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OPINION: Why the next-gen Apple TV means game over for Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo

Some people say the writing’s on the wall for traditional game consoles. Colin O’Donnell argues it’s true – and it’ll all be down to Apple.

The rumour mill has been in overdrive lately with reports that Apple is on the verge of releasing its own television – no doubt fuelled by Walter Isaacson’s autobiography on Steve Jobs, in which the man himself claims:

“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

The general consensus is that Apple’s proper TV — which everyone seems to want to call iTV but probably can’t because of the British ITV channel — will be a motion- and Siri-controlled Smart TV; the next generation, a convergence masterpiece that will most likely incorporate iPhone, iPad and iCloud functionality. It looks like the days of hunting for the TV remote will soon be over. “Siri, turn that shit over now!”

It’s got rival TV manufacturers understandably nervous, but it’s not rival TV makers that should be most worried.

For years there’s been discussion about when Apple might conquer the games market with an iConsole, just as they have with the phone and music markets.

“Apple’s new kit will do what all the consoles do. Granted, the three machines combined will cost less than the ‘Smart TV’, but games on Apple will remain cheap because it doesn’t need to worry about upsetting the high street like the console makers do.”

But Apple has already redefined the handheld games space, something the likes of Nintendo has surely noticed; 3DS is undoubtedly a good machine but it is part of the old way: Why buy Peggle for the DS for 24.99 when you can get the same game on a better screen on your phone for 1.99?  Sure, iPhone is expensive, but Angry Birds and all the best games on it are not.

Inevitably, the next-gen Apple TV will break the bank. But you’ll probably buy it anyway. A TV that has iTunes on it, that (thanks to iCloud) means that when you get home you can turn on and continue with whatever was entertaining you on the journey home (a concept Sony has been pushing with PS3/Vita). And it will no doubt sport apps that take advantage of the fact you don’t need a device in hand, instead relying on a camera just like Kinect.

If all this is true then Apple’s new kit will do what “Ninten-does“, as well as “Sony and Microsoft-does”. Granted, the three machines combined will cost less than the smart TV, but when you add a 39.99 per console game price tag, things become costly.  And, as with Apple’s mobile devices, the games will remain cheap because Apple doesn’t need to worry about upsetting the high street like the big three console makers do – which is why they have won over a large share of the handheld market practically overnight.

“As powerful as Apple’s TV may be, it can’t pump out 360/PS3-quality titles. Or so we thought until Onlive came along…”

But what about ‘real’ games? What about console experiences? There is only so much Fruit Ninja you can play before you want to start Skyrimming. And, as powerful as Apple’s TV may be, it can’t pump out 360/PS3-quality titles.

Or so we thought until Onlive came along. Onlive basically negates the need for proprietary hardware, with the heavy lifting done in realtime in the cloud instead, and as anyone with an Internet connection can see for themselves, it really, truly works. Now, all you need is the TV. Apple is heavily invested in the cloud, so it stands to reason that it could quite easily have its own cloud gaming service if it wanted, but can easily sit back and let Onlive and others do all the legwork as we all get used to the idea.

The next-gen, ‘proper’ Apple TV makes a convincing case on paper, and indeed has the potential to steal all the best selling points from Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Onlive. It’s surely a case of when rather than if it arrives, and could conceivably be the all-in-one box that convergence nuts have talking about for well over a decade.

I can’t afford it, but damn I’m excited all the same.

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