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Turning the Apple TV Into a Game Platform

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Here is a blog post I wrote up the other day extolling how awesome an Apple TV game platform would be. I wanted to get Mapcore's take on it so I copy/pasta it here for joo.

http://www.nimblebit.com/2009/05/turnin ... -platform/


There have been a lot of rumors floating around out on the inter-tubes with speculation that Apple might be jumping into the console space. Here is a great article by Appy Entertainment with some reasons why something which might seem absurd on the face of things might actually be vital for Apple to pursue.

Suppose Apple continues to treat Apple TV as a “hobby” and allows somebody else (say Microsoft) to occupy this space? This could put iTunes is at risk which would then start to reverse the momentum that Apple has spent so many long years building — jeopardizing their entire ecosystem including the iPod and iPhone franchises. Can Apple really build their strategy around “Digital Lifestyle” and not have a strong presence in the living room? Can they own this space without home gaming? - Appy Place

I could write a long article about all the reasons why it would be good for Apple to support an app store on the Apple TV, but I would pretty much just be re-writing the article quoted above. Instead, lets think of what an app-enabled Apple TV would mean for the people we really care about, game developers!

Here are a few general assumptions we might make about an Apple TV console that would be important to developers:

  • -digital distribution only ( iTunes / App Store)
    -720p resolution
    -dedicated graphics chipset (mac minis currently pack a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M)
    -core duo or core2 duo processor
    -at least 1 gig of ram
    -at least 80 gig HD
    -internet connectivity
    -some kind of controller
    -open developer program

If all these things came together into this device, it would mean a big opportunity for developers:

Lowest barrier to entry of any home console platform ever built.

The iPhone app store completely blew the doors off platform accessibility for developers. While there has been some growing pains associated with that leap, there is no question it was a milestone event in the history of commercial game development that has spurred the imaginations of over 50,000 developers across the globe. Bringing a similar creative explosion to a home console platform would trigger a similar shift in console games as a fresh wave (probably more of a tsunami) of developers and games that were previously relegated to other very low barrier platforms (the PC and web) completely engulf a fresh audience of couch-bound gamers.

Familiar and accessible development environment.

It seems like with every “next generation” game console that emerges, developers encounter some new technical configuration to re-learn. It would be almost guaranteed that a games-enabled Apple TV would run some form of OS X, a platform that many Mac and iPhone developers have already become very intimate with. It has proven to be a stable, robust and easy platform to develop on. If Apple’s app development strategy continued the trends of the iPhone and iPod, then the Apple TV would also serve as a dev-kit - something that is very costly and difficult to obtain from other game console manufacturers.

Not just games, but applications too.

Consoles have dabbled a bit in the areas of applications, the Nintendo Wii has things like weather and news, and some consoles provide access to the web which can have app-like usefulness. You only need to take a glance at the iPhone to see the enormous potential for 3rd party applications for a TV device. While there has been markets for digitally distributed games on consoles for the past few years - there has never been the opportunity to make non-game applications, which is an entirely new frontier in it’s own right. Developers could create applications that let users check the weather, use twitter, email, read news, use facebook, instant message, access all kinds of media, or decide where to go out to dinner, all from the comfort of your couch.

Bringing games to a new audience

Another trick of Apple’s with the iPhone / iPod has been to introduce mobile gaming to a large audience of people that would never have invested in a mobile game console such as the Nintendo DS or PSP. Many gamers on these platforms bought an iDevice to make phone calls or listen to music before discovering the treasure trove of games and apps available to run on their platform. It was not billed solely as a games platform, games are merely one of the entertaining things it is capable of, and the same would be true of the Apple TV. There would be the opportunity to introduce games to an entire segment of non-console owners who would be using the Apple TV for movies and television who suddenly find themselves with the ability to use games on their TV for entertainment.

Will it ever happen?

We here at NimbleBit love open game distribution channels, we think it inspires creativity and provides many developers opportunity. While it is unknown if Apple has any sort of plans like this, it is fun to fuel the flames of speculation and fantasize about a new open game distribution channel opening up. If it ever does, you can be sure you will be able to find some NimbleBit games on it.

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