Often times when a new micro-console is introduced to the world, tech writers, bloggers, and analysts quickly board the hype train and describe how micro console “X” has the potential to dethrone traditional video game consoles. And yet all the micro-consoles that have been released — in one way or another — never lived up to such high expectations. The latest company up for micro-console sacrifice this week is slated to be Apple. The tech giant is rumored to announce the 4th revision to its Apple TV set top box when it takes the stage at its annual fall showcase on September 9th 2015. And so begins the cycle in which tech writers will place Apple on a micro-console pedestal and explain how it somehow directly competes with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (respectively).
Apple TV was initially created as a means for iTunes users to be able to access their media purchases on larger displays, instead of that content bering previously restricted to Apple’s personal computing devices. Since its debut, Apple TV has transitioned into a media hub as it also provides access to a suite of popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. It is rumored that the company will focus heavily on gaming for Apple TV’s upcoming revision.
Some earlier reports are citing that a hardware update will be made to the Apple TV controller that will introduce a touchpad and motion sensing capability (think: Nintendo Wii). A microphone being built-in is almost a given considering that Siri (Apple’s voice controlled virtual assistant) is expected make its debut on the Apple TV as well. Other reports are stating that support for more feature-rich bluetooth controllers will also be present, which makes sense considering iOS has had support for traditional controllers since its 7.0 update.
If there’s one very important wildcard that comes into play for Apple, it’s that — in the mobile space at least — developers adore Apple’s iOS. I’m sure there are many reasons as to why that is, but the biggest is probably that Android users don’t like to spend money on apps (with market research re-enforcing that notion time and time again). And while Android has made leaps and bounds since the Play Store launched and their smartphone market share is larger than iOS, developers — for the most part — still launch on iOS first. To the dismay of Android aficionados everywhere, even Google (creators of Android) roll out new apps and updates to their iOS products and services before their own platform. With this kind of backing from developers, Apple TV certainly has the the right foundation (that they need for this to succeed) set in place.
Going into this generation of consoles, expectations were all over the place when trying to predict if the newer consoles were going to be as successful as those that proceeded them. And in its current state console gaming isn’t just hot; it’s basically on fire. With that said, even if popular titles like Fallout: Shelter or Clash of Clans made their to the living room through Apple TV, they’re not making a dent on the deeper experiences found in The Witcher 3, Madden NFL 16, and the upcoming Fallout 4 any time soon. As newer titles continue to show off the processing prowess and graphical advantages of the PS4 and Xbox One, it becomes crystal clear that the audience of core gamers will stay where it’s currently at.
In the off-chance (and by off-chance we’re talking hell freezing over) that Apple goes on stage this Wednesday and announces a game streaming service — like PlayStation Now — then things would have a chance to become somewhat interesting. Hell, Apple could even use its data centers and current CDN partner Akamai to deliver the games (the same firm that it currently pays to deliver apps, updates, video content, and music content). This would allow the company to step out of it’s casual gaming box and into the forefront with more feature rich titles, the likes of which you find on modern consoles. But game streaming is still in its infancy and things like market penetration and pricing has been a tough egg to crack for even industry veterans like Sony. Then there’s always the fact that broadband isn’t everywhere and where it is in place bandwidth can still create a bottleneck.
The two most recent tech companies who made a play for living rooms this year were Amazon with their Fire TV and Google with their Nexus Player. Both are Android-based devices and give gamers access to titles found in their respective app stores. Oh, you’re a gamer and you haven’t heard of either? Well that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make here.
With underwhelming returns for technology giants like Amazon and Google, even a company like Apple could find itself in unfamiliar territory.
Apple’s upcoming announcements will be exciting. And I don’t think it would be too far of a reach to expect to see the likes of EA, Unreal, and Ubisoft (Just Dance with that new motion controller anyone?) on stage talking about bringing “their beloved franchises” to Apple TV. This will entice people to start screaming from the proverbial mountaintops of the internet about how the Apple TV will directly compete with the likes of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. But it won’t, so please don’t listen to them. Our consoles are safe.
STB Image Credit: CNet