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Game developers react to Apple TV: good for gamers, small studios, bad for platform holders

Apple TV

Particularly dogged investigation of the internet’s farthest reaches will reveal to you that Apple held a conference recently in which they announced their plan for Apple TV – and it involved gaming. Admittedly the gaming on display at the conference was Crossy Road, but it still signalled an intent to generate a bit of momentum in the world of sofa gaming. I reached out to a few developers to see what they made of it all.

Firstly, it should be mentioned that there was an air of ambivalance among several of the devs I reached out to. Apple may have dominated the headlines in the past couple of days, but they apparently haven’t dominated the headspace of game creators – at least, not unilaterally.

However, Thomas Was Alone and Volume Creator Mike Bithell appeared enthused by the new gameplay potential to be gleaned from the new platform: “I’m a big fan of the Siri integration, and that remote looks to offer some interesting possibilities from a game design perspective. I’m particularly intrigued by how mobile folks will adapt to the very different gaming desires of someone sat on their couch.”

However, Bithell suggests Apple TV is less of a direct assault on PC and console gaming, “and more a way of expanding the tablet and mobile experience onto the biggest screen in most people’s houses.” Casual gaming with greater comfort.

Christian Etter’s puzzle game Drei made a name for itself on iOS before his studio began development on an improved version, Dreii, for PC, Mac, Wii U and Sony platforms. To him, Apple TV heralds an easier way for small developers to reach the sofa gamer: “If the publishing process is similar to iOS it means that bringing a game… to the living room will be easier than it has been up to now.

“Compared to publishing a game on console, there is much less paper work and compliance involved. This essentially means bottom line that it’s cheaper. Therefore it’s more accessible for a small studio like ours to publish our games for Apple TV compared to consoles.”

The high hurdles associated with having a game published on consoles, says Etter, means that there are simply fewer titles that make the cut. For the games that do, Apple TV means a higher sales volume and profit margin. “It’s probably a really great thing for smaller studios and independent developers who are starting out.”

Does Apple want a share of the console market? “Certainly. Mobile games… need to be picked up and interrupted quickly, work on small screens and without audio. That’s why puzzles and simple touch mechanics [make for] the most popular mobile games.

“Traditional console games are often much more about the emotional journey, story driven, cinematic and ideally allow for hours of continuous play. So generally they’re two very different markets and don’t necessarily compete which each other. Hence it does make sense for Apple to go after console gamers too. For gamers this can only be a good thing, since it means more diversity and lower pricing. For console developers and platform holders, not necessarily since it means more competition.”

Elsewhere on the internet, much of the positive reaction to Apple TV as a gaming platform came from developers whose current focus is on iOS, rather than PC gaming. Threes developer Asher Vollmer, for example:

And this, from Flippfly’s Aaron San Filippo:

But there have been developments following Apple TV’s conference showing that suggest it may have an impact beyond casual gaming. Alright, a development. One. It comes from Activision, who announced they’ll be bringing Guitar Hero Live, Geometry Wars 3 and Disney Infinity 3.0 to Apple TV, controllable via the streaming box’s Bluetooth interface.

It looks like we’re safe in our fortresses of impractically large and immobile components and peripherals for now, then. For the PC gamer, Apple TV doesn’t seem to add anything to our sofa gaming experience that a good 15-metre HDMI cable and a wireless pad couldn’t.