Apple looking for a slice of gaming pie

There’s no denying recent Apple products are all design classics. From the stunning iMac to the svelte iPod Touch, their products are things of beauty, but they also have great functionality and simplicity to go with their good looks.

After some lean times, Apple really made a name for themselves with the release of the all-in-one iMac G3 computer. Its brightly coloured exterior crushed the idea that computers had to be packaged in grey plastic, and as a result they flew off the shelves. Then with the release of the iPod and iTunes they redefined how music could be packaged, and you could now carry your whole music collection around with you. Over the years the iPod has added extra functionality, with the ability to store and view photos, then the addition of viewing movies, surfing the net, and most groundbreaking of all the addition of Apps to the iTunes store. This finally gave Apple a handheld computer, that can do most things that a laptop can do but in a pocket friendly package. With the release of the iPhone they gained valuable market share in the mobile market. The iPhone and iPod Touch have proven to be major players in the gaming market, with their bite sized, and pocket friendly games proving popular with users. In fact Apple have started marketing these devices as gaming consoles, with the slogan “Next level fun”.

iPod Touch and iPhone have proved popular with gamers.

iPod Touch and iPhone have proved popular with gamers.

The evidence is certainly there that Apple are making an aggresive approach to getting a foothold in the gaming market. Already this year they have signed up Richard Teversham, a senior Executive from Microsoft’s European Xbox operations. They have also patented technology that mixes and matches media and games. The App Store is full of games from independents. These are low cost, and some are even free! All are at a price point that is very desirable to consumers. For instance, the old classic adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky is only 59p! Most are below the £2 threshold, but there are a few over £5. Compared to games for your DS or PSP at £30 a shot, these games offer great value. Now major players like Konami and Capcom are releasing their own franchises on the App Store as well.

Sony and Nintendo have obviously taken note of this and have released Minis and full price games to download for PSP, and DSiware for the DSi respectively. They have noticed Apple slowly but surely gaining momentum in the handheld market, and are quite rightly feeling threatened by them. The PSP was the multimedia powerhouse handheld when it was released, but when you compare it to the iPod Touch or iPhone the technology is not as sleek or as well implemented. For instance the PSP web browser is very poor and slow compared to Safari on the Apple machines. Most sites take forever to load, or don’t load properly, then don’t have the necessary plugin to view the page! Compared to silky smooth Safari it falls flat. Also, the release of the PSP Go is another reaction to the iPhone/iPod Touch, although it is a lot less appealing with downloads costing mostly the same as the equivalent packaged game, but without the resell value from second hand sales. The recently added bite-sized Minis are welcome, but are still a lot more expensive than similar games on Apple’s Store.

The PSP Go is a reaction to the success of Apples service

The PSP Go is a reaction to the success of Apple's service

So does this mean the imminent arrival of an Apple branded console for your living room? Apple certainly have the infrastructure already in place. With Apple TV you can beam movies and music to your TV from your computer. It wouldn’t take much of an upgrade to enable it to play games as well. All they would need was a Wii style remote or Project Natal camera interface linked to the Apple TV box, and a new console is born. Apple have already made massive inroads into the music, movies, and mobile market, so gaming is a natural progression. After all, old foe Microsoft haven’t done too badly out of it, have they? And anything Apple release would certainly look and perform better than Microsoft’s current console, that’s for sure!

One of the arguments against Apple going into console production, is the fact that they have no developers under their umbrella. There have been rumours of them purchasing EA, but this has never materialised. They have also previously released a console in conjunction with Bandai in 1995. This ill-fated venture was intended to be released as a low cost computer, but at the $599 price point, compared to the much lower cost Playstation and Sega Saturn it fell flat and flopped. Another hurdle is that there are already three established consoles out there. Can the market handle another console, and can consumers handle yet another box under their TVs?! Sony and Microsoft are losing a lot of money from each console sold as it is. Will Apple take the same risks and financial hits again? Only time will tell.

Could Apple TV be reconfigured to become a console?

