Drop your PS4 controller, and shut off your Xbox One—a new video gaming player is coming to town.
As rumor has it, Apple is dipping its toe into the realm of video gaming with a gaming console-enabled, next-gen Apple TV. Apple has already put more than 13 million Apple TVs in living rooms across the world, and that’s without putting any of its marketing muscle behind the device. With Apple owning the mobile gaming market—no question—the opportunities an iOS gaming console presents for future Apple TV sales is astronomical.
But does Apple have the specs, games and appeal to really take on giants like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo? Let’s take a look.
iOS Hardware Development
A first and primary argument as to why Apple may not be a threat to its gaming competitors is the quality of graphics and processing that the latest gaming consoles have over Apple devices. This may be the case now, but it may not be the case forever.
For starters, Apple’s latest device, the iPhone 5S, runs on a 64-bit A7 chip with a 1.3 to 1.4 GHz dual-core CPU. PS4 runs on a 1.6 GHz, and Xbox runs on a 1.75 GHz, so Apple doesn’t lag too far behind.
Also, consider this: Traditional gaming consoles usually take about seven years to release a new version with all new and presumably better specs. Apple, however, releases multiple new products with upgraded specs every year, which means that its hardware development could catch up faster than the major gaming companies might realize.
Controllers, another aspect of gaming hardware deemed essential by a large portion of gamers, have been in development as well, and Apple currently has several to choose from. Touchscreens do not replace controllers with physical buttons, so this was an aspect of support Apple needed to bring to fruition.
Because the next version of iOS will include a standard way for game developers to add controller support, this issue is predicted to be solved sooner than later after its release. This will also open the doors for more controller makers who want to contribute their own hardware to the new console. In fact, Logitech and Moga have already been confirmed as launch partners.
At the end of last year, Apple bought Israeli 3D sensor market leader Primesense for $360 million. This purchase is rumored to be a move toward creating Apple’s own Kinect-like motion sensing technology for a potential gaming console.
Apple will take the time to develop all the hardware it needs to remain competitive if and when it builds a new gaming console.
Taking the hardware one step further, Apple’s video gaming initiative will also need to develop compatibility for gaming across TV, desktop and mobile devices.
Google, Sony and Microsoft have already created games that are available across all platforms (mobile, desktop, console), which is the next stage in gaming development, but the technologies that support those games have proven to be shaky at best. Few games are available, and the quality is not yet up to par with gamers’ expectations.
Apple took the opposite approach. Instead of creating console-like games and then developing the necessary technology to make those games available across multiple platforms, Apple invented the technology, Airplay, first. And the company not only created it—it has refined it far beyond what Google, Sony or Microsoft have thus far, which puts Apple in a solid position for if and when it does indeed release its Apple TV gaming console. Airplay has a ways to go before reaching anything near perfection in terms of gaming, but its creation was a step in the right direction.
Undercutting Traditional Prices
While Apple is typically known for producing higher-end, and thus higher-priced, electronics, this might not be the case with an Apple TV-enabled gaming console. Currently, the Apple TV costs $100. Apple will likely increase this price to include the console and possibly a controller. But even if Apple bumps the price to $200 or even $250, it will still be undercutting the current prices of the other biggest gaming consoles: Wii U at $300, PlayStation at $400 and Xbox One at $500.
In addition to undercutting console prices, Apple’s games thus far cost much less than games available for these traditional systems. Most iOS games range from free to under $20 at this point, averaging $.76, while newer games for the latest consoles often carry a price of $60. Even the PS3 games (average $28.92) and Xbox 360 games (average $24.60) can’t compete with the average and even maximum prices of iOS games. It’s also worthy to take note that the number of iOS games available beats its competitors by 170 times.
Some may argue that Apple releases mostly basic games with very primitive graphics and gameplay, but this is not entirely true, and it certainly won’t be true in the future. Beyond Angry Birds and Farmville, Apple has come a long way with game developers and has released iOS versions of Bastion, XCom and The Walking Dead, plus Limbo, Terraria and The Cave are on the way.
Major publishers too are taking aim at the iOS gaming platform, such as Eidos releasing Deus Ex: The Fall, which should have a production value similar to its console version, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. And that’s just one example, with many more in the pipeline. Plus, Apple has made these games’ iOS versions available for a cheaper price than their counterparts while still offering comparable graphics and gameplay.
These cheaper games and a cheaper console could be a threat for the other major gaming companies. Will they have to cut their own prices to remain competitive in the gaming industry? Or will gamers continue to pay the higher prices due to brand loyalty, better graphics (for now), preferential gameplay, or the other benefits of a traditional console?
Apple Putting Everything In Place
Between various technologies and games already developed, all Apple needs is a console to complete the package. And that is probably the trickiest part. Apple TV currently has a low storage capacity of 8 GB, much of which is taken up by the operating system. Also, the method with which games will be delivered from a mobile device to an Apple TV is a bit shaky with lag time. In short, Apple has plenty to work on.
All things considered, Apple allegedly has its people on the job, and rumors abound that the console could be released with the next version of Apple TV, which could be released as early as April.
PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo loyalists may insist that they would never leave their favorite system behind, but you just never know what Apple might come up with—particularly following such innovations as the iPhone and iPad.
Apple has already sold 700 million iOS devices since the introduction of the iPhone, the latest being equipped with decent CPU/GPU and impressive processing power. In comparison, Sony has sold 78 million PS3s as since the console’s release in 2006 (of March 2013), and Microsoft has sold 78.2 million Xbox 360s since its release in 2005 (as of as of June 2013).
With this magnitude of product, Apple may give Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo a run for their money in the race to the top of the gaming industry. But with all this being merely a rumor—and Apple keeping mum as usual—we’ll have to wait and see what Apple has up its sleeve.