Mobile Mavens

Will Apple TV be a strong platform for gaming?

Will Apple TV be a strong platform for gaming?

In some ways. Apple's Press Event last week contained some key gaming announcements; iPad Pro, Apple TV, iPad Pro, Apple Watch watchOS 2...

But in other ways, while there were a lot of game developers on stage, it's not clear whether anything Apple announced will have the impact of the growing install base for iPhone 6.

On that basis, we asked our Mavens:

  • Do you think the new Apple TV with Wii-style remote, dedicated App Store, and continuous play across other iOS devices will ensure it's a strong platform for gaming?
  • And what are your view about the new iPad Pro and the potential for iOS 9's 3D Touch for more refined touchscreen gaming controls?

 

William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

First off, Apple scored a real win with Apple TV in multiple areas, not just gaming.

Voice. Amazon's FireTV box does have voice search for movies, abet only the title of a movie and only for Amazon's own movie content. This was a major mistake by Amazon in my opinion. Apple TV's Siri voice search is contextual (i.e. give me science fiction movies) and works across apps (HULU, Netflix etc.). It can even be used while viewing for rewind, content questions etc.

As a TV set-top, Apple has made real advancements here.

Now as to a game device, much depends on how the controller works. It also appeared in the demo, that for multiplayer one can use an iOS device as a controller as well (not clear).

As to a game device, much depends on how the controller works.
William D. Volk

Developers will be able to launch apps as 'universal' apps, that is for the phone, iPad and the TV. That means a well stocked market of games out the door. This simply wasn't the case with FireTV and other Android settops as the games needed to be modded for the controller. This controller appears to have solved the problem.

There's also the ability to continue play across devices.

I suspect Apple TV has more power than the competition (Android set-tops) and it will be a strong platform for gaming. Will be sure to have our Stick Figure Movie Trivia game on it, as it's quite appropriate for the device.

Tony Gowland CEO Ant Workshop

Tony’s career has covered the whole spectrum from AAA console to handheld, mobile and flash titles, working on huge franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, and Call of Duty.

In 2015 he founded Ant Workshop to develop his own titles and to offer his experience as a design consultant.

I think it'll do alright for Apple. I have doubts that developers will see much income from it.

I think it'll do alright for Apple. I have doubts that developers will see much income from it.
Tony Gowland

No doubt there'll be some early minor successes as people race to port and hope to be featured day one, same as for the Watch (did I see during that presentation there are now 10,000 watch apps? Strange we've not heard of any huge breakout successes).

But I think any really successful game would need to be developed for the TV as the main platform - casual iOS games (the market Apple are targeting with their "family friendly, definitely not a Wii, oh no sir" device) are made to be played at the same time as having the TV on in the background, they're not meant to be the main attraction.

More likely than people buying Apple TV games, I think they will just play the Apple TV versions of games they already own (this is a device that'll be selling to people already in the Apple ecosystem, not bringing in new converts).

I could see some purpose-built social/local multiplayer game doing will with IAP though - the added peer pressure and high spirits (by which of course I mean drinking) has certainly led to enough SingStore purchases from me in the past.

Small box. Big screen

I've just seen something that says the Apple TV also has no permanent storage, so apps need to be streamed every time they're loaded, with a maximum app size of 200MB as well, so yeah - definitely not trying to be any kind of gaming powerhouse.

(Also, maybe this is a cultural thing but anecdotally I've never met anybody who wants to control their TV - or any of their devices for that matter - with their voice. At a recent event I was at, nobody actually knew how to ask Siri a question on their phones.)

As for the other stuff on show - I don't see anything that's going to make a significant impact on games, at least not for a long time.

The 3D Touch looks nice, but you're not going to build an iPhone game around a feature that'll cut your potential audience right down, but give it a few years.

Patrick Liu Senior Product Owner, Spotify

While it's still interesting to make games for it as a craftsman, it's be challenging from a business standpoint.
Patrick Liu

Apart from technical challenges with no local storage and 200MB limit to apps, there are clearly design challenges too making an existing iPhone game work with Apple TV remote dependent on the type of game of course.

Essentially you have to make games work with a gamepad that only has two sticks (the touch control + accelerometer) and 2 buttons, which is very different from direct touchscreen control. For example you have to navigate menus/buttons with marker rather than interact direct with on-screen buttons.

While it's still interesting to make games for it as a craftsman and the novelty, it's be challenging from a business standpoint. It's not as simple port as one could have hoped for, neither technically nor design wise.

It's nice with more input possibilities with 3D Touch, but as Tony points out it makes little sense to cut out a huge part of your potential audience.

Thomas Nielsen Osao Games

Tony - the new Apple TV comes with 32GB or 64GB, so I wouldn't be concerned about that.

