Video game consoles are not computers. Sure, they contain similar technology; they look like computers, they’re even made out of the same materials as computers. But they’re primary purpose is to provide users with entertainment.
Which is why an Apple video game console, which has been long rumoured to be in development, will (should it ever be released) destroy the video game industry, before destroying itself as a platform. Apple make computers. They make computers well. They make mini computers with phones attached – they make those well too.
But Apple are completely ignorant when it comes to entertainment. They try to convey an image of being in show-biz by selling music, movies and TV shows, however in reality, Apple only know how to operate a computer platform that relies heavily on other content makers.
That’s not to say that Apple shouldn’t try. Computer companies have taken the plunge into the video game industry before, but they all learned very quickly that they need to take charge and actually make games for their own consoles. Microsoft learned that they need to do something other than provide a platform for games – they needed to create something new and exciting like Kinect, and develop flagship games for it to show off how it can be used.
Nintendo are similar – the world was puzzled when they first introduced the DS system, complete with two screens and a touchscreen, but they developed Another Code, mini games for Super Mario 64 DS and showed the world that this was an incredibly engaging console.
Apple may have the magic marketing touch, but they are not a good thing for the video game industry. If anything, they’re closer to a plague.
On the surface, Apple’s approach to games look good; indie developers can let their imagination run wild without a publisher standing in the way, big developers can quickly and cheaply develop games that are accessed on the biggest online store on the planet. But the negatives quickly stack up.
There are hundreds of stories of malicious software posing as video games, people profiting off stealing established Intellectual Property, sneaky ways to charge gamers lots of money for in-game items and to unlock new levels after they’ve already bought the software, contacts being stolen from people’s phones, daily patches and updates that cause downtime and slow performance are all just the tip of the iceberg. Also, the classification departments around the world don’t have access to iOS games, meaning that kids could have access to adult content without parents realising.
Apply this to a “must have” video game console, and it really spells trouble.
Small, seedy developers will pump out clones of bigger, more established games without the worry of being turned away by publishers or Apple’s “quality control”. The perception of gaming has already started to shift – many people believe that these rip offs are what we gamers have been playing with this entire time.
But the modern iPhone isn’t the only evidence we have to call into question Apple’s ability to make a real video game console; the fact is, they already developed one.
Back in 1995, Apple developed the “Pippin” video game console. The specs added up nicely; it had a CD-ROM, a decent processor and some other good hardware. It was even multiplayer. Apple took Pippin to Bandai, who were planning to get into the hardware race, so Apple decided that Bandai could handle the software side, and Apple will deal with the hardware.
The console was littered with issues, though. The market was pretty saturated with Super Nintendo, Sega Saturn, PlayStation and the upcoming Nintendo 64. The games were crap and lacked support by bigger parties, but the main drawback was it’s price – the console started at US$599.
The eventual downfall of the Pippin was due to Apple’s lack of care; they simply didn’t care about it. They were in it for the money and could care less about the actual entertainment value it potentially offered. Pippin failed miserably.
But the world, and Apple, has changed since 1995. Apple has this image of being the “messiah” of the technology world. There’s no doubt that a new Apple video game console will sell extremely well. But it will be a massive shame if they did. The quality of video games will dramatically fall over a year or so. Beloved studios will crumble or pump out games that will have to conform to Apple’s walled garden approach to everything. There’ll be even less profit in the video game industry, which is dangerous considering the tough times already being felt by many established studios.
We’ll see games like “Tap the ‘x'” or “Swipe the ‘y'” rise to popularity because of their small price of admission, and games like Assassin’s Creed and The Legend of Zelda will drop off because they simply can’t be made for a $2 retail price.
The studios who want to make games like this will have to consider ways to raise the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) – the most popular way today is the “free-to-play” method, which promises a free experience but in reality forces users to spend actual money inside games. You would think that this makes sense; “real” games cost about $80 these days anyway. The problem is, though, there’s no ceiling – gamers can accidentally spend hundreds of dollars before they realise what’s going on.
Let’s not even mention the annoying ads.
Investors, the media and casual game players all want Apple to make a console, but those people don’t seem to realise what the industry is really all about. It’s probably a desirable outcome for developers, too, because they’re constantly looking for a new profit avenue. But any significant impact an Apple console will have on the gaming industry will undoubtably be a bad one in the longrun.
Video games aren’t about squeezing out free money – they’re about digital entertainment. They’re the only direct from of artistic expression that has really been spawned by the computer revolution. To destroy it all for the sake of making the richest company on the planet slightly richer would be a horrible mistake.
What are your thoughts on the possibility that Apple will release a video game console? Would you buy it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.