Rumors are circulating that Apple may be announcing its own video game console at the 2012 E3 Expo. Since every rumor on the internet is absolutely based in fact, we should begin shamelessly speculating on what a console from the iPad creator may look like. Taking a look at the past, present, and future of Apple can give us a better understanding of just how Apple can break into the video game industry.
We’ve seen this before.
In 1995 Apple designed a video game console that was distributed by Bandai. The cleverly named Apple Bandai Pippin saw very little commercial success in a market dominated by Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. The console went on to sell less than 50,000 units worldwide, and is considered by many to be a colossal failure.
The Pippin launched for $599.00 a pop, making it the most expensive console option for consumers. While it didn’t make any major advancements in terms of hardware, the console did feature a futuristic looking controller that was probably extremely uncomfortable to play games with.
Does this mean that a new Apple console would bomb? Not necessarily. If Apple can produce competitively priced hardware, they could potentially break into the industry much in the same way Microsoft did with the Xbox.
Apple is currently in the video game business.
No, not just because you play World of Warcraft on your Mac. Video game apps on iPads, iPhones and other devices make up a huge percentage of total video game sales. An argument could be made that games on devices like tablets and cell phones are aimed at a specific market of gamers; however, these games are getting coverage from hardcore video game news outlets, such as IGN and G4TV.
There is some serious crossover between the console game audience and those who love games on portable devices. There’s no reason why popular tablet games couldn’t be remade for a home console. Sure, your mom loves playing Angry Birds and other titles that feature simple entertainment. If I had to guess, I’m sure you’d love those games, too. While consoles presently feature a different quality of game, as technology for portable devices improves, we’ll start seeing more powerful games for mobile devices.
One advantage of a console is the presence of a controller — something your iPad just doesn’t have. Touchpad games have certain limitations that would be alleviated by a few extra buttons and a control stick. Imagine a world where iPads had controllers similar to the PlayStation Vita; the video game world would never be the same.
Wait…did someone say Valve?
If you believe the rumors, the Half-Life and Portal developer may be working with Apple on this mystery console. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Valve has anything to do with the console’s development or release, a possible partnership between the two media giants could be an indication of just what Apple’s machine may look like.
Imagine a console that distributes software using Valve’s Steam service. Apple consoles would immediately have access to a library of great titles at launch. A possible partnership could also mean exclusive titles designed specifically for Apple; a game in the long absent Half-Life series would make an excellent exclusive.
An Apple console will likely embrace digital distribution.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that an Apple game machine will not have a disc drive of any kind. BluRay isn’t a technology that Apple has really embraced with its other products, and while some of the company’s computers do feature disc drives, there seems be a trend of getting away from external media completely.
This is a company that uses digital distribution for all its products, with iTunes as the home base for most distribution. While this isn’t a negative idea on its face, that means we can expect all digital content to be proprietary and DRM protected. It’s also very likely that you’ll be able to buy more than just games on our new console. Expect a closed distribution system, much like the Xbox Live Arcade.
This is no ordinary game console.
This one seems like a given. You’ll probably be able to move your content between Apple devices without much issue. In fact, the Apple console will probably serve as a hub for all your cool portable gadgets.
Further, it’s likely you’ll be able to rent movies, browse the web, listen to music, and do more with the Apple console than you can with current generation consoles. Expect the console to link to your home network, with the ability to connect to all devices wirelessly.
Don’t expect to see it anytime soon.
If the Apple console is real, don’t expect to see it until the current generation of consoles start winding down. Launching a console with entrenched competition doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If Apple were to launch a system, expect it to come out about the time you’d expect to see the next Xbox.
For real answers about what the future holds for Apple’s video game ambitions, we’ll just have to wait until this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. If Apple were to throw its hat into the video game ring, expect it to be at the world’s largest industry convention. Until then all we can do is have fun speculating.