Apple’s So-Called Gaming Console Is A Major Bust

Apple’s So-Called Gaming Console Is A Major Bust
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For six years now, soothsaying analysts and bloggers have predicted that the rise of easy, affordable iOS games would dominate the gaming market and render consoles obsolete. Nintendo is dead, too, they’d say. And PC gaming.

Even today, as the PC thrives and the PS4 and Xbox One have outperformed most game publishers’ expectations, the tech prophets have taken to the internet’s streets with big signs saying “CONSOLES ARE DOOMED. APPLE IS HERE.”

“Why the new Apple TV will kill your Xbox or Playstation,” wrote Cult of Mac on August 29.

“Apple’s about to take on your game consoles with a new device,” wrote my good friend Ben Gilbert over at Business Insider.

“Sorry Consoles, Apple’s Controller Support Spells Trouble For You,” wrote Kotaku, a snack website that occasionally covers video games, back in 2013. (Sorry, Fahey.)

“Could a new Apple device — one linked to the television — shake up the market for game consoles?” posited the New York Times earlier this week. “The idea no longer seems ridiculous to many people in the games business.”

If the idea didn’t seem ridiculous two days ago, it certainly does today, after a disappointing display in which Apple showed off a micro-console that’s more likely to dominate the Ouya than it is any PlayStation or Xbox. The newly-announced Apple TV, packaged with a motion-controlled remote and a handful of iOS games, sort of resembles a Wii — if the Wii was flooded with shovelware and had no Nintendo games. Like the middling Fire TV and every other tepid microconsole that’s launched over the past few years, nothing about the Apple TV’s gaming selection looks like a must-have. It’s all very… Apple.

In a brief presentation that occupied roughly five minutes of their two-hour show today, Apple showed off two games: the iOS port Crossy Road (now with multiplayer!) and a new Harmonix exclusive called Beat Sports that looks straight out of 2006. Crossy Road is an amusing take on Frogger, and Beat Sports could be fun, but neither is a system-seller, and all of the games Apple later announced on their website fall more into the category of “silly diversion” than “must-play experience.” Apple has never cared enough about gaming to put an end to clones, let alone to develop or cultivate the type of system-sellers that a gaming platform needs to attract any serious user-base in today’s oversaturated video game landscape. The iPhone and iPad are full of great games mostly by accident.

Directly after the gaming session, Apple spent an equal amount of time advertising for the shopping app Gilt, which tells you all you need to know about their priorities when it comes to gaming. Far from the game-focused juggernaut that tech blogs had been hyping, the Apple TV is instead what we all should have expected: a cool media device that might also play a few games but certainly won’t replace our PS4s or even our iPads.

Not that Apple cares that much about making a video game console. Buried in the fine print of their developer hub is a caveat that the Apple TV won’t have local storage for apps, meaning you’ll have to store all of your save data in the cloud. On top of that, the maximum size of an Apple TV application will be 200MB — “Anything beyond this size needs to be packaged and loaded using on-demand resources,” Apple writes. (For reference: Hearthstone is 868MB on iOS. Fallout Shelter is 205MB.)

The old Apple TV is an excellent media device, and I have no doubt this one will trump it. But as the gaming console everyone was hyping? It’s a major bust. Maybe it’s time everyone put down the crystal balls.


  • wrote Kotaku, a snack website that occasionally covers video games

    Ok genuinely laughed at that lol. But yeah, less than impressed at this. Reeks of quick cash in and less than genuine thinking on their part. Really shoddy guys.

    • +1 for the Snakataku!
      However, apple never spruiked it as a games console, it is called the Apple TV, for watching and consuming media, and the new box looks great for that. Gaming is an aside, and I don’t think they ever stated otherwise.

        • But it isn’t dedicated to playing games, and the remote is hadly a ‘dedicated’ controller – it is a TV set-top box that also has the potential to play games. They will sell some games on it for sure, but it is hardly a ‘game console’ any more than an XBox 1 is a videophone. It can do it, and people will use it that way, but it certainly isn’t the main focus of the device, and its success will not predicate on it becoming a major player in the game space. The media may have tried to predict that, but Apple certainly never pushed it that way.
          There might be some cool games in the same way that there were some cool Kinect games, but I don’t think Apple is expecting much more than that.

          It is a TV Box, it is right there in the name.

          • I agree. If you go out and buy a new Apple TV because you want its gaming capabilities above all else, there is something a bit fruity about you.

          • And the iPhone is a phone; it’s right there in the name.

            The risk isn’t that the Apple TV will instantly take over the gaming world. The risk is that they will sell enough of them that the largely incidental gaming capabilities contribute to them becoming a new market. That’s exactly what happened with the iPhone.

