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Apple TV can't afford to sideline F2P if it wants to take on PS4 and Xbox One

Apple TV can't afford to sideline F2P if it wants to take on PS4 and Xbox One

Robot Invader's Chris Pruett, creator of Wind-up Knight, recently explained via Twitter that he wants Apple to restrict free-to-play games on its seemingly inevitable Apple TV microconsole.

He wants paid games to be given the time and space they need to flourish, before free-to-play titles are eventually introduced  to the market.

It's a bold idea, but it's one that - on first glance, at least - I can actually get on board with. See, paid games are lagging well behind free-to-play games on mobile, so giving them a place where they can be featured and showcased is certainly a worthwhile endevour. I really like paid games that don't necessarily rely on in-app purchases, and I'd love it if a premium renaissance on the Apple TV could reignite the flames of passion on mobile.

Unfortunately though, I think that such an idea is fatally flawed. It wouldn't work in the long-term, and in the short-term it could kill the lucrative potential of the Apple TV as a gaming console. There are three reasons why it just cannot happen. 

The power of three

The first is that it's essentially just delaying the inevitable. Remember the early days of the App Store, back when paid games ruled the day? Well, eventually prices started getting cut to 99c in order to make money by quantity of sales, and once Apple allowed in-app purchases in free apps, it was only a matter of time before the free-to-play model tightened its grip.
 
Time is a flat circle, and a similar situation will emerge if Apple artificially restricts free-to-play on its Apple TV. Of course, the situations are not 100 percent analogous, but there's a reason why paid games are a rounding error right now.
 
The second is that it would take away one of Apple TV's big advantages, because free-to-play really hasn't really found a solid foothold on any consoles yet, micro or otherwise.
 
Yes, It's a big deal on PC, and it's obviously a huge deal on mobile, but part of the reason why the microconsole, and in turn the Apple TV, is so appealing is because this lucrative business model just doesn't really exist on Xbox One or PS4 in a meaningful way.
 

Even if it does make the jump to consoles soon, I don't know if either system will be a real contender in the free-to-play market, largely because I don't think console gamers will be receptive to the business model. This will leave a window of opportunity wide open, and I expect the Apple TV to seize the day.

The third, and most important, reason the Apple TV can't forgo free-to-play is simple: it would shut out the casual market.

Apple TV has the potential to hand developers a great opportunity to reach a new demographic.

Let's think about why the Apple TV is really going appealing to developers. Is it because a lot of their games would look great on a TV? Sure, but there will be many people who'll buy the Apple TV for other functions, such as streaming video, rather than for gaming.

Uncharted territory

Those are the audiences developers will be looking to tap into, and Apple TV has the potential to hand them a great opportunity to reach a new demographic if it opens up the market to free-to-play games.

Imagine having a way to play a few quick games of Candy Crush on TV, or kill some time with friends by trying to get high scores in Flappy Bird. Apple could do something really unique here, if it gives free-to-play a chance.

Letting free-to-play roam free doesn't mean penning in paid games. The gamepads will be out there, and if Apple packs in a controller, or at least makes a remote that's very user friendly, premium could still thrive.

It all depends on whether Apple integrates the existing iOS App Store or not, because developers will be able to charge more for games that are meant to be bigger, TV-friendly experiences.

Apple TV could open new doors for both F2P and premium developers

You only have to look at 99c games like Avoid: Sensory Overload or TriBlaster, which are currently selling on Steam for $3.99 and $4.99 respectively, to know that developers can charge more for big screen experiences, and that, more importantly, consumers will pay the price.

Ultimately though, while I do want paid games to do well on an Apple TV microconsole, I think that making the system primarily about paid games would do irreparable damage.

It would limit the device's audience to "gamers" when it should be a platform that appeals to everyone, and that's a major problem, because if the Apple TV doesn't get off to a running start with gaming, its journey might be over before it's even begun.

Formally of 148Apps, which was acquired by Pocket Gamer owner Steel Media in 2012, Carter Dotson is a freelancer writer working for Touch Arcade and Android Rundown.

Stateside columnist

Freelance writer covering mobile and gaming for @toucharcade, @Gamezebo, and more!

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