When we talk about E3, in the main the conversation revolves around three companies; the “Big Three” – Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. The dominant forces in games hardware, the three spruik their wares, amaze us with new hardware promises, and hint and the next year in software.
But it really should be the Big Four. In the past year Apple’s iPhone, and even more importantly, its iPad, has risen above being a provider of mere shovelware to offer some genuinely great games. In my experience, anyone who actually owns either device realises this pretty quickly – the only people that think $0.99 Angry Birds knockoffs are those who don’t own either.
Of course, the iPhone and iPad are not perfect gaming devices – the lack of buttons means genres such as the FPS and Platformer are problematic, but other genres, such as strategy and board/ card games are, if anything, better on the iDevices than anything else.
However, regardless of what you personally think of the games on offer on Apple’s platforms (it’s worth nothing that the Mac App Store is a growing force too, and it offers full PC gaming), it’s a major influence in the gaming world – Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all see it as a genuine threat, and have all taken steps to try and combat it, or at least get on board the gravy train it’s riding. Much like how Microsoft and Sony followed suit with motion controllers, all of the “Big Three” have small, disposable download services on offer. All of the “Big Three” have taken steps to improve relations with indie developers. Apple is directly responsible for that.
Now, Apple runs its own shows, and people go just to see Apple, so its role at E3 would be in many ways redundant. Except that Apple doesn’t use its shows to show off much of its gaming credentials.
Apple could use an E3 keynote to show off an official Bluetooth controller for its iOS devices. That device alone would cause a world shortage of plastic buttons. It could use the exhibition to better foster relationships with the major publishers and developers. It could use the marketing opportunity to point out that “hey, we’re more than just Angry Birds here on Game Center!”
Imagine the impact Apple would have if it unveiled a dedicated iGameConsole? It’s surely coming; Although Apple was slow to realise the money in the games industry, it surely realises it now? And E3 would be the appropriate place for such an unveiling.
There’s a lot Apple could get out of E3, and there’s a lot Apple could contribute to E3. I personally believe the vendor belongs there, and I believe that the “Big Three” really ought to be the “Big Four.”