Apple's console already exists
June 23, 2011
We’ve been somewhat critical of the Apple TV as a gaming console, and when we last wrote about the subject, we proferred that the key to Apple’s gaming platform success was already achieved in Apple’s mobile devices:
Technologies like AirPlay, or even video-out adapters, may well serve gamers to stream iPhone and iPad gaming to the big-screen, and this is where we expect to see additional innovation. Why tack on additional costs to the Apple TV by offering new controllers, or muse about potential storage solutions, when we already have capable storage on existing iOS devices?
John Gruber linked a comment from Phil Harrison, who was involved in the original Sony Playstation launch. The future of Apple, Harrison contends, is also the future of gaming. And Gruber responds by noting that the Apple TV doesn’t even support apps yet, as though to point out how the Apple TV will be another salvo aimed at the console industry. But as we pointed out back in April when we talked about the Apple TV as a console, the changes Apple would need to make to the platform to complete against the traditional console market is unecessarily complex, and the more likely scenario Apple will pursue is much easier to envision:
The Apple TV doesn’t need gaming apps, it simply needs to present the apps already on our iOS devices to the big-screen. Everyone thinks the Apple TV could be another platform for Apple to push, but its true strength is in acting as a bridge between our existing Apple devices and the television. Just as it already streams music, photos, and video from our devices, the Apple TV could be leveraged to present a gaming experience served up from these same devices. The issue then is not adding controllers and storage to the Apple TV, but adding an Apple TV to our iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
Or more simply put, mobile Apple devices shouldn’t be seen as accessories to the Apple TV; the Apple TV should be considered an accessory to mobile Apple devices. We can take this further to say that the Apple TV will never be a gaming console, but it will be the accessory that brings the console experience to the home, thanks to bridging audio and video from iPads and iPhones to the family TV. The proof-of-concept was playing iPad games on TVs thanks to a wired adapter, but the release version of this technology is AirPlay, which already works fairly well for conventional media. With iOS 5, AirPlay will work for streaming audio/video from games to the TV as well, and as Real Racing 2 for the iPad illustrates, the technology will allow mobile devices to display additional information, while the main visual output will show up on the TV.1
There’s still the small issue of storage, because 64GB max on the iPad means that only a handful of truly deep games can sit in one’s future Apple console library at a time, but that storage limitation will slowly disappear. Plus, the reality is that many gamers are content playing games that don’t require massive storage requirements for graphics files and video, so just how serious this storage problem will be is questionable over the course of the next couple years.
We fully expect gaming developers to implement AirPlay functionality in future titles, to at least supplement the gaming experience There’s no need for Apple to compete for shelf-space in Gamestop, because beyond their digital distribution of games thanks to the AppStore, Apple’s console is already being shipped in several form factors thanks to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. The Apple TV is just icing on the cake.
Course maps for racing games displayed on the iPad while the action takes place on the TV is only one use of this technology. Imagine inventories, “scanners,” and other functionality accessible from an iPad, while the main action shows up on your television. Even the unsightly HUD in first-person-shooters can be relegated to a mobile iOS devices while the action is reserved for the TV. ↩