Apple TV

Is Apple TV the Next Wii?


After nearly a decade, the Apple TV isn’t a hobby anymore. Apple revealed its updated model at its big fall event yesterday, and CEO Tim Cook promised that it would be nothing less than “the future of television.”

That future of television part is still up in the air. Connecting the dots between iTunes, streaming media apps, and voice control is powerful value proposition that may tip me into buying the device all by itself.But it’s also clear that Apple has not (yet?) been able to negotiate content deals with major broadcast and cable networks.

Until those deals happen — or enough kids grow up to make Youtube and Twitch the default mass media channels — Cook’s “television as an app” future will have to wait.

That’s not going to hurt Apple, though. Because what Apple almost but didn’t quite say in its presentation is that the Apple TV threatens to be a major disruption of the console video game business.

Apple TV Gets Serious About Casual Gaming

Apple likes to be taken seriously, so it tends to downplay its role in the video game ecosystem. When it shows off games in its presentations, it’s usually in the context of “look at how amazing our graphics processing is.”

But that doesn’t change the fact that Apple gains huge amounts of revenue from gamers. There are millions of dollars being dumped into top-grossing games like Candy Crush and Game of War, and Apple gets a cool 30% right off the top. Gamers are worth millions — possibly billions — to Apple, even if Apple doesn’t like to talk about it.

Apple TV
How many of Crossy Road’s 40 million downloaders would play it on Apple TV?

And while the Apple TV’s search capabilities took precedence over gaming in yesterday’s presentation, three facts emerged that highlighted the device’s strengths as a game console:

  • The App Store is universal. As far as apps are concerned, the Apple TV is just another iOS device. Some games will some control issues to resolve — which is why the hint of a game controller in a picture of Bastion’s Transistor during the presentation is so intriguing. But “porting” an existing game to “tvOS” is almost trivial, because tvOS is iOS. Game companies will be rushing to do those quicking and easy ports.
  • The iOS devices you already own work as controllers. Apple TV has a nifty remote that will be familiar to millions of former Wii users. But the secret sauce is that you already have another controller in your pocket. If your family is already part of the Apple ecosystem, then this may be the cheapest game console you ever buy.
  • You can handover from mobile to TV and back. Eddy Cue almost mumbled when mentioning this, but I think it’s the killer feature. If you have a favorite game — one that you play all the time in spare moments on your phone — why wouldn’t you want to play it with a bigger screen and nicer sound at home? This is a classic example of a feature taking something people already do and making it better.

What’s important here is not just that you can play games on your Apple TV, but that you’re going to play mobile games on your Apple TV. Apple isn’t going for the “Call of Duty” audience here — it’s going for the bigger fish of casual gamers. These are the users that bought a hundred million Wii consoles, who now spend hundreds of hours per year on mobile games. These are users who are already plugged into iOS, which is already a tremendously successful gaming platform.

Those users will have no trouble buying a cheap game console full of games they already own. The amount of time and money spent on Apple TV content is likely to dwarf anything on the X-Box and the Playstation. If so, then Apple TV will be what the Wii U could have been. It may even be the future of console gaming.

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Copyright 2015 The Roaming Designer