            However, the 200MB maximum application size is going to put a serious crimp in that idea. That’s a third of a CD; you have to go back to N64 days before you find games that were routinely that size. I suspect there will be a market, but the size limit means it will be a niche one.

            … until they increase it.

            Heck, the Vita version of Lemmings, originally released on the Amiga on two floppies (<2MB), is several hundred megabytes in size – too big to fit on an Apple TV.

            Dammit, Bill Gates, you promised us 640k was enough for anything!

  • Was this ever really considered a proper contender in the PlayStation v Xbox space? Given that the news was leaked (for everything, gee, Tim Cook, sort your leaky boat out over there) about the upgraded Apple TV about a fortnight ago, there wasn’t the same buzz about it that the latest batch of consoles had at E3 two years ago. That should have been your first red flag.

    The second red flag should have been that it essentially sounded like a POS in the first-place. Motion remotes, Apple? Really? That’s so 2006. The last thing my household needs is another device for my wife to play Covet on, and I keep my Angry Birds to my 10am bathroom schedule every morning (w00t! It’s nearly time), so it’s not really filling a media void in my life.

    I’ll stick with Netflix on my console and my classic Apple TV if I REALLY need to access anything from my iTunes library, But for now, I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with a device that can run Fallout 4, Tomb Raider, Uncharted, Call of Duty or your franchise-of-choice.

    • No, it was never considered a proper contender. In fact, it was never even marketed, or advertised as a contender because Apple never really speak about their products until they actually release them. All the hype came from online “journalists” spewing the usual hyperbole in the quest for more of those precious clicks.

      • But Microsoft and Sony didn’t talk about their products before the announcement either. It was the same click-bait writers that built the hype about those products that you would have expected IF Apple were going to be the ‘PlayStation Killer’. One thing about hyperbole, is that you need people to buy into it. That was never there with Apple TV.

        Apple Marketing should have adjusted the message and ditched any and all reference to gaming.

  • Well, yeah.
    It’s the same as why the Ouya was always doomed – people play phone games purely because they are on the phone already in their pocket.
    If you are sitting down in front of your big screen, it’s not to play flappy bird.

    You can’t just point to a big market without considering why that market exists in the first place.

  • This isnt for me, but a couple of things do spring to mind in defence of the product…

    Remember the wii? that thing was a freaking phenomenon, and this basically copies that but has the app store behind it.

    When you buy a game on your phone, there is a possibility that you just get the apple tv version as part of the purchase. It will most likely automatically download onto the device when you purchase it on your other i device and then when you sit down to watch netflix there it is! Great way to get you playing in your lounge room.

    • that thing was a freaking phenomenon

      The key word there is was. Motion gaming kind of sank with barely a trace after 2008

  • Soooo… Apple spruikes over-hyped piece of crap product that is inferior to competitor products in pretty much every way except that the container it comes in is shiny.

    Excuse me while I die of a complete lack of shock.

  • I have been keenly awaiting the new Apple TV due to the previous iteration only working when it wants to, with no fixes from Apple EVER arriving.

    I don’t want any games capability, why would I?

    What I want is a new Apple TV with better WiFi and software. End of story. IF this costs more than the old Apple TV, I won’t be upgrading.

    • Sounds eminently reasonable. Am I right in assuming that the only unique feature an Apple TV has is that you can access itunes on it?

      • It also acts as an AirPlay device, so you can easily stream video, audio, photos from other iOS devices, as well as mirror your iPad/iPhone screen to the TV screen, and you can also mirror your Mac laptop/desktop screen to the Apple TV, which is very handy.

        The new one of course has a shitload of features, and the new Siri integration, apps etc.

  • Iphone changed the games market, not by competing against handheld consoles but by creating
    a whole new market and demographic. It is not unreasonable to think a similar change can come from a simple access games system such as this, especially with familiar names such as Nintendo arriving soon in the game app market. It is not meant to challenge consoles, but to target and create a viable market in its own right from users currently not playing anything on their TV.

    • Ouya? That tried. That did not go well.

      I fail to see the difference here apart from the company behind it. A concept from a popular tech company does not a fun and engaging piece of hardware make. :-\

  • tvOS means is I can sit here and write a game on my laptop, publish it, and other people can download it and play it on their tv’s with a controller. That is beyond huge to me.

  • As someone who was interested for the TV capabilities of the Apple TV, what a let-down! It’s focussing on doing things that aren’t all that TV based e.g. the focus on gaming.

    Ideally, a cut down version that can do 4K at 60Hz (future-proofing) and has a basic remote with no gaming capability would meet the requirements. As it is, I’ve lost interest and I don’t see what Apple has to offer to try and rekindle it.

    If this is the future of TV, I’ll be building my own HTPC or just adding a second PS4 to the mix. It’s cheaper and it has all the TV apps I want.

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