Mac App Store
Apple has already enjoyed success in the distribution of games to mobile devices via the iTunes Store. The company also has a robust online storefront in the form of the Mac App Store and is perfectly positioned to offer a channel for games distribution.
Since the Mac App Store launched in January 2011, gamers have been able to download ports of iOS games, as well as games previously only appearing on Steam, and ports to the Mac platform that had received little fanfare up until now. And that’s one of the Mac App Store’s greatest advantages – in one place, you can find and download hundreds of games.
At the start, the most prominent game category in the Mac App Store comprised iOS games making the jump to the Mac. The Mac App Store is not limited to iOS-born puzzle games though, you can also find more demanding titles, such as Neverwinter Nights, Civilization V, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Call Of Duty.
With the launch of the iPhone and later the App Store, Apple stumbled upon a relatively untapped, yet undeniably lucrative vein of revenue: mobile gaming. Again, Apple faced an uphill battle – Nintendo’s DS line held a virtual monopoly for portables, with Sony’s PSP soaking up whatever was leftover – but the company wisely leveraged the immense success of its iPod and iPhone lines, along with its popular iTunes Store to sneak under everyone’s radar.
Today, Apple is the unquestioned leader in the mobile marketing space, and has built a powerful empire upon the works of indie developers who saw the App Store as a way to circumvent the expensive, resource-intensive atmosphere of console and PC games design. The formula has been so successful that leading games publishers like EA and Ubisoft are starting to jump into the fray, further legitimising the App Store as a viable alternative to traditional retail channels and online services like Valve’s Steam, the Xbox Live Marketplace, and the Playstation Network.
The App Store now boasts over 425,000 apps available to download, a large percentage of which are focused solely on finger-friendly entertainment. Titles such as Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Flight Control have sold in the millions, making gamers out of people who ordinarily wouldn’t even dream of picking up a traditional controller, let alone purchase a portable console.
Realising the importance of games to the iOS platform, Apple introduced Game Center in September 2010. The service allows you to connect with friends for iOS gaming, send friend requests, start playing games and organise online multiplayer games. Some games feature achievements, where the player is rewarded points for completing a certain task.
iOS 5’s version of Game Center makes it easier to find both friends and games, while also adding some of the social elements that other online gaming services have implemented to great effect.
From iPad to games console
There can be no doubt about Apple’s gaming prowess when it comes to the iPhone, and in particular the iPad. The iPad 2’s technological competence is nothing short of incredible when you consider its svelte form. Impressive iOS titles like Infinity Blade are given an additional layer of detail that approaches the sort of lavish imagery we’re accustomed to on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
With the current generation of iOS gaming arguably giving Nintendo’s Wii a run for its money in graphical terms, what if Apple was to announce a console based on the A5 CPU that powers the iPad 2? Apple is a company that is constantly looking to expand into new and fertile territory, and gaming is another profitable arena that is waiting to be dominated.
Among our predictions for 2012 we discussed the theory that the Apple TV, Apple’s set-top box that grants access to movies, TV shows and music, would evolve into a gaming device. In fact, to some extent it already has, providing the means by which an iPad 2 can beam a game to a TV screen, allowing for split screen gaming with other iPad 2 users. What better way of solidifying the Apple TV’s future than by adding the ability to play games on the Apple TV itself?
It’s undeniably exciting to hypothesise what such a platform could be capable of and what innovations Apple could come up with. The Wii U touch-screen controller indicates that such an interface could have a bright future – and in the case of an Apple console, this could be achieved by allowing you to connect your iPhone or iPod touch.
Another plus point is that Apple wouldn’t have to work hard to ensure that such a gaming system receives the appropriate amount of third-party support; such a machine would be virtually guaranteed input from the biggest developers and publishers, because they’re already behind iOS. Activision, EA, Sega, Konami, Capcom – these video gaming veterans have already taken a chance on Apple, and have reaped the benefits. And then there’s a new generation of developers and publishers – iOS stalwarts such as Rovio, Chillingo, and Gameloft have already created pocket-sized slices of gaming brilliance, and we’re sure they’re itching to prove they have what it takes to entertain on a larger scale.
Just as Apple has torn up the rulebook on pricing in the mobile arena, it could easily do so again with a games console. When faced with the option of buying a PS3 or Xbox 360 and then having to shell out £30 or more on games, the notion of an Apple console with sub-£6.99 releases could prove irresistible to the average consumer.
Of course, this is nothing more than conjecture, but we'd be shocked if Apple wasn’t watching the home gaming market with envious eyes. With the Wii’s successor now unveiled and Sony confirming that development of the PS4 is underway, the opening salvos of a next-gen war are about to be fired. What better time for Apple to steal the thunder of its gaming rivals by confirming a new, set-top box capable of sating all your multimedia needs: music, TV, movies and games?
We also predict that TV manufacturers will start to offer gaming consoles built into TVs. And with rumours that Apple is planning its own television offering, it seems well placed to compete in this market. Perhaps gaming will be the next revolution that Apple leads.