that allows you to use the iPhone as a controller for the iPad. A user figured out that, using Apple’s own dock connector-to-VGA adapter, he could run the game on his TV and control it with his iPhone. Here’s a video of the system in action:

This is a bit cumbersome, but once Apple introduces app support on the Apple TV, or at the very least, extends AirPlay beyond just movies and videos to streaming applications, it could be a more viable option.

3. Extra Investment From Apple Is Minimal

The only thing Apple has to do to move gaming from its mobile platform and onto users’ TVs is introduce an API. In fact, the company might only have to bundle existing APIs together and push the concept on developers.

Apple could just let people use the VGA connector to transmit iOS games to their televisions. However, the idea holds so much profit potential that Cupertino could easily introduce iOS gaming to the Apple TV. That would provide a major differentiator for Apple’s streaming media box versus its Google competition.

What do you think? Is Apple working toward becoming a major player in the home console gaming market?

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  1. I completely agree they’re keeping this option open, Darrell.

    They’ve already implemented touch-sensitive trackpad-like “control surfaces” with the iPhone Remote app for as an alternative to the AppleTV remote.

    They’ve already got Game Center.

    All they have to do is turn Game Center on for your Apple TV, stream the video and you have a living room gaming experience. Of course it’s not optimized yet… I think might still be a year out from seeing this take off. Apple TV may not have the horsepower, WiFi networks might be unreliable, bluetooth might be a better go-forward strategy for syncing your iPhone/iPad to the AppleTV, etc.

    But I absolutely think that Apple is making a huge argument that gaming on the iOS platform is relevant. See Steam’s Mac version, see the push for Game Center, and I think AppleTV will come.

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  2. They might have to get a controller with real buttons, which I know apple doesn’t like. I love apple, I have 2 macbooks, an ipad and an iphone. But I will never get an Apple TV. My Xbox 360 is years and years ahead of the apple tv in terms of functionality. Especially now that ESPN3 has been added to the xbox with the recent system update.

    I don’t just want the pieces to “fall together”. If apple wants to make a serious play for the living room, they should do it!

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  3. I disagree. New hardware is required. Namely a gamepad or even line of gamepad. And they need to be Apple branded even if they are optional purchases that way third party developers will be more willing to support them.

    I also think the Apple TV needs some internal storage before this really works but adding some flash memory to it in a revision shouldn’t be too difficult.

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  4. Uh, of course…why do you think they built a Billion Dollar datacenter? To serve Netflix?

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  5. There’s no way Apple can compete and become a major player on the home console market with that strategy.

    Iphone games are simple and fun to play on the road, but there’s no way you can compare that to the XBox 360, PS3 or even the underpowered Wii. Games will look terrible compared to the other systems.

    And tryin to compete with an iphone controller when the future is kinect and PS move is backwards, at least you need a controller, I’ve tried to play SF IV on IPhone and you can’t compare the controller.

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  6. Apple TV comes with 8GB flash memory today.

    I don’t see Apple’s already implemented hw and sw set as allowing them to make a choice to implement games. That’s too conservative.

    I see the current set as a rollout phase of getting everything in place to make a lot of net income off of games and taking over the living room. When the final pieces fall into place Apple will have games, photos, movies, and documents running on Macs, and iOS devices being displayed on Apple TV.

    I don’t think anyone will match the quality, speed, and ease of this trick for another 2 years at least.

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  7. Apple cares as much about gaming as they do the enterprise. They publish some APIs, speak to developers and let third parties try to do something while keeping their strategy to themselves.

    Apple’s hardware strives to be small and efficient. Gaming (even casual gaming) requires more and is counter to Steve and Jonathan’s design priorities.

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  8. Hamranhansenhansen Thursday, November 11, 2010

    I think this is a natural extension of AirPlay.

    People who say “an XBox is so much more powerful” are missing the point. XBox has nothing to do with it. TV gaming would just be one mode of iOS gaming. Apple TV just makes the TV an iPad/iPhone/iPod accessory. You could visit a friend, watch a movie off your iPhone on their Apple TV, and play a game off your iPhone with them on their Apple TV. Apple is not going to say “buy an Apple TV instead of XBox” they are going to continue to say “buy an iPad/iPhone/iPod instead of an XBox” and Apple TV just adds additional features to make that more attractive.

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  9. Consoles are for people who KNOW they want to play games, who spend tens of hours a week and hundreds of dollars a year on games and hardware. Games on Apple TV are for people who don’t know they want to play games, but get interested if it’s easy, cheap, fun, and social. People above 40 and below 10 years old. People who dropped $100 on Apple TV so they could watch a few shows/movies on the Costco HDTV without having to pay for cable – then discovered they can get hours of entertainment from a $3 game. Parents who get their laptop back by moving the kids over to the TV screen (and away from web games).

    Apple’s strategy is to get the cost of the box down and make it back on content. They want as many boxes out there as possible, because every use is an impulse purchase driving incremental revenue that’s nearly all profit. A box with fancier graphics would only cost more and sell less. Why ruin it with a spec war?

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