Apple in Gaming: A New Digital Hub
By: Steven Chaffin, Jr.
January 22, 2013 - 2:35 CST
Apple's Potential Role in the Gaming Market
The ‘digital hub’ is an idea that has influenced Apple’s decision-making for over a decade. It started with the iPod. Before, the iMac was, well, the iMac. The experience would start and end at the desk. That all changed when Apple announced their own, simplistic music player, the iPod, in late 2001.
The iMac was no longer the start and end of the experience. It instead transformed into a digital hub, where a person could sync music and playlists to their iPod and then proceed onward with their lives. Certain features, such as the ability to create playlists, were originally rescinded from the iPod so that an intimate relationship would be established between the small, simplistic device and the more complex and able iMac.
Then, in 2007, the relationship between all of Apple’s devices was changed again. iCloud was unveiled. Apple had attempted to create a similar experience in the past with MobileMe, but it lacked functionality and popularity. iCloud addressed those problems, making the splendors of the cloud easy and convenient. The moment I made a reminder on my iMac, I can instantly pull it up on my iPhone. If I hear an awesome song in the car and download it on my phone, it’ll be waiting for me on my iMac. The computer is still the center of the action, but all of a user’s information is readily available across every device.
So what does this have to do with Apple entering the gaming market? First, let’s look at some recent trends: Games are widely popular on the Mac App Store and iOS App Store. They account for much of Apple’s revenue from the digital stores, and it seems like there are dozens of new games being released every week. Originally, only simplistic games could be offered on iOS devices. They simply didn’t have the hardware to be able to run more fast-paced, graphically advanced titles. But that’s no longer true: the iOS App Store now offers plenty of impressive titles that feature functional controls and incredible graphics.
Second, the rumor mill: It’s long been rumored that Apple would be returning to the television market with a vengeance. In several interviews, Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted at the likelihood of the company releasing a new, groundbreaking Apple TV. If the rumors and speculation hold true, it’s fair to say that consumers should probably expect one to be released within the next couple of years. If Apple waits any longer, they’ll miss their opportunity and consumers will lose interest. And it is this innovation that will shift the relationship between Apple devices for a third time, to a digital entertainment hub.
Any meaningful Apple TV would be connected to iCloud. That’s the entire point of the cloud: it connects to all Apple devices and permits information to be shared between them without delay. Videos and movies purchased on iTunes, photos taken on your iPhone, music downloaded on your iPod, will likely be synced with the television automatically. And as developers made versions of their games and apps for the Mac App Store, the iPad, and the new, larger iPhone, it’s likely that they would also make versions of such apps for the Apple TV. The newest TV’s are, in essence, entertainment hubs. They’re not just for clicking through thousands of channels anymore, but also for watching Netflix, or Hulu, and my TV can even connect to Facebook. And for us gamers, it is clear that they’re also used a great deal for gaming. Apple knows all of this, and, as a company that strives to be the best, would certainly ensure that all the bases are covered.
This would only be a start. Popular games on the Mac App Store and iOS App Store would find their ways to the Apple TV, but still wouldn’t compete with the top tier titles of the Xbox, PlayStation, and PC titles. But gradually, Apple could change that. They could negotiate with game developers and show them the enormous amount of money they’ve made from selling ninety-nine cent applications on their various digital stores. Any developer, especially newer ones looking to make their mark, would jump at the chance to develop for a company as popular as Apple. Game quality would increase, more developers would catch on, and it would go from there.
After reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, the inner workings and vision of Apple is much more clear to me. They have an insatiable desire to expand into every market they think that they can make a meaningful contribution to. Gaming is one such market. They’ve already shown that they can make a variety of apps immensely successful, and by transferring that enthusiasm and success to an Apple TV, it could evolve into a legitimate competitor to the likes of the PlayStation and Xbox. It would skip the painful transition from discs to digital downloads, offer a wide variety of games to all audiences for lower prices, and the controller, well, they’ll call it “iPhone”.
All of this is potential. To succeed in creating a digital entertainment hub would require a lot of autonomous parts to work together. Apple would have to work closely with game developers to ensure they could release some high-quality titles to spike interest, and get current developers for other devices on board for developing for an Apple TV format. But if we’ve learned anything about Apple’s character over the past decade, we should know: it’s inevitable.
Steven Chaffin, Jr.
Steven Chaffin, Jr. is a games reporter for NextGenUpdate.