I'm still nauseous from 2+ hours of Apple wakeboarding me with bold statements on why any new minor product was re-designed from the ground up to be the biggest invention since sliced bread. I deserve a medal for making it through that.

As with all products that Apple launch, games seems like an afterthought, or something they'll work with if a market establishes itself.
Thomas Nielsen

Anyway..

The "old" Apple TV was probably ahead of its time. It was a streaming-only solution that served the TV content needs of probably only a relatively small segment. It was when Netflix and HBO started to change our viewing habits that the device became truly significant.

Despite my healthy selection of various boxes that connect to my TV, Apple TV gets a big majority of my time thanks to its simple navigation, streaming TV, and very much thanks to AirPlay.

That's probably the main reason why the new Apple TV is a fairly big deal. A lot of happy consumers are going to be upgrading, and more will probably choose Apple TV over competitors when looking at a good TV streaming solution.

As with all products that Apple launch, games seems like an afterthought, or something they'll work with if a market establishes itself. The remote is a pretty good sign of that – it feels extremely limited, and doesn't look like it would feel good or work well in a 180 degree position, as for example the FireTV remote.

Clearly the device has nothing whatsoever to compete with when it comes to the "core" console buying customer, but then again, those predictions are usually clickbait media reports that few of us believe anyway.

Not quite impulse pricing

We're bound to see some very creative new products, and I'm looking forward to that. I agree very much with what Tony said about entertaining the existing iOS audience. I don't think we'll see a huge amount of successful iOS converts, except for all the endless runners maybe, but we'll see games that appeal to the same casual demographic that already plays mobile games.

TV set-top box gaming has a new king, and that's super exciting.

I would have been through the roof if Apple were as creative in designing controllers as they are determined to make me feel a little ill through their presentations, and had they done that, I think they would have been in a much better position to expand their market.

Kyu Lee President (Gamevil USA) Gamevil

Kyu has been at GAMEVIL since the beginning in 2000 and has constantly played a key role in the evolution of Korean mobile gaming, continuously introducing innovation to the world.

Kyu graduated from Seoul National University with a BS in Physics and is currently on the board of advisory at GDC Mobile.

We've seen what Apple can do with the App Store for phones, and I'm still wondering why we still don't believe in the power of the App Store for the TV.

Apple will move its iOS developer community over to the tvOS, we'll notice numerous press releases on how much these titles are making, and then there'll be a rush from the rest of the devs coming over to win the big prize money.

I think it will play out very nicely for Apple eventually.

This is a serious game for Apple and they will go all in to support with all the money they are sitting on to beat Microsoft and Sony and any other home entertainment device company.

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

I don't really understand why I would want to play a casual game on a TV rather than a phone/tablet. In what way is it supposed to be better?

I think the argument for casual games on TVs is all wrong. It seems to be 'proper games are on consoles/TV. So, it's better to have a game on a TV than on a smaller, closer screen' I just don't buy it.

Apple TV is already supported with old and new games

The Wii was an amazing success, but that was pre-smartphone and I think we've moved beyond the idea of the TV as being the best place for the masses to play 'little' games on.

Sure, console games are great on TVs. But mobile games are great on mobiles. The people that love console games don't particularly want to play those games on their phones (so far, in the west at least) because the experience works perfectly well (better in fact) on a big screen with a specialised controller. So they've got a great capable, game machine to play them on.

I don't buy into the idea that everyone else is crying out for their mobile games to be on their TV instead. I mean, I could use Facebook or Google on my lovely big smart TV in the living room, but I don't. I've never even clicked on the icon.

I don't buy into the idea that everyone else is crying out for their mobile games to be on their TV.
Harry Holmwood

Ditto, our 'second' TV has a Fire TV stick plugged into it. I seem to remember seeing some mobile game icons on the home screen, but neither I, nor my kids, have ever clicked on them. Why would we? We can play them on our phones without intrusively taking up the TV - which is basically sat there idle waiting for Doctor Who to come back on.

Of course, if someone can show me a compelling game which is somehow a better experience on a big screen, but which isn't already being served by the highly successful consoles out there, as a player I'd be delighted for that new experience and will eat Oscar's hat.

Absolutely, some kind of multi-screen family entertainment thing where we all use our devices and the central screen plays a role could be great - but I don't think it would be used very often.

Overall - sadly maybe - I think the concept of a TV as the everyday central hub of the household's entertainment is well and truly over.

In a few years it'll be part of a bygone era - our generation's equivalent of the family gathering around the piano for a good old sing song. I think we're tending to cling onto it because it's what we did as kids, but it's not what the kids are doing now. Not in my house anyway.

Will Luton Luton & Son Founder

I think there's something wrong with your thinking there, Harry. You're assuming a fit for current content: either console-like experiences or mobile-like experiences. However, what will succeed, I think, are games built for the platform.

