Can Apple’s Official Controller API Change The Game?


Most people probably don’t think much anymore of Apple holding their conferences at the same time as E3. That could be why not many people yet have made a big deal out of iOS7 finally including Apple’s own official API for physical controllers for iOS games.

Apple themselves though only made a quick comment out of the announcement at their event and later went a little more in-depth. For those that don’t know, they’re specifically working with Logitech and Moga for the controllers and of course releasing the API for any other third party accessory developer. The API lays out operations for four face buttons, a D pad, two analog sticks, a pause button, and four shoulder buttons — the standard deal.

Needless to say, a lot of people think this is a game changer, as the lack of physical controls has always been one of the biggest things separating iOS games from “real” video games, especially their handheld competition from Nintendo and Sony. It brings iOS one step closer to being a significant game platform and a legitimate threat to the major gaming hardware manufacturers.

Sure, technically there are some controller solutions for iOS (and Android) games like iCade, but they are in no way uniform and have scattershot support. An official API, and hopefully an “official” controller will give all iOS developers a uniform standard to support, eventually making sure that many more iOS games support essentially the same controllers. If things turn out right, controller support could become as commonly accepted as Game Center and retina support as we make the move to iOS7.

I already own several games on my iPhone and iPad that I would be playing a lot more if their developers retroactively patched controller support into them. A while ago I did a post on what Edge could be if it had proper controls, and I’ve been begging for Super Crate Box to arrive on a platform with physical buttons.

The games most in need of this are probably ports of classic PC and console games. That includes the iOS versions if Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, Kinghts of the Old Republic, Sonic, and all of Square’s RPGs.

Most of all, I hope someone like Hori or MadCatz uses this API to create an iOS fightstick. And then I hope SNK and Namco port physical controls into King of Fighters-i and the iOS version of Soul Calibur respectively.

Of course people are also speculating the affect this could have on the experience of operating iOS on a TV. Connect an iPad to the Digital A/V cable, boot up a game, hook up an iOS controller, and you basically have yourself a console game. Definitely not with PS4-level graphics, but a console experience nonetheless on a platform that has become at least as popular as PlayStation.

After this, in my opinion the last remaining big differentiator between iOS and dedicated gaming platforms is the low-budget nature of iOS and other mobile games.

The top reason I’ve never been extremely enthusiastic about the new age of mobile games is because I’ve almost never found a mobile game that I’ve wanted to play for more than five minutes at a time. The 3DS is still basically the best place for handheld games that are also deep enough to hold my attention for significant play sessions.

The main reason for this is probably the price ceiling. You can’t reasonably sell an iOS game for more than maybe $10, which ensures the platform is dominated by small quick-fix games. I don’t see official controller support in itself changing that.

Still, I think the inclusion of an official controller API is a major step that Apple probably should’ve made a long time ago. It shows that they’re at least a little bit more serious about gaming, and I think it’ll make a lot more people more likely to actually play games on iOS.



One thought on “Can Apple’s Official Controller API Change The Game?

  1. Microsoft ditched the DRM policies on the Xbox One!

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