Apple’s relationship with the games industry has always been one of great intrigue. It wasn’t so long ago that the Mac platform was seen as a gaming graveyard: a small selection a games left unsupported and unfulfilled. Simply put, games weren’t even on Apple’s radar, even to the extent that the late Steve Jobs was previously quoted in an interview saying Apple discouraged game development as it was seen as games ‘would paint the Mac as a less-than-serious business tool‘. Which is why the recent unveiling of Apple TV and ‘the new iPad’ (seriously just hurry up and give it a proper name already!) is so interesting.
Although Apple may not have wanted to enter the games industry per say, the revelations that were the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and, perhaps most importantly, the App Store, have changed the gaming landscape permanently. Gaming is now more affordable and accessible to the masses than ever before. iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads have become staples of our daily lifestyles and routines, the majority of people now own mobile phones and MP3 players. Thus the evolution and integration of gaming on these platforms has exposed handheld gaming to a larger audience than the DS and PSP could have dreamt.
At the time of writing sales figures for ‘the new iPad’ have yet to be released, however it looks set to sell 1 million units on its launch day alone (according to senior research analyst, Gene Munster that is). Meanwhile Sony’s recently released Playstation Vita, arguably the iPad’s nearest competitor in terms of games, took weeks to hit 1.2 million according to Sony’s own press release. Perhaps, not a fair comparison to make when the Playstation Vita is primarily seen as a gaming device whereas ‘the new iPad’ is touted for its multi-functionality. However Apple, whether they like it or not, have become big competitors in the handheld market and the estimated first day sales of ‘the new iPad’ give even more clout to such a claim.
Apple’s key ingredient is without a doubt, the App Store. With a collection of around 585,000 apps (although admittedly not all of them games) and a staggering 25,000,000,000 total downloads (reached on the 7th of March 2012), the App Store has flourished into a gaming giant since it’s initial release in July 2008. With 70/30 splits between Apple and app developers, the simplicity of iOS touch controls and the sheer affordability of apps, it’s no wonder the App Store has been HUGE. Games are cheaper to buy and create and easier to use and play on the App Store, meaning it has struck a chord with game developers and consumers alike. So much so that it has been a total game changer (excuse the pun) thrusting the Silicon Valley based company into the forefront of the global games industry.
The unveiling of ‘the new iPad’ and the newly revised Apple TV could potentially mark the next step in Apple’s involvement in the games industry. What was telling about Apple’s keynote was their focus on the device’s new specs and the iPad’s brand new retina display. All the talk recently has been about the power of the Playstation Vita, so naturally when it came to ‘the new iPad’, Apple wanted to shout its praises too.
‘The new iPad’ is perhaps Apple’s most games orientated device to date. It’s new retina display and A5X processor mean that, on paper at least, it rivals not only handheld competitors like the Playstation Vita and the 3DS but also home consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3. The prospect of potentially having triple-A titles running on an iPad is a far cry from the days where games on Mac were pretty much non-existent; a sign of just how much progress the company has made in such a short space of time.
Apple have seemingly already won the war on the casual market (at least for now) but a push for more hardcore titles could lead to unprecedented market dominance. Factor in the massive success of the App Store, the iPad’s huge user base and Apple’s blooming relationship with indie and more established developers, and there is no reason why such a move couldn’t happen, changing the face of the gaming landscape again.
Much has been made about ‘the new iPad’ and its attraction to gamers, however it is was the other big announcement made at the very same keynote which, for my money, yields the most potential of allowing Apple to shake up the games industry once again. The new Apple TV brings with it 1080p HD and cross device integration, however the heavily rumoured addition of the App Store which didn’t come to fruition this time around is what’s more mouth watering.
For years it’s been rumoured that Apple were going to release a home console for the gaming market and although nothing has ever come of it, an Apple TV with App Store integration is a likely substitute and a safer option than an altogether new device. With the casual market already familiar with the likes of Angry Birds and co. The possibility to play such games on your TV or monitor in HD would be a welcome addition, especially if the triple-A titles being touted from ‘the new iPad’ come to fruition.
Of course, what the Apple TV would represent as a whole if the App Store were to be added later on down the line would surely be the device’s main selling point. Currently the likes of Microsoft and Sony are busy adding more and more services to their consoles in order to essential transform their home consoles into more entertainment based hubs. The likes of players for Sky, Lovefilm and Netflix, social media integration with Twitter and Facebook, even music players like Last.Fm have shown that the focus has slightly shifted and that a home console is now no longer about the games, it’s about the whole entertainment package.
Of course, what you get with the Apple TV is that really, it’s already much more of a entertainment hub than the PS3 or the Xbox 360. You already can listen to music, rent and watch movies, and surf the internet on the Apple TV, whereas Sony and Microsoft are busy trying to add and include all these different components. Meanwhile the Apple TV really only needs one extra component, the games. Through the App Store apple already have a huge install user base and a ENOURMOUS collection of apps straight out of the bag. Combine the two and yet again you have another potential game changer.
With a new generation of consoles allegedly on the way within the near future, perhaps it isn’t just Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo at which we must look to. The unveiling of ‘the new iPad’ and the new Apple TV perhaps more significant than first thought. We’ll have to wait and see.
- Kieran Roycroft