What will succeed are games built for the platform.
Will Luton

I think we can all imagine party quiz games and multiplayer rhythm action/karaoke games like Buzz or Rock Band. Undoubtedly they'll exist and maybe even be successful.

But I can also see low interaction narrative based titles working. Image The Wire in the style of Her Story with your partner. One of you controls, but you're both making decisions together, discussing.

Maybe some complex D&D style open game using the Game of Thrones IP and Siri voice command. Or a Sherlock puzzle game in the style of The Room.

What we've seen frequently is that when a non-games platform reaches critical consumer mass and is games competent (Facebook and mobile) then games become a large driver of use. However, the games that succeed were not what most had anticipated.

Will Apple TV need its Buzz to find breakout success?

I can see that happening here and with smartwatch. Albeit slower than the mobile gold rush and maybe not as impactful, but I think as long as Apple TV hits and the hardware is capable then games will succeed somehow.

Harry Holmwood European CEO Marvelous Entertainment

A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

Yes, in terms of what content you _could_ make that could be brilliant - I absolutely agree with.

If the platform is out there in big enough numbers, and people start making this kind of content for it, it could be great.

I do see a fairly substantial chicken-and-egg situation though where investment in these kind of innovative experiences needs to come from somewhere to kickstart the market. A bunch of killer games on the platform which cannot or do not exist on consoles or mobile can start to drive adoption of it as a gaming system.

But consumers are used to large, lavish productions now on all their formats - it'll be a brave company that shells out first for one of these.

Will they come about via third parties? Or will investment be needed by those companies (Amazon, Apple etc) who want to get people gaming via them on their TVs?

When someone makes a game compelling enough that it's worth putting down your mobile or switching your TV input source away from your console, I'll be the first in line.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Ok, first things first, my response here is my own opinion and does not reflect that of Unity.

Also as most people reading this probably already know I don't drink the Apple Kool-Aid so I'm perhaps harder on Apple's new product lines than they deserve; but I'm not really seeing that much different here apart from opening up the App Store on a refresh of an old product that should always have had it. Perhaps I am missing something.

I also think we are well past the era that 32GB can be remotely considered sufficient space for a decent volume of quality mobile games.
Oscar Clark

The remote controller is a neat idea - I like the idea of touch and motion on a remote and think that's a better choice than a controller for a mass-market audience.

But as has been said already will require some changes to UI scheme leading to different kinds of gameplay (done well that might actually be quite cool). But it's not a radical step forward.

It's not clear what problem it solves that other platforms don't already solve. I'm sure that they will sell more than the current install base of microconsoles but I'm not convinced that will shift the needle as much as Apple would have liked.

I'm not saying that it can't be successful but as Harry says making this happen takes scale and ecosystem support. I suspect the control scheme will need more than just a token refresh to ensure the controls to deliver the best experience on the TV; creating a lavish experience usually requires a bit more investment. I also think we are well past the era that 32GB can be remotely considered sufficient space for a decent volume of quality mobile games.

The iPad Pro is potentially more interesting. I always used to want a larger iPad device and also tried for a long time to go to using an iPad full time, but I found I couldn't do it because Apple's platform strategy for iPad didn't suit my needs.

iPad Pro - big for gaming but capable enough for enterprise?

To get the best out of these devices you really need to be connected, in my opinion - if you are in an area of bad coverage or with no access to wifi the use of the device for serious activities is measurably impacted. Even with adding split-screen and multitasking support I can't see this being a laptop replacement for anyone but the lightest users.

The Surface Pro 3 is the device for people like me.

That being said I can see a new device use-case arising for me which this fulfils completely - the shared living room iPad. Having something bigger that I can leave on the coffee table and use to show second screen content to everyone is actually really interesting to me - but how large is that audience?

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

I'm still sticking by my thoughts from the beginning of the year's Mobile Mavens' article. The piece I was most excited about was a single sentence during the keynote regarding developers have the option to make a single app purchase work on all the Apple devices (excluding the computers).

Crossy Road plays brilliantly on TV. I was just playing it at a game night in San Francisco on Shield Android TV taking turns with other players. It was lots of fun.

Crossy Road Multiplayer will be a hit in the Steffes household

Many of the quick session single player mobile games work really well in group situation. I want to see the TV become the hub for multiplayer gaming, incorporating the solitary gaming of game sessions players may have previously accomplished on their own.

The no local storage and app size limitation is bizarre. It is likely because Apple does not want to open potential security loopholes by incorporating external hard drives.

I don't feel like running out and getting one at all. I don't like the idea of being limited in functionality by constant pestering to get content from iTunes. Can you even filter the content by the services you pay for only?

 

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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