UPDATE: Apple-licensed controllers to launch for iPhone and iPad later in 2013

UPDATE: Apple-licensed controllers to launch for iPhone and iPad later in 2013
UPDATE: Plans to support licensed game controllers for iOS have now been confirmed.

Apple is to sanction the launch of officially licensed gamepads for iOS devices, with developers able to add support for dedicated controllers providing their titles still function with touchscreens.

That's according to two anonymous sources – both speaking to sister site Pocket Gamer – who claim Apple is moving into the controller market to ensure that pads designed to work with iOS are all delivered to a set standard.

'Standard but thorough'

Manufacturers will reportedly be able to deliver two types of pad – one serving as a standard controller that hooks up wirelessly, with the other physically wrapping around the device to turn the iPhone or iPad into a handheld.

Of the former, one of the sources describes the design of the joypad as standard but thorough, featuring two shoulder buttons, AXBY buttons in an Xbox-style layout, a D-pad, two analogue sticks and a pause button.

Integration by developers is said to be very easy, with studios required to access the game controller library and map the values of the inputs as they would with on screen controls.

The news - which comes after Apple added an official game controller API to the developer SDK for iOS 7 - follows on from the suggestion that the Cupertino giant ran its plans for official controllers by developers back at GDC.

Rumour no more?

As editor-at-large Jon Jordan reported back in March, sources suggested Apple used a meeting room at GDC booked under a pseudonym company name to talk to developers "about its plans and ensuring plenty of games will support the joypad at launch."

Support for any such joypad was set to be announced in April – a target that, if those sources are to be believed, was missed – though no-one we spoke to at the time said they'd actually seen the controller in the flesh.

"Following recent mishaps, Apple doesn't let unreleased hardware leave its closely guarded offices," reported Jordan from GDC in San Francisco. "Neither are we sure when the pad will be released."

It now appears those rumoured meetings at GDC may have been to discuss officially licensed controllers, rather than iOS pads specifically released by Apple itself.

2013 release

Nevertheless, it would appear Apple's hand in how these controllers will be delivered – and how they will work within play – will be considerable.

Pocket Gamer understands that companies looking to deliver licensed control pads must conform to a strict set of standards, covering elements such as controller layout, analogue stick dead zone, and button response time.

There's no set launch date for any of these controllers, but sources suggest their release will come later in 2013.
UPDATE: Support for licensed game controllers in iOS 7 has now been confirmed.

Pocket Gamer has also obtained what are believed to be Apple's concept images showcasing the two controller layouts manufacturers can choose from.

The images,
uploaded by NeoGAF user numble, have been independently verified by Pocket Gamer as legitimate pictures produced by Apple.

Note - it's believed there will also be an "extended" version of this controller with two analogue sticks and two more shoulder buttons.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.


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Simon Edis Game Designer at
I think Apple is taking the right approach - building a common framework into the iOS SDK means that developers won't have to include a bunch of plugins/add-ons to be compatible with different controllers. Expect to see a lot more games supporting controllers soon!
Fraser Ross MacInnes Product/Design Director at Danke Games
This is very interesting in how un-apple the approach is. The fact that Apple wants to pass this on to third parties is consistent with its historically hands off approach to games, but to introduce so much flexibility into the standards that it's mandating here is not what I expected at all. I had assumed that Apple would want ALL controllers to have the exact same number of inputs for starters. Perhaps Apple is looking to see how users react to the different designs en-masse before wading in with a first party peripheral of its own.

On my wishlist is an Xbox-style controller that syncs seamlessly with my iPad and I want my iPad to beam images direct to my TV with no lag - I don't think I'm alone...