Newell Thinks Apple Might Be Looking to Kill Consoles (and He’s Probably Right)
The super-big update to Apple’s mobile platform, iOS 5, just went out over the Intertubes to give iPhone and iPad owners some serious new toys. Among them is a big new feature that has received a lot of attention from the gaming world: AirPlay Mirroring.
The software allows iPad 2s and iPhone 4S to do something very spiffy — stream their displays over a Wi-Fi connection. That means that you could mirror what you’re seeing on your iPad on your computer. Or on your TV set, more aptly, if you have Apple’s $99 Apple TV set top box.
Games are already moving forward to leverage the feature. Firemint’s Real Racing 2 just updated to include a Party Mode feature that works with mirroring, allowing up to four players to race each other split-screen style on a TV set and use their respective iOS devices as controllers. It’s very cool-looking and speaks to the potential of mobile gaming as more spiffy new features make their way into Apple’s devices.
Some have touted mirroring as the beginning of the end for consoles, as mobile devices move into position to out-compete them with (relatively) cheaper hardware and cheaper apps. Even Valve’s Gabe Newell sees the potential in Apple’s hardware. Here’s a quote of his from a Destructoid story:
“‘I suspect Apple will launch a living room product that redefines people’s expectations really strongly and the notion of a separate console platform will disappear,’ Newell said during a recent panel.”
Gabe’s probably right. While AirPlay Mirroring sounds cool, without some console-quality games to go with it — even some that might go for $15 or $20 in the iTunes App Store and be comparable to the smaller games available on Steam — it’s not likely to supplant an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3. Those products just deliver something that others don’t: namely, a large-scale, AAA experience. That consoles are currently capable of also delivering smaller games through the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade puts the consoles on better footing to compete with Apple, not the other way around so much.
But if Apple comes up with a good way to start bringing games to your living room, as Newell says, it’ll further push their “walled garden” philosophy and platform. Apple’s App Store is a tightly controlled, Apple-vetted ecosystem, and only what Apple says goes. Newell sees that expanding into your living room as well, and it’s a less pretty picture.
“He wasn’t completely backing Apple, though, claiming that the company’s closed platform approach was worrying: ‘On the platform side, it’s sort of ominous that the world seems to be moving away from open platforms. They build a shiny sparkling thing that attracts users and then they control people’s access to those things.’”
Of course, consoles as they stand today aren’t open, either. But Apple takes the philosophy a little further, looking to control all aspects of its products. It’s part of why things work so well in the App Store and on iOS — but at the same time, it leaves users with a serious lack of freedom.
The point is, Newell’s probably right: you might want to be on the lookout for an Apple entry into gaming in the near future, considering how stupidly popular and brimming with money mobile gaming is.
As far as iOS is concerned today, however, the iPad isn’t going to suddenly start making people rethink their video game purchases. That is, unless more developers like Firemint start really leveraging the power of the device and creating experiences people want to see on a big screen. That’s entirely possible, but seems a little way off. Who knows, though — Firemint is owned by Electronic Arts, after all. There could be plans in the works.
Follow Hornshaw on Twitter: @philhornshaw.