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Friday, September 11, 2015

Apple turns Apple TV into gaming console

Or so the media and the hype would lead you to believe.

Apple held its annual event on September 9. As always, the focus was all on the shiny new line of iPhones coming out. And there were other announcements, such as the iPad Pro, a new iPad Mini model, and WatchOS 2. Then there was the announcement of the next Apple TV, and what everyone expected came to fruition: the Apple TV will now have an operating system (tvOS) that includes an App Store where users can download games and apps, the remote will be motion-sensitive, and third-parties are able to make controllers that will work with the box.

Anyone who has been paying attention in the weeks leading up to the event has likely seen the comparison of the upcoming Apple TV to the gaming console Apple never brought to market. However, this comparison is flawed as the Apple TV is not trying to take on consoles such as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or even the Wii U. Apple is trying to modernise a very outdated system of how we consume entertainment, and yes, there are some games involved.

A decade ago, cable (or satellite) was essentially the only way to go to catch your favourite television shows. You’d pay a big faceless corporation a large chunk of money per month for 24/7 access to a lot of shows/movies you would never watch and a small percentage of them that you would. Think about it. Say you had access to 100 channels (a rather conservative amount these days). You pay to be able to tune in to any of these 100 channels at any time you desire but you have no control of what is on when without a DVR. Those 100 channels provide 16,800 hours of television to choose from every week. But how much of that would you actually watch? Even if you watched television for 16 hours per day, that’s still only 112 hours or 0.67 percent of the content you are paying to access.

Obviously, things have changed a great deal. Viewers are cutting cable and turning to websites and apps that allow them to pay for the content they want and ONLY the content they want. Channel surfing has changed into Netflix surfing, where hours can be spent jumping from show to show based on whims. The opposite of Netflix surfing is also increasingly common: binge-watching. Watching shows one episode per week is no longer the only option, because with some shows being released entire seasons at a time it’s possible to watch them all back-to-back instead.

This brings me back to the Apple TV, a small device that cable-cutters may use to purchase their content (via iTunes) or stream their content from dozens of providers. And yes, it will soon be capable of running games as well. Herein lies the big difference between the Apple TV and gaming consoles: consoles may be able to provide the same video content as Apple TV, but their focus remains on games first. Nobody purchases an PlayStation 4 because they want to use Netflix but have no interest in playing games. And nobody will purchase an Apple TV because they are a hardcore gamer.

Apple isn’t stupid. It knows that casual gamers may be interested but that’s about where said interest ends. Hence the 200MB download size cap for games; for reference, Fallout Shelter had an initial download size of 205MB. And casual games are exactly what is coming to the Apple TV. You won’t be seeing any Call of Duty, that’s for sure. But you will see Crossy Road. Guitar Hero. Rayman Adventures. Games that people can pick up and play for five or ten minutes before going on their way.

The Apple TV will continue to appeal to those who use it to access shows and movies. It will remain, at it’s core, a set-top box that allows people to access their content online instead of via for traditional cable. Will there be games available? Sure. But even my cable box has a version of Brickbreaker, so that’s nothing new. Does that mean Apple is trying to conquer the world of console gaming? Not in the slightest.

- Lindsay M.
News Editor
Apple turns Apple TV into gaming console
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