Apple’s new version of Apple TV is the first to feature gaming in any real capacity.
It has access to the App Store, plenty of local storage, and a gamepad-esque remote control that acts like a Nintendo Wii controller.
Apple has already shown off a handful of games coming to Apple TV when it launches in October, and we’ve written our own list of games that Apple TV should secure as soon as possible.
But there are currently some pretty heavy roadblocks in the way of the new Apple TV offering a more robust, less casual experience. One was recently spotted by game developer Dustin Westphal on Twitter, which states that all games for Apple TV “must support the Apple TV remote.” That may sound paltry, but it has a massive ripple effect on what can and can’t be sold on the new Apple TV as a game.
Games like “Grand Theft Auto 3,” “BioShock,” and “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” were ported to Apple’s mobile devices with touchscreen controls. You can also play them with third-party Bluetooth gamepads.
But how would this work on Apple TV?
The Apple TV remote has a touchpad. Like so:
That will not work as a stand-in for touchscreen controls of games like “Grand Theft Auto 3.” Here’s what “GTA 3” looks like on mobile, with virtual buttons along the right side of the screen:
Imagine trying to use the Apple TV remote’s touchpad with that. It wouldn’t be possible. But playing the game with a gamepad would be great. It’d be even closer to the PlayStation 2 original than it is on Apple’s mobile devices!
The language on Apple’s developer site is very specific about this requirement: “Your game must support the Apple TV remote. Your game may not require the use of a controller.” While there’s always a possibility that the Apple TV app approval process allows for some flexibility in the interpretation of that rule, we have no reason to believe that’s the case just yet.
Moreover, Apple has rules about how game developers are able to use the Apple TV remote’s touchpad and buttons. “The touchpad on the remote can be used as a D-pad,” it says. “The touchpad is available as a digital button (button A), by firmly pressing on the touchpad.” Using the touchpad as a direct stand-in for an iPhone or iPad screen straight up isn’t allowed by Apple. (And it probably shouldn’t be — that would be a seriously heinous experience.)
Apple could solve this by allowing games to be labelled as “gamepad required.” Apple could solve this by allowing approved third-party gamepads the ability to navigate the Apple TV operating system like an Apple TV remote. Apple could solve this by doing something that I’m not smart enough to realise (most likely). But for the meantime, some of the best games from iOS that would make the most sense on a device like Apple TV likely aren’t headed to it.
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