A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I hit the local pub to celebrate the end of the work week and the start to that ever-cherished thing called the weekend. In such social settings where talk and beverages go well together, it's difficult not to discuss our industry, the web and the hardware and software that drives it. As an Apple fanboy, I'm always looking to immerse myself in a conversation about what is real, rumour, or pure conjecture. The conversation soon turned to the subject of the Apple TV.
Love it or hate it, the Apple TV is here and slowly evolving into something that is loved by many and an object of indifference to others. It has left many scratching their heads, wondering what Apple is trying to accomplish with its media device. I assume it's the vehicle for their digital entertainment content. It's a market with the opportunity to make boat-loads of money for the content creators and content providers. You’ll just need to convince the content creators (like the music and movie industry behemoths) that it’s a good idea.
Yet, Apple TV reminds me of a neglected child, left on it's own and expected to fend for itself and to become something without the necessary guidance from its parents. The first generation was an over priced, rather featureless and overall an unexciting media console. The second generation, while it received a major price drop and feature improvement, still lacked something. With iCloud's release imminent, I suspect the two will be blessed with a technological marriage that will become the envy of many, and the ridicule of the jealous leagues of competitors. However, the Apple TV is still lacking something. That something is games.
Let's look at iOS devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch for a moment. They are incredibly useful devices, but without the incredible apps, they would be mere shells of technological amusement without a soul. The creative app developers, big and small, are responsible for the soul of these devices. They created entire gaming experiences never before seen on a mobile platform. By exploiting the advanced features of iOS software and the hardware it runs on, they took games to the next level (no pun intended). With the introduction of the iPad, not only did they have more screen real estate to play with, it also afforded them the opportunity to bring games to market that delivered even greater gaming experiences.
With these things in mind, consider the possibilities of the Apple TV as a gaming console. It's the next logical step, and another great opportunity for developers to make even more money. It would also be another step in conquering the living room, for Apple. And why not? I, for one, would love to have such a gaming device, that would fit in with the entire Apple eco-system.
Unlike the iPhone and iPad, there is no touchscreen experience on the Apple TV, so a controller would be needed to play the games. The remote that currently ships with it, albeit of simplistic minimalism, is somewhat lacking in game controller functions and ergonomics. Perhaps the controllers could be the iPhones and iPads themselves. They would make stellar, and very expensive, interactive controllers. But, it would be crazy to assume that consumers would buy an iOS device and use it solely for playing games. You could take an optimistic viewpoint and say that they are advanced controllers with lots of "bonus features". Yet, for all those who have shelled out hundreds of dollars for iOS devices, another hundred bucks for an Apple TV seems like a drop in the bucket.
There is an alternative controller, you and I. Our physical actions would control the interactivity of the game. Great examples of this can be seen in Microsoft's Xbox Kinect, where human actions affect gameplay, without the use of any hand-held controllers, which is captured by a motion sensing device on top of the television. Knowing Apple, there would be something unique about such a method of controlling games. These actions can borrow from the existing multi-touch features of their Macbook line of laptops. Swiping your hand through the air, performing a rotating motion, bringing your hands together to zoom in. Anyone having used Apple products is very familiar with these actions, so for many there wouldn't be much of a learning curve.
Will the Apple TV ever become a gaming console? Only the future knows, along with a very small select group of people at Apple. It's is the next step in the evolution of the device. Then it can go from the media device that almost was, to the one that everyone wants. Imagine the feathers flying, playing Angry Birds on a fifty-five inch HD television. If Apple considered bringing a gaming console to the living room, I'd be game (again, no pun intended).