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
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.
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.
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.