Apple TV: Games and apps would be a tough way to gain traction

Apple TV: Games and apps would be a tough way to gain traction

Summary: Like most 11-year-olds, my son loves playing video games on the Wii, the PlayStation and, yes, even on his iPod Touch. With that said, I don't know if he'd find anything appealing about playing the games he's downloaded from Apple's App Store on the living room big screen TV - not with a Wii and PlayStation already there.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Apple, Mobility
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Like most 11-year-olds, my son loves playing video games on the Wii, the PlayStation and, yes, even on his iPod Touch. With that said, I don't know if he'd find anything appealing about playing the games he's downloaded from Apple's App Store on the living room big screen TV - not with a Wii and PlayStation already there.

This morning, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggested that Apple could use next week's Worldwide Developer's Conference to launch an SDK for games in a new Apple TV App Store - not that Apple has offered any clues that it's even working on an App Store for Apple TV.

Munster, it seems, has a good eye for businesses Apple should be in - even if Apple itself doesn't see it that way. After all, it was Munster who predicted back in February that Apple would sell 6.6 million Apple TV units this year. Yet, I haven't really heard a peep out of Apple as it relates to Apple TV in months and I certainly haven't seen any efforts by the company to raise awareness about Apple TV and the digital living room. 

For the sake of disclosure, I have an Apple TV unit in my living room and my family likes using it to rent HD movies (no need for a Blu-Ray player in my home) and play slide shows of our family photo albums in iPhoto.  Like Munster, I would like to see Apple pay more attention to Apple TV and treat it with the same respect it gives the iPod, the iPhone and the Mac. It really is an innovative product worthy of more respect and there's so much more than the company could and should be doing with it.

But if Apple - or Munster - thinks that games on a special App Store for Apple TV is the best approach, they're setting themselves up for disappointment. After all, there are already a lot of heavy hitters out there in the video game business - the Wii, the Xbox, the PlayStation - and just this week, there was plenty of video game buzz coming out of the big E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles. None of it had anything to do with Apple.

Sure, there's some meat to the idea that Apple TV could become the hub of the digital living room and games would only be a part of that. But isn't that what Microsoft is shooting for with the Xbox and the integrations with Facebook, Twitter and last.fm that were announced at E3? I can only imagine what those commercials might look like. (Hi, I'm Apple TV. And I'm an Xbox...)

In his note to investors, Munster writes:

If Apple was planning on releasing an updated Apple TV in Sept. (which we are expecting), the company could use the gathering of its developers to launch an SDK for the Apple TV and announce an App Store for the platform. The Apps could include digital video services to expand the content available on the Apple TV (i.e Hulu), but perhaps more importantly, developers could begin developing games for the Apple TV. We believe Apple would likely develop an SDK that enabled the iPhone or iPod touch to be a controller or input device for games on the iPhone. This would enable users to control game features (like driving a car) with the tilt of the iPhone or iPod touch using the built-in accelerometer, but would not enable Wii-like motion sensing, for advanced features like swinging a golf club or aiming a weapon.

He went on to stress that he doesn't expect this to be announced at next week's developer's conference "due to its relative complexity." Instead, he's speculating (suggesting? hinting? hoping?) that the company might reach out to developers next week to help kick-start those efforts.

As an Apple TV owner, I hope Munster is right with his projections - but I won't hold my breath. The idea of using the iPhone or iPod Touch as a video game controller is intriguing - though I can't imagine anyone would buy an Apple TV for the games and then run out and pick up a couple of iPod Touches or iPhones so they can play them.

I can't imagine that Apple thinks anyone would do that either.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Mobility

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5 comments
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  • You need specialized hardware for games.

    In order to do anything even remotely competitive with the Xbox, PS3, and Wii, you'll need specialized hardware. Hardware well beyond what's needed for video decoding.

    . . . and my guess is while the Apple TV has the hardware for decent video, it doesn't have anywhere near the hardware required for 3D graphics, which is totally different from decoding video.
    CobraA1
    • True for PS3 and Xbox 360

      But the success of apps on iPod Touch and iPhone is attractive to Apple
      and their developers.

      Trivial to port an iPhone like SDK (e.g. Core animation etc) to the Apple
      TV. Apple would need to define an angle, but this is something they've
      been very successful at.

      It would be a mistake to go head to head with PS3 or Xbox 360, but do
      they have to?
      Richard Flude
  • iPhone as a controller? *shudder*

    I've been playing console games pretty much all my life. I would *not* want to have to use a controller that's not designed as a game controller. A touchscreen just can't substitute for real buttons, leaving you free to look at the TV while doing input by feel. This isn't as big of an issue for iPhone games which are displayed on the phone itself, but on a TV? No. Just... no.

    If you want a good input device for videogames, look at the Playstation Dual Shock, not the iPhone.
    masonwheeler
  • RE: Apple TV: Games and apps would be a tough way to gain traction

    Why oh why does apple not make a range of televisions with an Apple TV built in? That would be a hit and seem like a clear way for Apple to get into the living room at the high end (where Sony used to be). I'd buy one. Even better if they could figure out how to let you play games on it.
    nat_robinson
  • At least give me more storage!

    As I sit here syncing movies and tv shows to the Apple TV for the babysitter who is watching my kids for the next few days... I wonder why they haven't added something as simple as EXPANDABLE STORAGE to the device yet. This constant syncing business is getting old.... and I have the large capacity Apple TV.
    jarra64