Last month, an article on Flurry revealed that iOS and Android platforms have taken 8% of video gaming revenue from the hands of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Even more impressive is that the smartphone titans now account for just over a third of portable gaming revenue. The interesting fact about this statistic, is that the iOS and Android platform holders have very little internal investment in the gaming market. Each of the primary gaming platform holders develop their own games as well as license third parties to release content on their platforms. Apple and Google offer only third party titles and, besides Apple's Game Center, neither platform has created any first-party content.
So while I don't think that Apple is going to start a games division to create their own in-house software, I do think they are only one update away from taking their portable momentum and moving it into the entertainment center. Apple has already allowed iPad users to mirror their displays on home TVs over an HDMI adapter and they allow all iOS 4.0 users to stream video content to their recently redesigned Apple TV using AirPlay. If Apple is able to combine the display mirroring and streaming into one feature, they can give AirPlay a new meaning. They could effectively turn their AppleTV into a home video game console with any iOS device functioning as the controller.
While simply mirroring the iOS display on a home TV would bring many games seamlessly to an HDTV, there would need to be some additional SDK options to helpiOS games transition to the home market. If Apple allows games developers to detect when a user is using AirPlay or "AirGamePlay", then the iOS device interface could be redesigned to accommodate its new role as a controller with the player's attention focused on a different screen. While some games would easily translate to "AirGamePlay," others pose some challenges and would require some adaptation on the developer's part.
The easiest games to translate would be any titles, such as Tilt to Live and The Incident, which take advantage of the accelerometer and gyroscope. The feeling of tilting a device does not require you to keep your eyes on the device’s screen. In fact, this may make tilt games easier since you don't have to adjust your head to follow a moving display.
Games with on-screen interfaces, such as Super Mega Worm, could be playable with mirroring alone, but it would help if the developer was able to enlarge their on-screen controls to the full size of the device when using "AirGamePlay." This way, a player would be less likely to slip off the controls, and the device would provide more accurate controls as there would be more pixels devoted to detecting a player's input. This design would also work with the unstoppable Angry Birds franchise. If your entire iOS screen was just the slingshot, you could be more accurate with your shots while enjoying your destructive results on an HDTV. Some may argue that without the tactile feeling of buttons this interaction would be unreliable, but that issue is still a problem on iOS even when you are looking at the screen.
Any games with accurate touch controls, such as Cut the Rope or Infinity Blade, could prove to be challenging and would need to offer some indication of where you are touching the device on the TV. In the end, Cut the Rope’s gameplay may be too difficult to play without actively viewing the touchscreen. At the very least you could still play the game from your device, while your friends watch the game unfold on the TV. Now groups of people could enjoy iOS games by offering advice and making gestures on the TV to help.
The Apple TV runs for $99 while the cheapest iPod Touch can be bought for $199. Together they match the price of the higher end Xbox 360 and lower end PS3 and if you measure the cost of accessories and software, "AirGamePlay" is a great deal. The best part is that your progress is continuous when you are away from your TV, so your home and portable experiences are no longer separate time investments.
Right now, Apple is in a great position to make a huge impact in the home market. This feature would not take much investment from Apple to implement and if the rumors are true this would beat Nintendo's next console to the punch.