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.

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9 Comments on Newell Thinks Apple Might Be Looking to Kill Consoles (and He’s Probably Right)

JosephPS3 Dead State

On October 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I’m ready to jump ship now. Give me AngryBird on a 55″ 3D with 5.1 surround sound and I’ll forget about DEHR, Dark SOuls, Resistance3, Batman, Skyrim, Uncharted3, Battlefield3, MW3 because AngryBirds is just so epic. The story and character and endless gameplay is unmatched.


On October 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Nice sarcasm there, Joe.

If I were Gabe, I’d love to see consoles go away too. That way any wandering exodus could eventually find their way onto a device that can actually run Steam. New Steam subscribers = Win! More Steam users = more money. More money = bigger swimming pool of cash Gabe can swim in.

But, hey, we’re talking about Apple here. They have NEVER done gaming right… EVER. Well, not since the 80s. Faith is better placed elsewhere. Apple consumes souls…. SOULS.


On October 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Apple may kill consoles, but McDonald’s will kill Newell.

JosephPS3 Dead State

On October 13, 2011 at 6:04 am

Jokes aside, if smartphones become powerful enough to run today’s top AAA titles and all I have to do is attach a cable to my 55″tv and another USB cable for my controller then sure I’ll play on the smartphone. Yeah, that would kill the consoles.

But I really don’t see that happening because by the time smartphones are powerful enough to match today’s AAA tiles the console will have advanced so much the current gap that exist today would exist in the future. That gap will always be there.

Unless the consoles suffer the same fate as PC-where developers lead on the smartphones and then port over to consoles and the gap is nigh unnoticeable. Just like the PC, sure the console would be more capable and powerful but its not being utilized so why bother spending the extra cost to buy a console machine when you can already play the same game on your smartphone when you’re travelling and then hook it up to your large HDTV when you’re home.

The power of smartphones may become powerful enough that it will provide a good enough similar experience to make consoles and PC as the medium for gaming obsolete. But this has to be at least 10-15 years from now. Maybe next next generation.

Phil Hornshaw

On October 13, 2011 at 7:41 am

@Joseph PS3

Good points all. For my part, I think iPads and smartphones could become dangerous to consoles not because they will offer a comparable experience, but because they’ll offer a decent experience for a lot less money. Apple gets games in people’s hands really cheaply, and if they can find a way to make people say, “well, I could buy the great Gears of War 3 for $60, or I could buy 30 pretty good iPad games instead,” and have that be a meaningful choice — the gaming industry will need to look at the way it makes and sells games. I think price could have that effect, but you’re right, we’re not there yet.

The other thing is, if Apple can figure out a way to really innovate with this fictional piece of hardware, THAT could be threatening too. Look at the Wii and how well it did (for a while) with motion control. It’s an inferior, sometimes downright ugly, machine, but it provided something no other machine did. I think those two areas are where Apple could really be dangerous.


On October 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

Apple products suck ass and aren’t worth the price. Not only is their better hardware but also better software for not even half the price of apples . Plus why the would fatty Gabe know anything about this? He’s to busy eating to even do work on EP3 yet somehow he thinks ty yuppie garbage aka apple products are gonna take over the market?

PLEASE, never has happened and never will happen.

Ron Whitaker

On October 13, 2011 at 9:35 am

If this were to actually come to pass, it would be because Apple finally fielded a piece of hardware that wasn’t outrageously overpriced. The iPad is a useful thing, but its price is far out of line with its tech and its usefulness. I considered purchasing one, and realized that it’s basically a less functional netbook. Granted, I’m not all that into mobile gaming, but if someone found a way to get console quality games on there, I would certainly be interested.

The question at hand right now is the value for $$ one. For the price of the 16GB non-3G iPad, I can buy 2 PS3 systems each with 160GB hard drives, a Blu-Ray player, and the same WiFi capabilities. Sure, I can’t pack a PS3 around with me, but I don’t buy the argument that a large percentage of people are gaming on the go. At least not with hardcore games. Sure, if it’s your lunch break at work you might play Angry Birds or Cut the Rope while you eat a sandwich, but that’s not a console experience.

What I think would be a game-changer would be if Microsoft or Sony was able to launch a device that allowed gamers to seamlessly pick up their console games where they left off at home. The ability to play Uncharted 3 on my couch, and then pick up from that save on a portable device is something I would be willing to pay for, as long as the experience was comparable. iPad games that are console quality is a nice idea, but it’s the integration that will be the real seller.

Phil Hornshaw

On October 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

@Ron Whitaker

Integration is my favorite thing ever. Kojima’s trying to make it happen with Transfarring, but it’s still so young it’s like looking at an embryo.

I think your price argument is the valid one, although Apple has Apple TV out for $100, and that’s basically iTunes on your TV. Seems like it wouldn’t be too tough for them. The iPad gets value because it’s not primarily a console, and you save so much on software. But we could run numbers all day — at the moment, you’re right, the premium you pay for the Apple logo and ecosystem is too high for it to be a real contender.

But I do think the hardcore audience could be courted by more titles like Machinarium and Anomaly: Warzone Earth and Dead Space in mobile. All three are available on the iPad right now. The potential is there for titles more gamers would take seriously.

Shameka Wordlow

On April 12, 2012 at 11:44 am

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