Could Apple TV be reconfigured to become a console?

Nobody imagined Apple releasing the iPhone when it was rumoured for so long, and there must be some truth in them looking at games as a major source of income, after the success of the App Store. Sony and Microsoft have battled it out for control of your living room with their media hub consoles, and I don’t think it will be long before Apple enter the fray and take a place in your living room as well as in your pocket.

And here it is the new Apple console…NOT!!

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

10 comments

  1. steven g /

    It is logical to assume that Apple TV will evolve into some kind of all singing and dancing console/content box. However IF Apple choose to enter this market then it will seriously shake up the industry as without a doubt they will not do it unless they can change the economics of the software.

    Both with music and portable gaming they have in effect made the software free or massively undervalued as they would rather have a ton of content than a few big titles. They make their money off the hardware and by taking a commission on what is a massive XBL.

    An app store environment might seem exciting but in the long term might devalue product and result in smaller/lower budget productions.

  2. coffeecat /

    Kevin,

    1. Comparing the price of “Beneath a Steel Sky” with PSP and DS games is rather silly. Compare it to the cost of downloadable small games for the PSP and DSi and be specific about the game you are comparing it to. Nobody expects to pay less than 30 Pounds for a copy of the Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops UMD or the Final Fantasy CC: Echoes of Time cartridge. Phoenix Wright is heading for the iPhone, and so is Ace Combat Xi. Compare those with their respective PSP and DS counterparts instead.

    2. By your above statement, you are assuming games would just be sold on price alone, do remember that the gaming community is very particular about the gameplay, graphics, storyline and other factors. A bad game with a cheap price will not sell better than a more expensive but enjoyable game.

    3. Sony and Nintendo have been offering downloadable games for quite some time now. The Playstation Network Store and the Wii Shopping Network (as well as the XBL Store), were not made in response to Apple’s App Store.

    4. The PSP Go is not a reaction to the iPhone or the iPod touch. It is a combination of the original Sony MyLO and the PSP.

    5. The PSP is indeed a multimedia capable device, but it is first and foremost a handheld gaming system. The PSP browser is indeed hard to use but you have to keep in mind that no one purchases the PSP for browsing purposes. Same thing for the DS.

    6. Sony supports independent developers. In fact, Media Molecule, the creator of Little Big Planet was heavily supported by Sony in order for their game to be made. Independent works like Flow and the games of the Pixel Junk are also made available on the PSN.

    7. It takes more than an innovate controller to make a good console. The Wii may be a gimmicky device, but do remember that Nintendo has decades of experience in the field of video games. Apple does have the resources to manufacture a console, but that alone does not guarantee success. See the 3DO.

    8. “For sure”, but I see no supporting arguments as to why Apple would succeed better than Microsoft. I would accept that Apple would perform on par with Microsoft, but better? The X-Box Live community is a very solid market of combined console and computer gamers. PC gamers were attracted by ports of their favorite games and XBox/Xbox360 games made by their favorite developers. Apple has always been on the short end of the stick with games. Take Bioware’s Dragon Age for instance. It has been out for the PS3 and XBox 360, then on the PC. Is out out on the Mac yet? Mac users should be happy this game will even get ported. Many good PC games never get ported to the Mac, let alone Console titles. Even if Apple has a console, they lack support and tie-ups with game developers.

    9. Microsoft is not losing money for every console it sells. The RROD problem has cost Microsoft a little, but they make money for each console sold.

    Regardless, Apple would be welcomed by the gaming community as they have any new console manufacturer. And as proven with the previous generations of gaming consoles, it is never the high-end hardware or established platform that matters, but solid, 3rd party developer support. After all, it is never really the console, but it is the games that truly matter.

    On that note, Sony Computer Entertainment, Nintendo and Microsoft Games have had plenty of experience and excellent teams for developing in house games, something Apple has short supply of.

    • Kevin M /

      coffeecat

      Thanks for your comments.

      1. With regards to the price comparison, I’m just showing how consumers would find these low price points ‘desirable’ I’m obviously not comparing a full price game to these ‘bite sized’ games.

