Gaming on the iPhone or iPad is big business. Apple has managed in the space of a few short years to pretty much take over the games industry.
What’s incredible is that it’s done this with a device that doesn’t really offer much in the way of support for traditional gaming. Both the iPad and iPhone often run console-style games using on-screen controls. This is a pretty limited experience at best.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could attach a PS4 or Xbox One-style controller directly to your iPad, or iPhone? You’d be able to play games like Call Of Duty and Deus Ex on the iPad without having to compromise on the controls? Apple thought so too and with iOS 7 it introduced a new part of the SDK (Software Development Kit) called iOS Game Controller.
iOS Game Controller is a new programming standard that enables game developers to create games that support third-party controllers; it also enables third-party manufacturers to create console-style pads that they know will be supported by games. By acting as the middle-man Apple has ensured that everybody will get on together. There is more information available about iOS 7 Game Controller on the Apple Developer site.
See: iOS Game Reviews
The great news is that Unity has just announced support for Apple iOS Game Controller in its recent Unity 4.2.2 update. Unity is a software package that games developers use to create games for iPhone and iPad. According to Unity itself it is “a powerful rendering engine fully integrated with a complete set of intuitive tools and rapid workflows to create interactive 3D content; easy multiplatform publishing; thousands of quality, ready-made assets in the Asset Store and a knowledge-sharing Community.”
See: iOS 7 review
Which games work with iPhone and iPad games controllers?
Because Unity now supports iOS Game Controller it’s easy for games developers to quickly release an update that supports games controllers. And Unity is used by a lot of the iOS games development industry. Games like Call of Duty Strike Team, Rain, Kerbal Space 3 Program and Deus Ex: The Fall are all made with Unity.
A blog post from Unity explains why this is so important: “One of the biggest and most exciting of Apple’s initiatives is the standardization of game controllers for iOS-based platforms.”
With this you should see a raft of upcoming games with built-in native support for bluetooth game controllers. There are already some controllers on the market, like the iCade 8-bitty, which are pretty neat to look at. Unfortunately they only run on a limited selection of games (mostly 8-bit games developed by Atari and Capcom).
The iOS Game Controller feature and Unity integration now makes it possible for third-party manufacturers to convert or develop their controllers for the iPad and iPhone. Apple’s MFi (Made for iPhone) licensing program brings official Apple support to this oft-ignored corner of the hardware world.
One of the first controllers off the mark is the SteelSeries Free mobile wireless controller. There is also this Koolertron Wireless Bluetooth 3.0 pad and the iPega Universal Wireless Bluetooth 3.0 Game Controller. Both of which feature a clip for the iPhone that turns the iPhone and Controller into a complete-looking gaming system.