Yet Again We Anticipate An Apple TV App Store

Here we are once more, talking about the possibility of Apple unveiling an Apple TV that finally incorporates an app store. I’ve blogged about this and other people have talked about it like some kind of doomsday scenario for TV entertainment since iOS and the Apple TV have been around.

This new recent story out of 9to5Mac suggests gaming will be a big focus of the new Apple TV. That in itself suggests a lot of different possibilities. People have doubted Apple’s potential success with TV gaming for a long time but at the same time I think this article may be overestimating what may or may not happen.

I think I laid out fairly clearly before how I think an Apple TV with an app store could succeed where microconsoles have failed. The two important advantages it would have are the current user base of Apple’s software ecosystem and the increased developer support it would get compared to microconsoles. Where microconsoles have relied on existing Android software that’s mostly mobile, an Apple TV would theoretically get a healthy amount of software designed specifically for it.

What should also be considered are the two possibilities for how Apple might start off the TV app store. I and most others have assumed it would be like the transition from iPhone to iPad where all the existing software would be right there on day one and developers would gradually update and adjust that software. People have used this as a basis for the “mobile software doesn’t work on TVs” criticism. Maybe they’re right. There are quite a few robust games on iOS that are essentially console ports already compatible with bluetooth controllers (that will almost certainly also be compatible with the new Apple TV) that would work perfectly on the TV, but a huge swath of software would need a lot of adjustment. People aren’t interested in playing Candy Crush on a TV.

The other possibility though is Apple takes the Apple Watch route and just starts the TV app store from zero, encouraging a different but parallel selection of software made from the ground up for the TV. It might make more sense than waiting around with all these phone apps that look or control awkwardly on a TV. It also get’s around the “mobile games on the TV” problem. Then again, that Plex or VLC app you already have on your phone might work just well enough on the Apple TV to get you what you need even before they receive their updates that optimize them for the TV interface. The same might be true for a lot of games. I own several on my phone that I’d enjoy playing on the TV (as soon as I got a compatible controller).

Either way, I think the Apple TV is at least going to be somewhat more successful than all the microconsoles because a lot of developers are likely to actually care about it. I even think you could get a pretty big number of indie developers launching Apple TV versions of their games right alongside Steam and the consoles.

Competing with Sony and Microsoft is a different story altogether though. That’s where I think 9to5Mac reaches a bit. To some extent the dedicated console audience and the mobile gaming audience have already clearly set themselves apart, and an Apple TV with games would just bring the latter to its own new space in the living room.

Some of those people may have bought a PS4 or thought about buying a PS4 specifically for Madden, FIFA, the LEGO games, or maybe even a console version of Minecraft. People like that might be swayed if an Apple TV arrives with specially-designed versions of the free-to-play EA Sports games or Minecraft. Maybe even the older Grand Theft Auto games that are already on iOS might have an impact. I could even see SEGA putting its Sonic ports on this thing. If Apple really is serious here it’s also gotta be thinking about allowing local multiplayer, because a device like the Apple TV is built for families, and local multiplayer is part of that.

In any case, I don’t want to see any comparisons between Apple TV unit sales or software sales with conventional console sales because I just don’t see the two as compatible. If Apple even announces this thing on September 9th like we all thought it would back in June, I think at most what will happen is it ends up expanding the market for TV gaming beyond the PlayStation and Xbox market, and maybe in a more permanent way than the original Wii did.

BULLETS:

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