      2. I agree quality has a bearing on success as well as price, but look at some of the casual friendly games on Wii that have been hits. The iPhone/iPod Touch are aimed at this demographic, and this is gaining marketshare in the handheld market for Apple, which is worrying for Nintendo and Sony. How long before bigger games appear on this platform or on any new Apple console?

      3. I only said Mini’s and DSi ware are a response to the App Store.

      4. My opinion is that the PSPGo was a reaction to Apple’s growing foothold in the handheld market, and a way to test the water for the inevitable download future.

      5. The PSP is a gaming device first, as the iPhone is a phone first, but Apple is making inroads into gaming and that must frighten Sony and Nintendo. They need to rise to the challenge in all departments or they could be found left behind by Apple.

      6. I never said they didn’t support them, and am very glad of the support Sony shows them. I love some of the downloadable games from these developers and Little Big Planet is a great game.

      7. I’m just stating that the Apple TV could be redeveloped as a console. Apple have already diversified from computers into the music and mobile market, which would have been unheard of a few years ago.

      8. I’m talking about aesthetics and build quality of any Apple console compared to Microsofts current model.

      9. All this gen’s consoles bar Nintendo’s have been loss making for the manufacturers. Will Apple take the same risks? That’s all I’m saying.

      I have already said they don’t have the support to make their own games, but have a healthy bank balance and could afford to buy EA and other developers no problem.

  3. unfortunatelly APPLE hates that people takes I-phone as game console. Apple hates video games

  4. Gotta be better than Microflop, those idiots don’t know how to make good games. Halo sucks, fact! Apple could release a console with no games and still beat them. Microsoft are RROD failures!

  5. It’s more than likely they will be better than anything Microsoft has to offer!

  6. I was reading what I thought was an ok article right up until this point:

    “And anything Apple release would certainly look and perform better than Microsoft’s current console, that’s for sure!”

    …(sigh)

    Congratulations, you’re officially a fanboy. Look better? Maybe; that seems to be all Apple cares about anyway. Perform better? Maybe; after they charge you 5 times as much. Doesn’t change the fact that there wouldn’t be any games to play on it.

    An Apple console would be a pretty-looking $1,200 hunk of s**t. Apple hopefully learned their lesson with the Pippin. (If anyone reads this and doesn’t know what a Pippin is, that’s because it was just THAT big of a failure… Google it)

    • David Macphail /

      I agree about Apple’s console most likely looking and performing better and it doesn’t make him a fanboy. Looking better is objective because people percieve things in different ways but as for performance, well, i assume he was talking about reliability and if you look at Microsoft’s Xbox 360 failure rate, which, at one time, peaked at about 33%, come on. It would be hard for any company to do worse than that. 😛

      As for the number of exclusive games available……again, have you seen Microsofts 2010 360 lineup? 99% of it is multi – platform games. Right now the Wii has a better exclusive lineup for next year than the 360…….

  7. rustynuts /

    @ dave. Saying Apple’s potentail console would be a flop is a contradiction, Sony have in the past had failures too in the electonics market, look at the Betamax and Minidisc. That’s what makes a great company “trial and error”. We need to give these companies a chance as more competition makes the market more competative or they just get complaicent.

  8. KrazyFace /

    @ Coffecat.

    I happen to have an iPhone and a PSP. A LOT of the ‘Minis’ on sale for the PSP are THE SAME games availible on the iPhone, but with a 150% mark-up on price.

    Personaly, I’d be more willing to take a chance on a game that’s 59p rather than £3.99 and thankfuly I have the ways and means to find the beter deal. Truth be told, I have an App on my phone that lists all the games that are going free at any given moment, and as a result have avoided paying for a lot of real stinkers. Infact, I’ve not paid for an App or game for MONTHS.

    As for your comment about bad games not selling well, all you have to do is look at the ‘What’s popular’ section of the iPhone and you’ll find all sorts of rubbish!

    ANOTHER FART APP ANYONE!!?!

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