Every time it seems like Apple is going to take games seriously, there’s an asterisk – kind of like when Microsoft says it’s taking PC gaming seriously.
When Apple unveiled the new Apple TV, there was some focus put on the device as a gaming platform. Shown alongside it was the new remote, above, which has a touch panel that allows swiping, clicking, and tapping, and it packs in motion controls as well. Developers that focus on iOS were excited about the device as a new market to sell games and some pundits were even suggesting that Sony and Microsoft should be worried about Apple invading their space as the ability to pair a proper gaming controller is now a real option.
Here’s the asterisk: In the guidelines laid out in the App Programing Guide for Apple TV’s tvOS, it states that “Your game must support the Apple TV remote. Your game may not require the use of the controller.”
There are a couple very real reasons for this. One is that requiring other controllers could potentially be confusing for less experienced users. People would buy sweet-looking action games only to find out that their magic wand wasn’t going to get them anywhere. Apple doesn’t want to hamper their touted accessibility in any way. That leads to the second big reason – the inevitable refunds that would result from this.
Those are legitimate concerns, but this decision hobbles any possibility for gaming to be anything other than a novelty on the device. The remote should work fine for watching media and things like that. Compared to the Roku remote or the Nintendo Wii remote, though, it’s a bit of a joke. Most of the best iOS games are single-touch or swipe games, and it looks like that’s what we’re going to get here.
This decision affects not only games that might inherently require a controller, but also anything that might have an on-screen controller on iPad and iPhone.
As TouchArcade points out, that clause above was not the case as recently as last week. Just a week ago, devs were going back and forth about the decision on Twitter with some enthusiasm, with one developer digging up the following:
— Rusty Moyher (@rustym) September 9, 2015
That’s right – “You can require an extended game controller.”
If Apple decides to stick with this change, though, they’re stopping gaming on Apple TV – at least in any meaningful way – before it even gets started. There’s still room for good games in this sort of situation, but it limits possibilities significantly. Developer response to this is sure to be swift and harsh, but it’s not often that Apple budges on decisions like these.
The new Apple TV – games or not – hits sometime in October.