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Apple, Nintendo and a TV

I want to talk about the Apple TV. The one that doesn’t exist yet.

In episode 3 of The Talk Show with John Gruber and John Moltz, the duo talked briefly talked about the Apple TV. The WWDC schedule has been released, and there are an unusually large amount of sessions listed as “TBA” - usually the sign that the content of those sessions will relate to something announced in kickoff keynote. Gruber and Moltz speculate that there wouldn’t need to be that many TBAs unless there was some sort of new platform being unveiled. Something that would take up two day’s worth of sessions so developers could get their fix and be primed to start writing code. They’re guessing that apps are coming to the new Apple TV.

However, while these apps-on-TV rumors have long been in the pipes, something they mentioned which I had not thought of was the use of iDevices as controllers. Something resembling the upcoming Wii U’s new touchscreen gamepad.

wii u gamepad

This makes sense.

The Mac was never the gaming platform that Windows was. This wasn’t because Windows did gaming better, but Windows came on way more hardware configurations than Macintosh. PC gamers can easily upgrade the components in their rig when better hardware comes out, thus playing the latest games, but this sort of upgrade ability has never been Apple’s specialty and is often a hassle.

Apple isn’t going to attack the high-end, performance heavy gamer community that flock to maxed-out PC rigs and the Xbox / Playstation. They don’t need to, and honestly it would probably be a waste of their time. However, there is still a group of gamers Apple already has a great reputation with: the casual players. My mother, sister and most of America could fall under this category. In the race to the living room, however, one console stands in between Apple and the consumer they want: the Wii.

ipod touch promo

Why the Wii as a competitor for the new Apple TV? Because Nintendo does casual. The Wii, GameBoy and DS exemplify that. While you’re always going to find the latest Call of Duty available on the Wii, this is by far not the best game to showcase the console’s strengths. The games that best highlight the Wii’s appeal are games like Wii Sports, The Legend of Zelda and other goofy titles. Games that the average gamer can pick up and play with a low learning curve. This is exactly the market that Apple has gone into with the App Store and the iDevices.

Look at Angry Birds, Cut the Rope or Words with Friends and you realize that the millions of people playing these games are dedicating their time to an ecosystem maintained by Apple, and not one in Nintendo’s control. While it can be fun to flirt with the idea of one day seeing Mario Kart on my iPhone, I know the odds of that are slim to none. In regards to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Apple isn’t just selling a mobile device that plays music and browses the Internet, they are selling a game console.

Once you begin to look at gaming as a huge part of Apple’s business for iOS, you begin to realize that the one place they still don’t have any control in is the living room. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American in 2010 spent 2.7 hours watching TV per day, and I think Apple wants a piece of that time.

Regardless whether Apple’s motive for a TV is to increase content flow through iTunes, or pursuing some sort of casual gaming setup, they want to be there. In your living room. With you as you eat that TV dinner.

Because let’s face it. The one thing that we can all agree on is that if Apple does release a full fledged fruit-branded TV, it’s not going to be cheap. I’m not worried though. With Ramen Noodles hovering around 30c a box, I could make it a couple months.

You know, for a TV that doesn’t even exist yet.

Monday, 4 June 2012