Published on October 16th, 2018 | by Kirk Hiner1
Opinion: The lingering hope for Apple TV gaming
In the wake of Microsoft dumping Apple TV support for Minecraft, many websites were quick to declare the death of Apple TV gaming. A more rational reaction is that the loss of Minecraft will have little to no effect on the platform’s viability. I have yet to speak to anyone who’s decision to buy the Apple TV was contingent upon Minecraft, and the game never came up in my conversations with developers as a reason for or against building a game in tvOS.
Microsoft can do what they want. The only company that truly has an effect on the perception of Apple TV as a gaming device is Apple, and that’s a switch they can flip at any time. It’s actually just one of many switches Apple needs to flip, but we’ll focus solely on gaming for now.
The Apple TV is certainly powerful enough to handle modern games, so what else does it need? Controller support, of course. It’s already there through third-party MFi gamepads, but Apple does little to promote this. Sure, their Apple TV web store page has a SteelSeries Nimbus prominently displayed, but with little explanation of its usefulness or even a list of popular compatible games that could benefit from it.
To really send a message to consumers, Apple would do better to bundle the Apple TV with a gamepad (as some stores have done in the past). It would better if Apple were to design and manufacture their own gamepad that’s boxed with the Apple TV, but I don’t see that ever happening.
A simpler solution—and one that’s baffling in its absence—is the adequate promotion for Apple TV games (or tvOS apps in general) in the App Store. When users launch the App Store app they should be able to sort by Apple TV compatibility, then break that down by category.
tvOS games should stand separate from iOS games. Searching the entire App Store for games then hoping the one you like has tvOS compatibility is like going to Electronics Boutique back in the ’90s and searching for Mac OS logo on all those wonderful Windows PC games.
But those suggestions are obvious to anyone who’s ever played an Apple TV game. Ars Technica ran an article this weekend that examined what game developers feel Apple should do to increase consumer awareness and acceptance. The developers brought up a couple other important steps Apple should take. Strange Flavour CEO Aaron Fothergill suggested that Apple should do a better job of supporting Game Center across platforms, for example.
Developer Patrick Hogan stressed the importance of marketing the Apple TV as a gaming platform, adding that Apple needs to, “Spend a lot of money on funding platform exclusives, ports, and presence at every major gaming expo and conference to break the chicken-egg problem of getting customers to make it viable to devs.”
The chicken and the egg argument makes sense, but can anyone realistically expect Apple to have a booth at, say, E3? It’s more likely we’ll just continue to see a developer or two showing off an upcoming game at your typical Apple media event, and no one will notice because they’ve tuned out while waiting to see what’s happening with the iPhone, as when Thatgamecompany took the stage to show off Sky.
Anyone remember that? Is anyone still waiting for it? What I do hope to see is a marketing campaign that shows gamers sitting around an Apple TV playing a game such as Final Fantasy, Madden NFL, or (fingers crossed) Fortnite.
In the meantime, the Ars Technica article indicates there is still hope for Apple TV gaming because the developers are still there and interested in the platform, citing the importance of maintaining a good relationship with Apple and the ease of developing for Apple TV. Hopefully, Apple flips some switches soon to make these developers excited about tvOS, not just compliant, so that gamers can get excited, too.